Colorado: Retail Marijuana Sales Not Associated With Increased Youth Access Or Use

COLORADO:  The establishment of retail cannabis sales for adults is not associated with either increased marijuana access or use by young people, according to data published online in the journal Prevention Science.

A team of investigators with the University of Colorado, School of Public Health assessed marijuana use trends among a representative sample of Colorado high-school students for the years just prior to the implementation of retail sales and again 18-months later.

Authors reported: “There was an absence of significant effects for change in lifetime or past 30-day marijuana use. Among those reporting past 30-day use, frequent use and use on school property declined. There was a significant decline in the perceived harm associated with marijuana use, but we did not find a significant effect for perceived wrongfulness, perceived ease of access, or perceived parental disapproval.”

They concluded, “We did not find a significant effect associated with the introduction of legal sales of recreational marijuana to adults in Colorado on adolescent (illegal) use.”

The data is consistent with prior studies finding that neither the enactment of medical cannabis legalization nor the enactment of adult use regulation is independently associated with increased marijuana use by young people. Separate survey data released by the Department of Public Health and Environment last month reported that rates of marijuana use by Colorado teens have remained virtually unchanged following legalization, and are consistent with the national average.


For more information, contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org. Full text of the study, “Adolescent marijuana use, marijuana-related perceptions, and use of other substances before and after initiation of retail marijuana sales in Colorado (2013-2015),” appears in Prevention Science.

Patients Frequently Turning To Cannabis To Treat Symptoms Of Sickle Cell Disease

CONNECTICUT: Medical cannabis use is relatively common among patients with sickle cell disease, according to survey data published in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.

Investigators at Yale University conducted an anonymous questionnaire among 58 patients with the disease. Forty-two percent of respondents reported having used cannabis within the past two years, and 31 percent reported having used it within the past month. Most respondents said that said they did so for therapeutic purposes. Common symptoms of sickle cell disease include pain, fatigue, and swelling of the hands and feet.

Many respondents acknowledged that the use of cannabis “allowed for less use of pain medications” – a finding that is consistent with reports from other cohorts of chronic pain patients.

To date, the use of medicinal cannabis has not been evaluated in controlled settings for patients with sickle cell disease.

Authors concluded: “From our study as well as a few other reports, it appears that many adults with sickle cell disease use marijuana in the belief that it has medicinal benefits. … Thus, there is a strong rationale for the study of the medicinal properties of marijuana and/or its constituents in sickle cell disease.”


For more information, contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org. Full text of the study, “Marijuana use in adults living with sickle cell disease,” appears in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.

FDA Approves Marketing Of Plant-Derived Marijuana Medicine

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  Regulators at the US Food and Drug Administration on Monday granted market approval to Epidiolex, a prescription medicine containing a standardized formulation of plant-derived cannabidiol (CBD) for the explicit treatment of two rare forms of severe epilepsy: Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.

The proprietary extract formulation – developed by the British biotechnology firm GW Pharmaceuticals – had demonstrated safety and clinical efficacy at reducing seizure frequency in several placebo-controlled trials. It is the fourth marijuana-based medicine to receive US FDA approval – joining dronabinol (aka Marinol), nabilone (aka Cesamet), and liquid synthetic THC (aka Syndros). However, Epidiolex is the first FDA-approved medicine containing plant-derived, non-synthetic cannabinoids.

Commenting on the agency’s decision, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “We anticipate that Epidiolex will be the first of many potential FDA-approved medicines based on the cannabis plant. Nonetheless, these alternatives should not be regulated as options to replace the use and regulation of herbal cannabis – a product that humans have used safely and effectively as a medicine for thousands of years and is approved today by statute in 30 states.”

Federal agencies have 90 days to determine the scheduling of Epidiolex under the US Controlled Substances Act. According to the New York Times, analysts expect Epidiolex to cost patients between $2,500 and $5,000 a month.

Despite the FDA’s approval of Epidiolex, the agency acknowledged in a statement that the cannabidinoid CBD still remains classified at this time as a schedule I controlled substance, and that the agency is “prepared to take action when we see the illegal marketing of CBD-containing products with serious, unproven medical claims.” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb further added: “This is the approval of one specific CBD medication for a specific use. … [T]his is not an approval of marijuana or all of its components.”


For more information, contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org.

Study: Cannabis Exposure Not Associated With Residual Adverse Impact On Cognition

PENNSYLVANIA:  Cannabis exposure in adolescents and young adults is not associated with any significant long-term detrimental effects on cognitive performance, according to a systematic literature review  published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

Investigators affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine and with the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania reviewed data from 69 separate studies published between 1973 and 2017 involving 8,727 subjects (2,152 frequent or heavy users and 6,575 controls). Researchers reported no significant long-term deficits in memory, attention, or other aspects of cognitive functioning that could be independently attributed to cannabis use, regardless of subjects’ age of initiation. These findings are in contrast to similar studies assessing the impact of alcohol use and other controlled substances on cognitive performance, which “have shown medium to large effect sizes.”

Authors concluded: “Associations between cannabis use and cognitive functioning in cross-sectional studies of adolescents and young adults are small and may be of questionable clinical importance for most individuals. Furthermore, abstinence of longer than 72 hours diminishes cognitive deficits associated with cannabis use. [R]esults indicate that previous studies of cannabis youth may have overstated the magnitude and persistence of cognitive deficits associated with marijuana use.”


For more information, contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at (202) 483-5500. Full text of the new study, “Association of cannabis with cognitive functioning in adolescents and young adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis,” appears in JAMA Psychiatry.

Survey: More Than Seven In Ten Practicing Physicians Back Medical Marijuana Option

NEW YORK: More than seven in ten practicing physicians support allowing qualified patients the option to use cannabis therapeutically, according to survey data published in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.

New York University investigators surveyed the attitudes of practicing physicians in New York State. Seventy-one percent of respondents said that cannabis ought to be legal for medical purposes, and 76 percent acknowledged having patients who reported using marijuana for symptomatic relief at some point in their lives. Eighty-four percent of respondents said that they believed that opioids posed greater risks to patients’ health than cannabis.

The statewide findings are consistent with those of a 2014 nationwide WebMD survey of over 1,500 doctors which reported that a majority of physicians endorse the use of medical cannabis.


For more information, contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org.

Review: Adjunctive Use Of Cannabinoids Efficacious In Patients With Treatment-Resistant Epilepsy

AUSTRALIA: The adjunctive use of cannabinoids, particularly CBD (cannabidiol), typically reduces seizure frequency and improves the quality of life in patients with intractable forms of epilepsy, according to a review of clinical data published in the Journal ofNeurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.

Australian researchers reviewed data from six randomized, placebo-controlled studies, involving 555 patients, and from another 30 observational trials, involving an additional 2,865 patients. In the randomized trials, CBD administration was more effective than placebo in achieving complete seizure remission and in improving patients’ quality of life. In the observational trials, nearly half of patients achieved a greater than 50 percent reduction in seizure frequency.

Authors concluded: “We synthesized available evidence on the safety and efficacy of cannabinoids as an adjunctive treatment to conventional AEDs (anti-epileptic drugs) in treating drug-resistant epilepsy. In many cases, there was qualitative evidence that cannabinoids reduced seizure frequency in some patients, improved other aspects of the patients’ quality of life and were generally well tolerated with mild-to-moderate AEs (adverse events).

Earlier this year, FDA regulators announced that they will undertake a ‘priority review’ of randomized clinical trial data specific to the safety and efficacy of Epidiolex – a standardized, plant-derived CBD extract formulated by a British pharmaceutical company – for the treatment of pediatric epilepsy. The review is scheduled to be completed by June 27, 2018.


For more information, contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org. Full text of the study, “Evidence for cannabis and cannabinoids for epilepsy: A systematic review of controlled and observational evidence,” appears in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.

DEA Report: Uptick In Marijuana Seizures In 2016

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  Seizures of indoor and outdoor cannabis crops reported by the US Drug Enforcement Administration rose in 2016, according to annual data compiled by the agency.

According to the DEA’s Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Statistical Report, law enforcement confiscated more than 5.3 million marijuana plants nationwide in 2016. The total is a 20 percent increase over the agency’s reported 2015 seizure totals and is the most plants seized by the DEA and cooperating agencies since 2011, when agents confiscated more than 6.7 million plants.

As in past years, the DEA’s eradication efforts primarily targeted California. Of the total number of plants confiscated nationwide by the DEA and cooperating agencies in 2016, 71 percent (3.78 million) were seized in California. Law enforcement seized an estimated 552,000 plants in Kentucky, 333,000 in Texas, 128,000 in Tennessee, and 124,000 in West Virginia.

Only seven percent of all marijuana seized by law enforcement came from indoor grows.

The agency reported 5,657 arrests in conjunction with these cannabis eradication efforts – a ten percent decline from 2015.

The DEA also reported seizures of some $52 million in assets during their confiscation operations – nearly twice as much as the agency reported the prior year.


For more information, contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org.

NORML: Medical Marijuana Must Be Part Of Solution To Opioid Crisis

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: NORML ( National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) released the following statement regarding the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis first meeting this on June 16.

Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director said: “Tens of thousands of lives have been adversely impacted by the nation’s opioid epidemic. We must use every tool at our disposal to fight this crisis. Marijuana provides a safe and effective alternative for many of these patients and it is vital that the Committee does not ignore this important evidence in its discussions.”

“Given the make-up of the commission – which includes a number of longtime drug warriors such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Rhode Island Rep. Patrick Kennedy, and former Office of National Drug Policy Control staffer Bertha Madras, it is crucial that citizens, advocates, doctors, and researchers alike elevate the science and data which shows marijuana is an effective tool in combating the opioid crisis, not the rhetoric of the failed War on Drugs.”

“Permitting marijuana sales to be regulated by licensed, state-authorized distributors rather than the black market run by criminal entrepreneurs and pushers of various other illicit drugs including opioids would likely result in fewer, not more, Americans abusing other illicit substances.”

Armentano’s latest op-ed is “Can marijuana help mitigate America’s opioid crisis?” published today in The Hill.

 

NORML Responds To National Academy of Sciences’ Marijuana Report

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: The National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a comprehensive report today acknowledging that “conclusive or substantial evidence” exists for cannabis’ efficacy in patients suffering from chronic pain, and sharply criticized longstanding federal regulatory barriers to marijuana research – in particular “the classification of cannabis as a Schedule I substance” under federal law.

Authors of the report also addressed various aspects of marijuana’s effect on health and safety, acknowledging that the substance may pose certain potential risks for adolescents, pregnant women, and for those who may be driving shortly after ingesting cannabis. In each of these cases, these risks may be mitigated via marijuana regulation and the imposition of age restrictions in the marketplace.

Commenting on the report, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said:

“The National Academy of Science’s conclusions that marijuana possesses established therapeutic utility for certain patients and that it possesses an acceptable safety profile when compared to those of other medications or recreational intoxicants are not surprising. This evidence has been available for some time, yet for decades marijuana policy in this country has largely been driven by rhetoric and emotion, not science and evidence.

“A search on PubMed, the repository for all peer-reviewed scientific papers, using the term ‘marijuana’ yields over 24,000 scientific papers referencing the plant or its biologically active constituents — a far greater body of literature than exists for commonly consumed conventional drugs like Tylenol, ibuprofen, or hydrocodone. Further, unlike modern pharmaceuticals, cannabis possesses an extensive history of human use dating back thousands of years, thus providing society with ample empirical evidence as to its relative safety and efficacy.

“Today, 29 states and Washington, DC permit physicians to recommend marijuana therapy. Some of these state-sanctioned programs have now been in place for nearly two decades. Eight states also permit the regulated use and sale of cannabis by adults. At a minimum, we know enough about cannabis, as well as the failures of cannabis prohibition, to regulate its consumption by adults, end its longstanding criminalization, and to remove it from its Schedule I prohibitive under federal law.”

The report marks the first time since 1999 that the National Academy of Sciences has addressed issues surrounding marijuana and health. Authors reviewed over 10,000 scientific abstracts in their preparation of the new report.

You can read the full report here.

Study: Medical Cannabis Associated With Improved Cognitive Performance, Reduced Opioid Use

MASSACHUSETTS: Medical cannabis administration is associated with improved cognitive performance and lower levels of prescription drug use, according to longitudinal data published online in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology.

Investigators from Harvard Medical School, Tufts University, and McLean Hospital evaluated the use of medicinal cannabis on patients’ cognitive performance over a three-month period. Participants in the study were either naïve to cannabis or had abstained from the substance for at least ten years. Baseline evaluations of patients’ cognitive performance were taken prior to their cannabis use and then again following treatment.

Researchers reported “no significant decrements in performance” following medical marijuana treatment. Rather, they determined, “[P]atients experienced some improvement on measures of executive functioning, including the Stroop Color Word Test and Trail Making Test, mostly reflected as increased speed in completing tasks without a loss of accuracy.”

Participants in the study were less likely to experience feelings of depression during treatment, and many significantly reduced their use of prescription drugs. “[D]ata revealed a notable decrease in weekly use across all medication classes, including reductions in use of opiates (-42.88 percent), antidepressants (-17.64 percent), mood stabilizers (-33.33 percent), and benzodiazepines (-38.89 percent),” authors reported – a finding that is consistent with prior studies.

Patients in the study will continue to be assessed over the course of one-year of treatment to assess whether these preliminary trends persist long-term.

For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org. Full text of the study, “Splendor in the grass? A pilot study assessing the impact of marijuana on executive function,” appears in Frontiers of Pharmacology.