Category Archives: Research

research

Coloradans Still Support Legal Marijuana Sales, Poll Finds

Since Colorado voters approved Amendment 64 in 2012, and after the historic first sales of recreational marijuana began in January 2014, a majority of state residents still support legal marijuana sales.

NBC News/Marist Poll

According to the Huffington Post, a new NBC News/Marist Poll demonstrates that 55 percent of adult Colorado residents back the law that made the regulated use, possession, and sale of marijuana by adults legal, as opposed to the 41 percent that do not support the law, including 8 percent who said they are actively trying to overturn the current legislation.

The majority that are supportive of the law includes the 27 percent of adult Coloradans who actively support the law, as well as the 28 percent who are in favor of the law but do not actively support it. Among registered voters, 52 percent said they favor the law, with 26 percent actively supporting it and 26 percent that favor but do not actively support it.

“This is just the latest of several polls that reflect the successful implementation of Amendment 64, “ said Mason Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project and key figure in the campaign to legalize marijuana. He went on to state, “Hopefully the folks fighting to maintain prohibition will stop using bogus talking points about Coloradans having buyer’s remorse. Nobody knows more about how Coloradans feel than Coloradans themselves, and clearly most of them are quite content with the direction in which things are headed.” [MPP emphasis added]

Moreover, other surveys have found similar levels of support regarding retail marijuana in the state. In February, for example, a Quinnipiac poll found that 58 percent of Colorado voters supported the legalization of marijuana. Another survey from March, conducted by Public Policy Polling, showed 57 percent of Colorado voters in favor of legal marijuana.

The success of Colorado’s implementation is paving the way for more states to follow in its footsteps. This November, Oregon and Alaska voters will be the next states to consider regulating marijuana like alcohol, and the District of Columbia will vote on making possession and limited home cultivation legal for adults.

 

For-Profit Institutions Ineligible to Receive Medical Marijuana Research Grants

According to the Denver Post, for-profit companies will not be awarded funding for state-supported medical marijuana research, under the terms of the grant program released Wednesday. However, for-profit firms will be approved as subcontractors on grant proposals.

In the official request for applications, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment indicates that only certain institutions are qualified to apply as primary recipients for the $9 million in available research grant money to study the benefits of medical marijuana, including “not-for profit organizations, health care organizations, governmental entities and higher education institutions.” In addition, there is no requirement for eligible applicants to be based in Colorado.

Although Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (D) already signed a bill in May allowing the state to fund up to $10 million for research into the medical efficacy of marijuana, health department officials are still hoping that researchers will be allowed, for the first time, to conduct clinical or observational trials using the kinds of marijuana products that are already available in Colorado’s medical-marijuana system.

“Colorado is a national leader in the development of new strains of marijuana and its component parts that appear to have promising therapeutic effects,” the application request states.

[MPP emphasis added]

However, restrictions limiting the applicants eligible for the grants, on top of existing concerns about federal funding and oversight, only further complicate the research proposals. All of the complications involved in the process demonstrate the federal government’s ongoing efforts to hinder the study of the benefits of medical marijuana.

 

 

 

Concern over Colorado’s Medical Marijuana Research Grant Program

According to a Denver Post story, Colorado is scheduled to begin administering significant funding for the largest ever state-supported medical marijuana research grant program starting in early 2015. It is anticipated that Colorado’s health department will release the program’s official request for applications sometime this week. The state expects to deliver $9 million geared towards research on the medical effects of marijuana. There is, however, skepticism over who will be able to accept funding for the research program due to marijuana’s federally illegal status.

Dr. Larry Wolk
Dr. Larry Wolk

At a recent meeting, several members of the health department questioned whether or not university-based researchers would be able to participate in the research program without first receiving approval from the federal government. Some members fear that the university review boards may disapprove of projects that are seen as being too controversial or as threats to the university’s federal funding, regardless of state-funded approval for the research.

As stated by the health department’s executive director, Dr. Larry Wolk, “It’s going to be a challenge for the applicant.” Although, Dr. Paula Riggs, a council member who is an addiction medicine specialist at the University of Colorado, said researchers can reduce that concern by getting approval from the Drug Enforcement Administration, but such approval typically takes a long time. “You can do it,” she said, “but you have to jump through hoops.”

[MPP emphasis added]

With the Governor of Colorado signing a law allowing the state to fund up to $10 million for research into the medical benefits of marijuana, the state has demonstrated its ability to jump through the federal government’s “hoops.” What remains now is the issue of eliminating the obstacles brought upon by the federal government in giving researchers the opportunity to investigate the benefits medical marijuana.

Studies Suggest Marijuana May Help Decrease Domestic Violence and Overdose Deaths

A pair of recent studies suggest that marijuana policy reform may be paving the way for a healthier, happier world in at least two ways.

The first, released by the University of Buffalo, found that couples who use marijuana are the least likely to engage in, or be the victim of, domestic violence and abuse.

The authors caution that while these findings are predictive–meaning couples who smoke are less likely to commit domestic violence–they don’t necessarily draw a causal line between the two behaviors. Among the connections they hypothesize, “marijuana may increase positive affect, which in turn could reduce the likelihood of conflict and aggression.” …

Another possible mechanism: “chronic [marijuana] users exhibit blunted emotional reaction to threat stimuli, which may also decrease the likelihood of aggressive behavior.”

The second study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, reported that  states with medical marijuana laws have roughly 25% fewer painkiller overdose deaths than states which do not allow medical marijuana.  While the authors caution that this could simply be a correlation, not a causal effect, a large amount of anecdotal research exists from patients who report weaning or discontinuing their use of prescription painkillers once they are able to use marijuana to treat their conditions.

Prominent Think Tank Praises Washington’s Legal Marijuana System

On Monday, respected policy think tank The Brookings Institutionbrookings published a paper analyzing Washington’s implementation of the law passed in 2012 to regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol. The results: the state is doing well and is actively trying to learn from the process. The results could have far-reaching implications for marijuana policy reform in other states.

Brookings’ Philip Wallach interviewed advocates, researchers, and government policymakers in Washington to learn about the state’s novel approach.  In this report, he highlights several noteworthy features:

  • Building a funding source for research directly into the law: a portion of the excise tax revenues from marijuana sales will fund research on the reform’s effects and on how its social costs can be effectively mitigated.
  • Bringing to bear many perspectives on legalization by coordinating research efforts across multiple state agencies, including the Department of Social and Health Services, the Department of Health, and the Liquor Control Board.
  • Mandating a cost-benefit analysis by the state’s in-house think tank, which will be nearly unprecedented in its scope and duration.

Wallach makes a number of suggestions to ensure that Washington’s knowledge experiment can be made to work, including:

  • Ensure political independence for researchers, both by pressuring politicians to allow them to do their work and by encouraging the researchers themselves to refrain from making political recommendations
  • Gather and translate research into forms usable by policymakers
  • Counter misinformation with claims of confident uncertainty
  • Have realistic expectations about the timeline for empirical learning, which means cultivating patience over the next few years
  • Specify which reliable metrics would indicate success or failure of legalization

The full report can be found here.