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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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    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...

    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...

    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...

    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...

    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....