Study: No Increase In Problematic Cannabis Use Following Passage Of Medical Marijuana Laws

no_marijuanaThe enactment of medical marijuana laws is not associated with increased rates of problematic cannabis use, according to data published online in the journal Addiction.

Columbia University investigators assessed cannabis use trends in states in the years following the passage of medicalization. They reported “no significant change in the prevalence of past-month marijuana use among adolescents or young adults (those ages 18 to 25)” following legalization. They also found no evidence of increased cannabis abuse or dependence by either young people or adults. States with largely unregulated medical programs were associated with increased self-reported use by adults age 26 and older, but states with stricter programs were not.

The study’s findings are consistent with those of numerous other papers reporting no uptick in youth marijuana use or abuse following medical marijuana regulation, including those here, here, here, here, here, and here. The findings contradict those of a recent, widely publicized paper in JAMA Psychiatry which speculated that medical marijuana laws may increase the prevalence of cannabis use disorder among adults.

An abstract of the study, “Loose regulation of medical marijuana programs associated with higher rates of adult marijuana use but not cannabis use disorder,” is online here.

Legalizing marijuana will harm health of youth in Canada, study shows

The Canadian federal government‘s bill C-45 to legalize marijuana in Canada will jeopardize the health of young people and Parliament should vote against it, argues a new article.

The National District Attorneys Association Is Lying About Marijuana

Cannabis PenaltiesA recently released white paper published by the National District Attorneys Association is calling for the federal government to strictly enforce anti-cannabis laws in states that have regulated its production and distribution for either medical or recreational purposes.

The working group, which consists of D.A.s and prosecutors from more than a dozen states (including representatives from adult use states like California and Colorado), hopes to influence the Trump administration to set aside the 2013 Cole memorandum. That memorandum, authored by former US Deputy Attorney General James Cole, directs state prosecutors not to interfere with state legalization efforts and those licensed to engage in the plant’s production and sale, provided that such persons do not engage in marijuana sales to minors or divert the product to states that have not legalized its use, among other guidelines.

“To maintain respect for the rule of law, it is essential that federal drug enforcement policy regarding the manufacture, importation, possession, use and distribution of marijuana be applied consistently across the nation,” the NDAA paper concludes.

Predictably, authors repeat numerous falsehoods about marijuana and marijuana policy in an effort to bolster their call for a federal crackdown. Specifically, authors allege that cannabis damages the brain to a far greater extent than alcohol and that statewide regulations have increased young people’s access to the plant. Both claims are demonstrably false.

The NDAA opines, “[Marijuana] is not like alcohol … because alcohol use does not cause the same type of permanent changes to teens’ ability to concentrate and learn.” Yet, well controlled studies dismiss the contention that cannabis exposure causes permanent structural damage to the brain.

Specifically, a 2015 study assessed brain morphology in both daily adult and adolescent cannabis users compared to non-users, with a particular focus on whether any differences were identifiable in the nucleus accumbens, amygdala, hippocampus, and the cerebellum. Investigators reported “no statistically significant differences … between daily users and nonusers on volume or shape in the regions of interest” after researchers controlled for potentially confounding variables. In contrast to marijuana, researchers acknowledged that alcohol “has been unequivocally associated with deleterious effects on brain morphology and cognition in both adults and adolescents.”

The NDAA further claims, “Legalization of marijuana for medical use and recreational use clearly sends a message to youth that marijuana is not dangerous and increases youth access to marijuana.”

But data from the US Centers for Disease control reports that young people’s access to marijuana has fallen by 13 percent since 2002. The agency further reports, “Since 2002, the prevalence of marijuana use and initiation among U.S. youth has declined” – a finding that is consistent with numerous prior studies.

Moreover, state-specific post-legalization data published in March by the Colorado Department of Public Health concludes: “[M]arijuana use, both among adults and among youth, does not appear to be increasing to date. No change was observed in past 30-day marijuana use among adults between 2014 (13.6 percent) and 2015 (13.4 percent). Similarly, there was no statistically significant change in 30-day or lifetime marijuana use among high school students between 2013 (lifetime: 36.9 percent, 30-day: 19.7 percent) and 2015 (lifetime: 38.0 percent, 30-day: 21.2 percent).” 2016 data compiled by Washington State Department of Social and Health Services similarly finds that “rates of teen marijuana use have remained steady” post legalization.

The National District Attorneys Association is the largest and oldest prosecutor organization in the country. Their mission is to be “the voice of America’s prosecutors and strives to support their efforts to protect the rights and safety of the people in their communities.”

The full text of the their paper, entitled “Marijuana Policy: The State and Local Prosecutors’ Perspective,” is available online here.

How can marijuana policy protect the adolescent brain?

As more states begin to legalize the use of marijuana, more young people may believe that it’s safe to experiment with the drug. However, those under 25 are more vulnerable to the effects of drugs than are older adults. New legislation on legal marijuana use should include consideration of age limits and other guidelines for safe use, according to the authors of a new article.

Maine Legalizes Recreational Marijuana

According to the Associated Press, voters in Maine have approved Question 1, the Marijuana Legalization Act. The Associated Press’s final vote count is 50.17 to 49.83 percent.

“In 2013, over 70% of voters in the city of Portland decided it was time to reject the failed policy of marijuana prohibition and embrace legalization. Tonight, a majority of voters statewide agreed with that assessment. With the approval of Question 1, Maine has elected to take a sensible approach to marijuana and reject the flawed ideas of the past. Thanks to them, Maine will no longer arrest otherwise law abiding adults for choosing to consume a substance that is objectively safer than alcohol and tobacco and in the process generate tax revenue that will be used to greatly improve education and other vital state services.” said Erik Altieri, NORML’s new Executive Director.

Maine Legalized Marijuana

Question 1, the Marijuana Legalization Act, permits adults who are not participating in the state’s medical cannabis program to legally grow (up to six plants, including all of the harvest from those plants, and/or up to 12 immature plants) and to possess personal use quantities of cannabis (up to two and one-half ounces of herbal cannabis) while also licensing commercial cannabis production and retail sales. The law imposes a 10 percent tax on commercial marijuana sales. Under the law, localities have the authority to regulate, limit, or prohibit the operation of marijuana businesses. On site consumption is permitted under the law in establishments licensed for such activity.

The new law takes effect within 40 days. Regulations for marijuana-related businesses are scheduled to be in place by August 8, 2017. You can read the full text of Question 1 here.

“To those who allege that marijuana law reform is a west coast phenomenon, tonight’s votes tell a different story,” said NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano. “The majority of Americans throughout this country recognize that marijuana prohibition financially burdens taxpayers, encroaches upon civil liberties, engenders disrespect for the law, and disproportionately impacts young people and communities of color. That is voters are rejecting the failures of criminalization and embracing these sort of regulatory alternatives.”

Studies: Changes In Marijuana’s Legal Status Not Associated With Increased Use By Young People

no_marijuanaChanges in marijuana’s legal status under state law is not associated with increased cannabis use or with its perceived availability by young people, according to pair of recently published studies.

In the first study, published online in the journal Substance Use & Misuse, researchers at Columbia University in New York surveyed the marijuana use habits of a national sampling of 1,310 adolescents between the years 2013 and 2015. Investigators assessed whether respondents from states with liberalized cannabis policies were more likely to acknowledge having consumed cannabis compared to those residing in jurisdictions where the substance remains criminally prohibited.

Authors reported that the study’s findings “failed to show a relationship between adolescentsuse of marijuana and state laws regarding marijuana use.” … [They] suggest that eased sanctions on adult marijuana use are not associated with higher prevalence rates of marijuana use among adolescents.”

In the second study, published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, a team of investigators from Columbia University, the University of California at Davis, and Boston University examined the relationship between medical cannabis laws and the prevalence of marijuana availability and use by both adolescents and by those age 26 or older. Authors reported no changes over a nine-year period (2004 to 2013) with regard to the past-month prevalence of marijuana use by those ages 12 to 17 or by those between the ages of 18 and 25. Those age 25 and younger also experienced no change in their perception of marijuana’s availability. By contrast, self-reported marijuana use and availability increased among adults age 26 or older over this same time period.

The conclusions are similar to those of numerous separate studies reporting that changes in marijuana’s legal status are not associated with any uptick in teens’ use of the substance, such as those here, here, here, and here.

Abstracts of the two studies, “Is the Legalization of Marijuana Associated With Its Use by Adolescents?” and “State-level medical marijuana laws, marijuana use and perceived availability of marijuana among the general U.S. population,” appear online here and here.

CDC: Young People Say Marijuana Is Becoming Less Available

no_marijuanaProhibitionists often claim that legalizing and regulating marijuana will increase youth access to the plant. But newly released federal data says just the opposite.

Fewer young people are reporting that marijuana is ‘easy’ to obtain, according to an analysis released this week by the US Centers for Disease Control.

Investigators from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the CDC evaluated annual data compiled by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health for the years 2002 to 2014. Researchers reported that the percentage of respondents aged 12 to 17 years who perceived marijuana to be “fairly easy or very easy to obtain” fell by 13 percent during this time period. Among those ages 18 to 25, marijuana’s perceived availability decreased by three percent.

Researchers further reported that “since 2002, the prevalence of marijuana use and initiation among U.S. youth has declined” – a finding that is consistent with numerous prior studies.

By contrast, authors reported an uptick in use among adults. However, they acknowledged that this increase in adult marijuana consumption has not been associated with a parallel increase in problematic use. There has been “steady decreases in the prevalence of marijuana dependence and abuse among adult marijuana users since 2002,” the study found. Those adults experiencing the greatest percentage increase in marijuana use during the study period were respondents over the age of 55.

A separate analysis of the data published in the journal Lancet Psychiatry similarly acknowledged no observed increase in marijuana use disorders. A previous assessment of marijuana use patterns since 2002, published earlier this year in JAMA Psychiatry, also reported a decline in the percentage of adults reporting problems related to their marijuana use.

Full text of the CDC study, “National estimates of marijuana use and related indicators – National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2002-2014,” appears online here.

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