Patients Frequently Substitute Cannabis For Anti-Anxiety Drugs

CANADA: Patients authorized to legally use medical cannabis frequently substitute it in place of benzodiazepines, according to a pair of new studies. Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs primarily used for treating anxiety. According to data compiled by the US Centers for Disease Control, benzodiazepines were attributed to over 11,500 overdose deaths in 2017.

In the first study, Canadian researchers assessed the relationship between cannabis and benzodiazepines in a cohort of 146 patients enrolled in the nation’s medical marijuana access program. They reported that 30 percent of participants discontinued their use of anti-anxiety medications within two months of initiating cannabis therapy and that 45 percent did so by six months.

“Patients initiated on medical cannabis therapy showed significant benzodiazepine discontinuation rates after their first follow-up visit to their medical cannabis prescriber, and continued to show significant discontinuation rates thereafter,” authors concluded.

In the second study, investigators at the University of Michigan surveyed over 1,300 state-registered medical cannabis patients with regard to their use of opioids and benzodiazepines. They reported that 53 percent of respondents acknowledged substituting marijuana for opioids, and 22 percent did so for benzodiazepines.

The studies’ findings are consistent with numerous other papers — such as those hereherehere, and here— documenting patients’ use of cannabis in place of a variety of prescription drugs, particularly opioids and anti-anxiety medications.


For more information, contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org. Full text of the study, “Reduction of benzodiazepine use in patients prescribed medical cannabis,” appears in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research. Full text of the study, “Pills to pot: Observational analyses of cannabis substitution among medical cannabis users with chronic pain,” appears in The Journal of Pain. Additional information is available in NORML’s fact-sheet, “Relationship between marijuana and opioids.”

Survey: Three Of Four Military Veterans Would Consider Using Medical Cannabis

NEW YORK: Seventy-five percent of military veterans say that they would consider using either “cannabis or cannabinoid products as a treatment option,” according to member survey data compiled by the group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). The organization represents over 400,000 veterans nationwide.

Under existing federal regulations, physicians affiliated with the Department of Veteran Affairs are forbidden from providing medical cannabis recommendations, even in jurisdictions that legally permit private practitioners to do so.

Overall, 83 percent of respondents expressed support for legalizing medical cannabis access, and 68 percent believe that the Department of Veterans Affairs “should allow for research into cannabis as a treatment option.” Proposed federal legislation to direct the agency to conduct clinical trials on the use of cannabis for PTSD and for other conditions is currently pending in the US House and Senate.

Twenty percent of veterans surveyed acknowledged having previously used cannabis for medical purposes. Other studies have estimated that as many as 41 percent of veterans acknowledge having consumed cannabis for therapeutic purposes. Available data documents that cannabis is effective in the treatment of chronic pain and may potentially mitigate symptoms of post-traumatic stress, along with other conditions veterans commonly face.


For more information, contact Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director, at: (202) 483-5500. Additional information is available from the NORML fact-sheet, “Marijuana and Veterans Issues.”

Report: Retail Cannabis Tax Revenues Surpass $1 Billion In 2018

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: State and local excise tax collections on retail adult-use cannabis sales surpassed $1 billion in 2018 — a 57 percent increase over 2017 levels, according to data compiled by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

Annual excise tax revenues on adult-use cannabis sales ($1.04 billion) rivaled those for all forms of alcohol $(1.16 billion), the group reported. State-specific sales taxes on retail cannabis purchases also yielded an addition $300 million in revenue in 2018.

Authors of the report estimated that cannabis-specific taxes would raise an estimated $11.9 billion annually if the product were legally available at retailers nationwide.


For more information, contact Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director, at: (202) 483-5500. Full text of the report is available online.

Maryland: Baltimore Prosecutor To No Longer Target Marijuana Possession Offenses

STATES ATTORNEY BALTIMORE

MARYLAND: Officials will no longer prosecute marijuana possession offenses in Baltimore, according to a newly announced public policy by the office of the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City.

Under the plan, which takes immediate effect, the office will also move to expunge the criminal records of an estimated 5,000 citizens previously convicted of cannabis-related offenses. The office’s decision to cease targeting minor marijuana violations is similar to actions recently taken by prosecutors in a number of other major cities, including St. Louis, MissouriWestchester, New YorkPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania; and Norfolk, Virginia.

State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said that the new policy will provide “a major step forward in making Baltimore city safer, fairer, and more equitable, and even more just.”

The Office will continue to take action against felony cases involving the possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, though prosecutors will refer all first-time offenders to diversion programs.


For more information, contact Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director, at (202) 483-5500.

Study: CBD-Dominant Cannabis Oil Safe And Effective In Autistic Patients

ISRAEL: The administration of plant-derived cannabis extracts is effective and well-tolerated in patients diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), according to data published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Israeli investigators assessed the safety and efficacy of the daily administration of CBD-enriched cannabis oil (consisting of 30 percent CBD and 1.5 percent THC) in a cohort of 188 patients with ASD. Of those patients who continued treatment for six months and provided feedback to researchers, over 90 percent reported some level of symptomatic improvement — including reductions in restlessness, seizures, and rage attacks. Approximately one-third of respondents reported a reduction in their intake of other medications.

Authors concluded: “Cannabis as a treatment for autism spectrum disorders patients appears to be well-tolerated, safe and seemingly effective option to relieve symptoms, mainly: seizures, tics, depression, restlessness and rage attacks. … [W]e believe that double blind placebo-controlled trials are crucial for a better understanding of the cannabis effect on ASD patients.”

The results are consistent with those of a prior Israeli study which concluded that the daily administration of CBD-dominant extracts was associated with “overall improvement in behavior, anxiety, and communication” in autism patients.


For more information, contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org. Full text of the study, “Real life experience of medical cannabis treatment in autism: Analysis of safety and efficacy,” appears in Scientific Reports.

 

US Virgin Islands Enacts Medical Cannabis Access Law

USVI: Democratic Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. signed legislation into law last week establishing a regulated medical cannabis market in the US Virgin Islands.

The Medical Cannabis Patient Care Act permits qualified patients to possess and access cannabis and cannabis-infused products from licensed dispensaries. Specified patients will also be permitted to cultivate their own marijuana.

Under the law, regulators must finalize rules governing the program within 180 days.

The Virgin Islands is the third US territory to legalize medical cannabis access — joining Guam and Puerto Rico.


For more information, contact Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director, at (202) 483-5500.

 

Nominee For US Attorney General Will Not Take Action Against State-Sanctioned Marijuana Industry

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: The Trump administration’s nominee for US Attorney General, William Barr, during Senate testimony on Tuesday affirmed that he would not use the power of the Justice Department to target marijuana-related activity in jurisdictions where the plant is legally regulated.

In response to a question posed by Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Barr said, “My approach … would not be to upset the settled expectations and the reliant interests that have arisen as a result of the Cole memorandum.” The 2013 Cole memo, which was rescinded by former US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, directed 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.

Although Barr said that he personally opposed the increasing divide between state and federal marijuana laws, he acknowledged that he will not “go after companies that have relied on the Cole memorandum.”

“It is encouraging that William Barr pledged not to enforce federal marijuana prohibition against the majority of US states that have reformed their laws. With this commitment, Congress has a clear mandate to take action and end the underlying policy of federal criminalization,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal.

William Barr is awaiting confirmation by the the Senate Judiciary Committee.


For more information, contact Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director, at (202) 483-5500.

Vermont: Odor Of Burnt Marijuana Is Insufficient Evidence To Warrant A Vehicle Search

MJLegalVERMONT: The odor of burnt marijuana emanating from a motor vehicle is not a determinative factor as to whether sufficient probable cause exists to conduct a search, according to a ruling by the Vermont Supreme Court. The possession of small quantities of marijuana is legal in the state.

Medical Schools Including Cannabis Content In Their Curriculum

PENNSYLVANIA: A growing percentage of colleges of pharmacy are instituting medical cannabis training as part of their curriculum, according to survey data published in the journal Currents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh contacted 140 US schools of pharmacy regarding whether they include medical cannabis-related topics in their curriculum. Among respondents, 62 percent reported that they had instituted some level of medical marijuana training, while 23 percent answered that they intended to incorporate the topic to their coursework within the next 12 months.

The study is the first inventory of medical schools with regard to the inclusion of medical cannabis-related topics to their curriculum.

According to a 2015 evaluation of student pharmacists’ attitudes, 90 percent of respondents indicated that they favored the inclusion of medical cannabis instruction to their curriculum.


For more information, contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org. Full text of the study, “Evaluation of medical marijuana topics in the PharmD curriculum: A national survey of schools and colleges of pharmacy,” appears in Currents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning.

Study: Cannabis Use Associated With Reduced Risk Of Alcohol-Induced Pancreatitis

MASSACHUSETTS: Habitual alcohol consumers who also use cannabis are at less risk for either acute or chronic pancreatitis as compared to those who do not use the substance, according to clinical data published in the journal Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research.

A team of investigators from the United States and Canada assessed the prevalence of alcohol-induced pancreatitis in a nationwide sample of heavy alcohol users. They reported that those subjects who concomitantly used cannabis possessed a significantly lower risk of pancreatitis as compared to those who did not.

“Our findings suggest a reduced incidence of only alcohol-associated pancreatitis with cannabis use,” authors concluded.

Separate research by the team previously reported that “risky alcohol drinking combined with cannabis use is associated with reduced prevalence of alcohol-associated gastritis in patients.” Alcoholic gastritis refers to inflammation or erosion of the stomach lining that is caused by excessive alcohol consumption.


For more information, contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org. Full text of the study, “Reduced risk of alcohol-induced pancreatitis with cannabis use,” appears in Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research.