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Medical Marijuana Legalization News

New York legalizes recreational use of marijuana

Driving while high is still illegal, and lawmakers are still looking into rules for retailers

On Tuesday, lawmakers in New York approved a bill legalizing recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older. The bill was also signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday, meaning it’s now legal for consumers in the state to possess and use it. 

Under the bill, New Yorkers aged 21 and older can now legally: 

Possess up to three ounces of cannabis for recreational use; 

Possess up to 24 grams of concentrated cannabis, such as oils derived from a cannabis plant; 

Use, smo...

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    Health care providers should talk to patients about their cannabis use, researchers say

    The rising popularity and legality of cannabis makes these conversations are important

    A new report published by researchers from Washington State University is encouraging health care providers to get candid with their patients about cannabis use. According to the researchers, being open and honest about this can only help patients receive the best medical care. 

    “We want providers to ask people about their cannabis use and we want patients to feel comfortable talking about it, but right now many don’t,” said researcher Marian Wilson. 

    Patients opening up about their needs

    Recently, more and more consumers have been using cannabis to help treat a variety of medical issues, including chronic pain and illness and mental health concerns. By creating an open dialogue between health care providers and patients, medical professionals can better tailor their recommendations to their patients’ needs. The researchers say cannabis use could be an integral part of that. 

    “Central to patient-centered conversations is understanding the top priorities of patients,” said Wilson. “Researchers have suggested that clinicians should ask ‘What matters to you?’ as well as ‘What is the matter?’” 

    A recent study found that these types of conversations are happening more frequently between health care providers and their patients -- particularly with older adults. Cannabis use is on the rise among the older demographic, as it has been beneficial in treating everything from insomnia to chronic pain. 

    Widespread use

    Despite this progress, Wilson explained that the stigma associated with cannabis can be a roadblock for patients to be totally honest with their doctors. However, marijuana legalization -- for both recreational and medical use -- in the 2018 and 2020 elections is expected to ease some patients’ discomfort or uncertainty in broaching the topic with their health care providers. 

    The popularity of CBD products has also helped ease some of the worries patients have about divulging their cannabis use. Consumers can find CBD products in popular stores like Walgreens and Dollar General, and products like drinks and snacks can discreetly provide the necessary benefits. 

    While patients need to feel that they can trust their doctors to have these kinds of conversations, Wilson also explained that doctors need to be armed with the necessary medical information to help guide their patients in the best way. Moving forward, she’s hoping that experts create a resource that could be referenced in doctor-patient interactions and ensure that patients are getting the most accurate, beneficial information about cannabis use. 

    “We want this paper to guide providers in how they can start opening up this conversation and normalizing it,” Wilson said. 

    A new report published by researchers from Washington State University is encouraging health care providers to get candid with their patients about cannabi...
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    Many older adults are using cannabis to treat common health conditions, study finds

    Researchers say consumers are open with their medical providers about their cannabis use

    As more and more states legalize marijuana, consumers are reaping the medical benefits of cannabis-based products. 

    Now, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of California at San Diego has found that older adults are really taking advantage of these products -- particularly for medical purposes. Their work revealed that consumers over the age of 60 have started using cannabis for a wide variety of conditions, including chronic pain and sleeping troubles. 

    “Surprisingly, we found that nearly three-fifths of cannabis users reported using cannabis for the first time as older adults,” said researcher Kevin Yang. “These individuals were a unique group compared to those who used cannabis in the past.” 

    A new wave of cannabis users

    The researchers surveyed nearly 570 participants over the age of 65 to understand how often they were using cannabis products and the reasons they preferred them. The survey revealed that more than half of the participants used cannabis-based products on a regular basis for medical purposes, though more than 60 percent hadn’t started using cannabis until they were over the age of 60. 

    “Pain, insomnia, and anxiety were the most common reasons for cannabis use and, for the most part, patients reported that cannabis was helping to address these issues, especially with insomnia and pain,” said researcher Christopher Kaufmann, PhD. 

    According to the researchers, there are several reasons why cannabis use has become so widespread among older adults. For starters, CBD products are made without THC, which is the active ingredient in marijuana. This makes them more approachable to some consumers since they can use products like lotions or oils and get pain or anxiety relief without any of the added side effects. Additionally, the large variety of these kinds of products makes them easier than ever to access. 

    “New users were more likely to use cannabis for medical reasons than for recreation,” said Yang. “The route of cannabis use also differed with new users likely to use it topically as lotion rather than by smoking or ingesting edibles. Also, they were more likely to inform their doctor about their cannabis use, which reflects that cannabis use is no longer stigmatized as it was previously.” 

    Better outcomes reported

    Though the survey participants reported better physical and mental health outcomes with the use of cannabis, the researchers want to do more work in this area to better understand the best ways that this plant-based approach can continue to benefit consumers. 

    “There seems to be potential with cannabis, but we need more evidence-based research,” Dr. Kaufmann said. “We want to find out how cannabis compares to current medications available. Could cannabis be a safer alternative to treatments, such as opioids and benzodiazepines? Could cannabis help reduce the simultaneous use of multiple medications in older persons? We want to find out which conditions cannabis is most effective in treating. Only then can we better counsel adults on cannabis use.” 

    As more and more states legalize marijuana, consumers are reaping the medical benefits of cannabis-based products. Now, a new study conducted by resear...
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    TSA now permits certain CBD products on planes

    Products and medications containing hemp-derived CBD can be brought on board or packed in checked baggage

    The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has updated its guidelines on flying with products containing hemp-derived CBD (or cannabidiol).  

    The agency now allows fliers to place products and FDA-approved medications containing CBD in carry-on baggage and checked luggage. However, passengers still aren’t permitted to fly with marijuana.

    “Possession of marijuana and certain cannabis infused products, including some Cannabidiol (CBD) oil, remain illegal under federal law,” the TSA warned. “TSA officers are required to report any suspected violations of law, including possession of marijuana and certain cannabis infused products.”

    Farm Bill regulations

    Prior to updating its rules, the TSA “made no distinction between marijuana and hemp-derived preparations,” according to Marijuana Moment, a marijuana policy and advocacy blog.

    The agency’s new policy follows the introduction of the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized hemp -- a non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis plants.

    “Products/medications that contain hemp-derived CBD or are approved by the FDA are legal as long as it is produced within the regulations defined by the law under the Agriculture Improvement Act 2018,” the TSA said.

    The TSA said it updated the language in its guidelines when it became aware of confusion regarding the status of Epidiolex, an FDA-approved epilepsy drug which contains CBD.

    "To avoid confusion as to whether families can travel with this drug, TSA immediately updated TSA.gov once we became aware of the issue," a TSA spokesperson told CNN.

    The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has updated its guidelines on flying with products containing hemp-derived CBD (or cannabidiol).  The...
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    Health care professionals express concern over patients using medicinal cannabis

    Many believe the practice could lead to misuse among patients

    Though just 20 percent of states have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes, many legislators nationwide have given the green light for health care professionals to use the drug for medicinal purposes.

    Now, health care experts are bringing up some cause for concern when it comes to prescribing cannabis to patients.

    “Consistently across medicine, pharmacy, and nursing, health professionals all said their knowledge of medical cannabis was poor,” said researcher Kyle Gardiner. “Many highlighted a need for further education and easy-to-access information. Where they felt evidence-based resources were not accessible, their knowledge was generated from online learning, news and media, and patient experiences.”

    What the experts are saying

    The researchers analyzed nearly 30 previous studies that have assessed health care professionals’ beliefs and attitudes regarding medical cannabis use.

    The studies included responses from pharmacists, allied health professionals, nurses, and medical practitioners, the majority of whom agreed that medical cannabis should be used; however, the respondents said they needed better information to properly guide their patients.

    “It is important to know [medical professionals’] attitudes and concerns about the delivery and use of medical cannabis, what knowledge they have, and where they are getting their information,” Gardiner said. “However, these are a few pieces of a much larger picture.”

    Gardiner notes that patients are only granted access to medical cannabis if they are properly prescribed it by a health care professional, further proving how vital their role is in these cases.

    While many of the health care experts involved in this study expressed their own ignorance about the issue -- including the proper dosage to give to patients, where the drug is legal, and where they can get it -- they also shared that they were concerned for their patients’ overall well-being.

    The health care experts had patients’ mental health at the forefront of their minds, as previous studies have revealed a relationship between medical cannabis use and overall mental health, while drug misuse, driving under the influence, and interactions with other drugs were other big concerns around prescribing medical cannabis.

    Moving forward, Gardiner and his team want to ensure that patients are getting the highest quality of care that they possibly can, and this starts with understanding where health care professionals come from in their decision-making.

    “The picture we need to build is a more robust understanding of health professional behaviour,” said Gardiner. “This is an important step in recognising and better informing strategies that change the way health care is delivered so that patients are not disadvantaged. This study is one part of putting together that picture relating to medical cannabis.”

    Understanding marijuana use

    Medical marijuana has been touted to help any number of conditions, but a recent study found that adults with cancer are more likely to use the drug to manage their pain than those without cancer.

    The study spanned from 2005 through 2014, and though marijuana use among adults rose across the board, cancer patients were more likely to manage the pain with marijuana than their counterparts.

    “Medical marijuana legalization has been previously associated with a reduction in hospitalizations related to opioid dependence or abuse, suggesting that if patients are in fact substituting marijuana for opioids, this may introduce an opportunity for reducing opioid-related morbidity and mortality,” said Dr. Jona Hattangandi-Gluth. “Of course, it will also be important to identify risks and adverse effects of marijuana, which has not previously been studied on large randomized clinical trials, given its scheduling as a class 1 controlled substance.”

    Though just 20 percent of states have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes, many legislators nationwide have given the green light for health care...
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    New York City plans to cut back on marijuana arrests and police aren’t happy

    City officials want to decriminalize certain cases due to minorities being disproportionately targeted

    New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is reportedly asking police to stop arresting people for smoking marijuana in public following an announcement last week that the Manhattan District Attorney’s office will stop prosecuting marijuana possession and smoking cases in criminal court.

    “The dual mission of the Manhattan DA's office is a safer New York and a more equal justice system," Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance said last week in a statement explaining the policy change.

    "The ongoing arrest and criminal prosecution of predominantly black and brown New Yorkers for smoking marijuana serves neither of these goals."

    Police unhappy with decision

    The DA was pointing to data showing that non-white New York City residents are far more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession or use in public than whites, despite using marijuana at the same amounts.

    Current laws in Manhattan require people who are caught with marijuana in public to be arrested, fingerprinted, and later appear in court. Under de Blasio’s policy change, people caught with weed would still be ticketed and summoned to appear in court, but they would not be arrested.

    Police are apparently unhappy with the policy changes. On May 18, the official Twitter account of a police union called the Sergeants Benevolent Association published a post complaining about wanting to arrest a man smoking marijuana, but no longer feeling comfortable doing so.

    “Will the NYPD back me? NOT! So I just walked away,” the SBA posted.

    New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is reportedly asking police to stop arresting people for smoking marijuana in public following an announcement last week...
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    Marijuana use is on the rise for teenagers; cigarette and alcohol use remains stable or in decline

    Researchers predict that marijuana use may overtake all other substance abuse cases for teens in the next few years

    Substance abuse can be pervasive at all ages, but a recent study conducted by researchers at Penn State shows that marijuana use is rising amongst teenagers. At the same time, other controlled substances, such as alcohol and cigarettes, are either remaining stable or declining in use within the same age group.

    The war against smoking has been raging on for years. Many anti-smoking campaigns have targeted teens in the hopes that stopping the habit before it starts is the best solution. “Our analysis shows that public health campaigns are working—fewer teens are smoking cigarettes,” said Stephanie Lanza, who is a professor of biobehavioral health and the scientific director of the Methodology Center at Penn State.

    Marijuana trends rising

    Unfortunately, Lanza and her team have discovered that teens are not simply stopping when it comes to smoking. They are just replacing cigarettes with marijuana.

    The researchers collected data from surveys that were given to high school seniors over a 37-year period, from 1976 to 2013. Over 600,000 students were questioned about their use of alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana. The study used data that was originally collected by the University of Michigan for their own long-term study.

    The statistical findings showed that, as of 2013, nearly 19 percent of white teens smoked cigarettes and 22 percent used marijuana. These numbers shift slightly for black teens, where only 10 percent smoke cigarettes but nearly 25 percent used marijuana. The researchers also found that teens were more likely to use marijuana if they smoked or drank excessively, and vice versa.

    When compared to alcohol, though, cigarettes and marijuana still lag behind in teen use. Although these numbers have decreased since the 1970s, alcohol consumption is still more widespread amongst white teens than cigarette or marijuana use. But if abuse trends continue in this manner, then marijuana will likely begin to challenge alcohol consumption as the number one substance that teens abuse.

    Decisive shift

    “What will this look like in a few years?” asked Lanza when looking at graphs that showed black teens’ use of marijuana and alcohol consumption. “All signs point to these two lines crossing within the next few years. This is a decisive shift.”

    Lanza and her colleagues will continue to analyze their data to see what else can be learned from it. They hope to see if the legalization of marijuana in several U.S. states will impact their figures in any significant way. The full study has been published in the Journal of Adolescent Health

    Substance abuse can be pervasive at all ages, but a recent study conducted by researchers at Penn State shows that marijuana use is rising amongst teenager...
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    Palm Springs starts testing marijuana next week to ensure purity, potency

    The California resort city is thought to be the first in the country to provide protection for marijuana consumers

    Now that marijuana is sort of legal in some cities and states, there's growing pressure on local regulators to make sure the stuff that's being sold is safe and that its potency is clearly indicated on the packaging.

    Trying to stay ahead of the curve, the desert resort city of Palm Springs, California, next week begins testing the marijuana sold in local dispensaries, according to local media reports.

    The tests will be conducted by SC Labs of Santa Cruz, Calif., which already tests about 8,000 samples per month for 200 dispensaries in California. 

    “People who are taking any type of drug need to know the amount of active ingredients,” said Josh Wurzer, president of SC Labs, according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel. “When you take a (marijuana) brownie, let’s say you don’t know if there’s 10 milligrams or 100 milligrams in it. Your day or the next couple of days are ruined.”

    Safety concerns

    Palm Springs officials say they're concerned mainly with ensuring that the products sold by local dispensaries are safe.

    “Right now, we’re just taking baby steps,” said Jay Thompson, Palm Springs chief of staff who’s coordinating the pilot program. “Hopefully, as we get down the line, we can develop standards, but right now we’re just doing it for patient safety and for patient information.”

    There are no state regulations covering marijuana in California and the federal government still regards it as illegal so for the time being, it's up to cities to oversee the quality of the local weed. Wurzer testing is necessary if marijuana is to grow out of its current cottage-industry status.

    “For everyone involved, it would just be easier if there were set rules,” he said, according to the Sentinel. “Vague rules allowed the industry to innovate and find itself. Now is the time that we know what we’re getting into and what we need for rules and regulation.”

    Now that marijuana is sort of legal in some cities and states, there's growing pressure on local regulators to make sure the stuff that's being sold is saf...
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    Children's exposure to marijuana up 147% in recent years

    More liberal attitudes towards the drug are having consequences for children's health

    The debate over the legalization of marijuana has continued to rage on as states begin to adopt more lenient legislation on the matter. Proponents point out that there are numerous economic and health benefits that come along with legalizing the drug, but there are bound to be negative consequences as well.

    One study shows that the chances of young children swallowing, breathing in, or otherwise being exposed to marijuana has increased dramatically as policies shift in its favor.

    The numbers that have been uncovered by the study are truly staggering. From 2006 to 2013, exposure to marijuana for children five years of age or younger has risen 147.5% across the U.S. This number is small potatoes when compared to states that legalized marijuana for medical purposes. In these states, the rate increased almost 610% in the same time period.

    States that legalized marijuana from 2000 to 2013 have had child exposure rates increase steadily. There is roughly a 16% increase each year, and there is always a more dramatic jump in the year that marijuana was legalized in each state.

    But it is not just states that legalize marijuana that have to worry. Even states that had not legalized marijuana by 2013 saw a rise of 63% in marijuana exposure in young children from 2000 to 2013.

    But why exactly is this exposure to young children occurring? Henry Spiller, who co-authored the study and is the director of the Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children’s, explains why children may be attracted to the drug.

    "The high percentage of ingestions may be related to the popularity of marijuana brownies, cookies and other foods," he says. "Very young children explore their environments by putting items in their mouths, and foods such as brownies and cookies are attractive."

    Coma, seizures, other complications

    Exposure to marijuana has produced a range of results when it comes to children. While most instances resulted in minor clinical effects, some children suffered from coma, decreased breathing, or seizures. These more serious conditions could be due to increased amounts of THC in marijuana food products.  

    Gary Smith, who is the senior author of the study and the director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s, urges that states need to have child protection laws in place when it comes to marijuana. Although the total number of exposure cases is less than 2,000, he believes that the growing trend in states that have legalized marijuana is very telling.

    "Any state considering marijuana legalization needs to include child protections in its laws from the very beginning," Dr. Smith said. "Child safety must be part of the discussion when a state is considering legalization of marijuana," he said.

    Should be locked up

    Other researchers endorse the idea that marijuana be treated like other chemicals and medicines in a household. If marijuana products are being kept in the house, they should be kept out of sight of children. If possible, they can be locked in a cabinet to ensure that they cannot be swallowed by mistake.

    The full study was published in Clinical Pediatrics on June 8, 2015.

    The debate over the legalization of marijuana has continued to rage on as states begin to adopt more lenient legislation on the matter. Proponents point ou...
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    Marijuana much safer than previously thought, study finds

    Alcohol, on the other hand, is even more dangerous than commonly realize

    Advocates of legalizing marijuana have been saying for years that it's the safest recreational drug of all, and now a study suggests that that's actually an understatement.

    Marijuana is even safer than everyone thought it was while alcohol is even more dangerous, according to the study, published in Scientific American.  

    Looking at what it takes to ingest a lethal dose, the researchers found that alcohol was 114 times more dangerous than THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. 

    The study compared the estimated lethal dose of a number of drugs to the estimated human intake. Using this approach, alcohol, nicotine, cocaine and heroin fell into the "high risk" category, with alcohol having by far the highest risk profile.

    Legal in Alaska

    This perhaps comes as good news in Alaska, where a ballot measure to legalize and regulate marijuana for adults takes effect tomorrow (Tuesday). Alaskans age 21 and older will legally be able to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and cultivate no more than six plants at home, though commercial sales will have to wait until regulations have been established.

    Colorado, Oregon and Washington have also legalized marijuana, and medical marijuana is permitted in 23 states and Washington D.C.

    “We anxiously await the same public safety improvements from Alaska that we have already seen in Colorado and Washington,” said Maj. Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). “Cops will spend more time going after dangerous criminals and protecting communities, and parents can rest assured that their local marijuana retailer is barred from selling to their children.”

    Legalization efforts continue in Congress, where Representatives Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) introduced separate bills to tax and regulate the sale of marijuana for adults at the federal level. The measure is seen as having little chance of winning passage in the Republican-controlled Congress.

    Advocates of legalizing marijuana have been saying for years that it's the safest recreational drug of all, and now a study suggests that that's actually a...
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    Congress ignores wishes of D.C. voters, protesters where marijuana legalization is concerned

    Fine print in the federal budget makes D.C.'s lack of self-rule painfully obvious

    On Election Day last month, voters in Washington, D.C. chose by a margin of more than 2-1 to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes.

    A month later, Congress decided to overturn those election results. District residents pay taxes to the United States but have no Congressional representation and their elected city council's actions can be overturned by Congress for any or no reason. That's why D.C. license plates have the slogan “Taxation without Representation.”

    The House Appropriations Committee put out a three-page press summary (available in .pdf form here) including three paragraphs dedicated to the District of Columbia. The first paragraphs mention the size of next year's federal payment to D.C. ($680 million) and offers a partial breakdown of how that money's been earmarked ($479 million for “public safety and security costs” including “DC Courts” and “supervision of offenders and defendants.” The second paragraph discusses money spent for schools and other educational costs in D.C. And the third paragraph says this:

    In addition, the legislation maintains a longstanding provision prohibiting federal and local funds from being used for abortion in the District of Columbia, and prohibits both federal and local funds from being used to implement a referendum legalizing recreational marijuana use in the District.

    In the actual spending bill, which is 1,603 pages long, this paragraph is on page 660:

    None of the funds contained in this act may be used to enact or carry out any law, rule or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution of any schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act or any tetrhydrocannabinols derivative for recreational purposes.

    The Will of Congress

    In other contexts, various members of Congress and especially the House Appropriations Committee have surely said nice things in favor of democracy, voting, the Will of the People and other things mentioned in civics textbooks.

    Yesterday, various protesters (incuding members of D.C.'s city council) gathered in the city's downtown. Some of them were specifically protesting the marijuana issue, others the larger issue of D.C. self-rule (basically, demanding that residents of the district have the same voting rights as any other American citizens, including the right to vote on local issues rather than have Congress manage their local affairs for them).

    NBC's Washington blog reported late last night that the “marijuana protesters” (some of whom were protesting not in favor of legal marijuana, so much as the larger issue of self-rule for D.C. residents) joined up with another group demonstrating against police brutality against ordinary citizens.

    Rep. Andy Harris (R-Maryland), who firmly opposes marijuana legalization, led the behind-the-scenes strategy to overturn election results in D.C. He told Politico magazine that if D.C. residents don't like Congressional oversight, they should live somewhere else: “That’s the way the Constitution was written …. If they don’t like that oversight, move outside of the federal district to one of the 50 states that is not covered by the jurisdiction of Congress as a whole.”

    Of course, in America as a whole, a slight majority of polled voters now support marijuana legalization, which is why some political analysts predict the Republicans' short-term victory in successfully overriding the will of D.C. voters will hurt them on the national stage in the long run. For now, Congressional oversight of Washington, D.C. will continue to ignore the wishes of the majority of voters in D.C. and the rest of the country, at least where marijuana laws are concerned.

    On Election Day last month, voters in Washington, D.C. chose by a margin of more than 2-1 to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes....
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