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A new study published in the American Journal of Public Health found little effect of adult-use marijuana laws on prevalence of marijuana use among youth.
In this examination, researchers focused specifically on 504 justice system-involved adolescents in California, who, as they point out, have substantially higher marijuana use levels as compared to the general youth population. Among this population, they found marijuana use levels in the past 24 hours were similar in 2015 (before adult-use marijuana was legalized) and in 2018 (after adult-use marijuana was legalized and implemented in the state).
The authors then compared the findings of the California youth population with a group of justice system-involved adolescents in Pennsylvania, a state that has not legalized cannabis for adult use and had lower levels of marijuana use than in California at baseline. If adult-use legalization laws increased adolescent marijuana use, the gap in marijuana use prevalence across the groups in the two states would be expected to grow. However, the gap actually grew smaller because marijuana prevalence increased relatively faster among the Pennsylvania adolescents.
As a whole, the study suggests that marijuana legalization has not had much overall effect on youth marijuana use during the past two decades. Over the past 10 years, state marijuana laws have changed substantially, with 11 states and D.C. legalizing cannabis for adults. Nonetheless, youth use rates have remained quite steady, indicating that major changes in the legality of marijuana across the U.S. have not impacted adolescent use.
The abstract of the study, “Marijuana use among justice-involved youths after California statewide legalization, 2015-2018,” appears here, and an accompanying editorial, “Marijuana legalization and marijuana prevalence among adolescents,” can be found here.
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Now it’s up to the Senate, and you can help.
Several big measures have been put forth by the House of Representatives in the past 24 hours. Here is a quick rundown of the key provisions and how you can help:
Protections for legalization programs
The House voted to protect state legalization programs from federal law enforcement. The Blumenauer-McClintock-Norton amendment was added to a budget bill called the CJS, which received a huge vote in support (254-163). Thanks to all those who reached out to their lawmakers! The bill now goes to the Senate. Click here to send a message to your Senators in support of this measure.
Access to banking
Cannabis businesses need access to the banking system, and social equity businesses, in particular, need resources. Key language was added to a funding package that passed the House on a vote of 217-197. This would be a huge help for businesses and would keep costs down for consumers. Click here in support of this key measure to allow cannabis businesses to access banks.
Also part of the funding package that passed the House, an education rider would allow colleges and universities to use state-legal cannabis for research. Importantly, this sidesteps many of the limitations imposed by the FDA and DEA that can keep researchers from getting cannabis to study. Click here to support better access for cannabis research.
Today, the District of Columbia is prevented from creating a regulatory system for adult-use cannabis, despite what residents clearly want. The House vote would remove that blockage, opening the door for a better system in our nation’s capital. We want to make sure that ban isn’t reinserted by lawmakers in the Senate. Click here to get that message to your Senators.
Much is happening as lawmakers meet the many challenges of COVID-19. Unfortunately, many of these provisions are likely to be opposed in the Senate, so we are asking for your help. Please take a moment to reach out to your lawmakers and make your voice heard. Then, you can help by forwarding this message to your contacts. And stay tuned!
Another study pointing to the failures of the war on drugs was published yesterday by a group of U.S. and Canadian researchers. The study was funded by the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy and examined the relative price and potency of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana from 1990 to 2010. Through analysis of existing data from various UN and governmental databases, the study found that, despite an estimated $1 trillion spent by the U.S. alone, the war on drugs has failed. Lead researcher Dr. Evan Wood commented on the results:
These findings add to the growing body of evidence that the war on drugs has failed. We should look to implement policies that place community health and safety at the forefront of our efforts.
The study showed that although marijuana seizures by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration increased by 465% between 1990 and 2010, the misguided efforts are ineffective. Since 1990, the price of marijuana has decreased by 86%, and its availability remains high.
It is clear that marijuana prohibition is not an effective means to control marijuana use. Instead, it is time to focus on policies that are best for the community and the individual, instead of wasting resources on arrest.
Using marijuana may cause a “complete remission” of Crohn’s disease, a new study suggests.
Published in the medical journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, the study examined the effects of regular marijuana consumption on the development of the severely debilitating Crohn’s disease. Researchers at Israel’s Meir Medical Center found that five of the 11 patients (or nearly half) who smoked twice per day for eight weeks achieved complete remission, compared to none of the patients who were given a placebo. Additionally, another five of the test subjects receiving marijuana saw their symptoms cut in half. And, unlike many of the drugs currently prescribed to treat the illness, there were no significant side effects.
The symptoms of severe Crohn’s disease make it a living nightmare for many patients, who can suffer from bloody diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and fevers.
This study is the first placebo-controlled clinical trial to measure the impact of marijuana consumption on Crohn’s disease. While there is no cure for Crohn’s, scientists are working to keep the symptoms in check and prevent further progression of the disease.
The researchers were hesitant to label the findings a total success, but said that they merit further research.
The U.S. House of Representatives approved a revised version of the highly contested Farm Bill yesterday. Although representatives re-crafted the bill to remove provisions for food stamp funding, they left a hemp amendment intact.
The amendment would change federal law to allow for colleges and universities to grow hemp for research purposes in states where hemp cultivation and production is permitted by state law. The bill must still pass the Senate before final approval.
Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado and Agriculture Commissioner James Comer of Kentucky expressed their support for the amendment. Comer said, “Without a doubt, this was an historic day for industrial hemp in America.”
The bill narrowly passed on a 216-208 vote.
On July 2, an article by Dr. Samuel T. Wilkinson was published in the Wall Street Journal positing that marijuana use can drastically increase one’s predisposition towards schizophrenia and other mental illnesses. Dr. Wilkinson cites research stating that teenage and early 20s use of marijuana holds a causal link to later development of schizophrenia. However, this data is simply not a credible argument against making marijuana legal.
Within his own article, Dr. Wilkinson discusses the “cliff of sanity,” a metaphorical line between sanity and mental illness, and he claims that those with a pre-existing tendency towards mental illness may be “pushed over” by marijuana use. However, if marijuana use before the age of 21 is riskier as a result of a developing brain, then legalization and regulation is the solution.
In response to the article, MPP’s Mason Tvert said, “Legalization would involve carefully controlled outlets that would not sell pot to minors, as opposed to the current situation where illegal dealers will sell pot to anyone, including schoolchildren. The net effect would be less exposure to the drug by our young people at a time when they are most vulnerable.”
In Mason’s letter to the editor, he states that a 2009 study from the journal Schizophrenic Research found that “the prevalence of schizophrenia and psychoses has remained stable or declined during periods in which marijuana use increased significantly among the general populace.”
A predisposition to mental illness is a preexisting condition that is not created by marijuana use. In fact, any chemical substance introduced into the body may very well exacerbate the issue, including alcohol. Marijuana does not cause mental illness for users, either occasional or frequent, and making marijuana legal poses the best chance for a safer marijuana market that more effectively limits access to people aged 21 and over.
Despite the fact that black and white Americans use marijuana in comparable numbers, a new analysis of federal data performed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) found that blacks were nearly four times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana possession in 2010. The report is the most comprehensive national examination of marijuana arrests by race and by county.
According to the ACLU:
"The aggressive enforcement of marijuana possession laws needlessly ensnares hundreds of thousands of people into the criminal justice system and wastes billions of taxpayers’ dollars. What’s more, it is carried out with staggering racial bias. Despite being a priority for police departments nationwide, the War on Marijuana has failed to reduce marijuana use and availability and diverted resources that could be better invested in our communities."
The statistics in Washington, D.C. and Maryland were particularly staggering. The former had the country’s highest arrest rate for marijuana possession arrests – more than three times the national average – and the latter had the fourth highest rate. Blacks accounted for 91% of possession arrests in D.C. and were more than eight times more likely to be arrested than whites. In Maryland, blacks accounted for 58% of possession arrests and were more than three times more likely to be arrested than whites. In Baltimore City, they were more than five-and-half times likely to be arrested than whites.
The disproportionality of marijuana enforcement is just one more pebble on the mountain of evidence that exposes our nation’s marijuana policy for what it is: broken.
In a Washington Post video posted today, two families discuss their search for effective treatments for their children's chronic and debilitating seizures and how they arrived at medical marijuana as the best option. Unfortunately, there is little understanding as to how and why medical marijuana works so well for certain conditions, but more and more researchers are starting to look into it.
These particular cases, and those like them, illustrate the need for greatly expanded research into the potential medical benefits of marijuana. If only the government agencies in charge of authorizing such studies would allow them to proceed...
A medical marijuana bill that could allow academic medical centers to provide marijuana to patients whose doctors recommend it took a significant step toward becoming law minutes ago when it was approved by the Maryland House of Delegates. In a sign of just how uncontroversial this bill is, there was no debate and the vote was an overwhelming 108-28! The bill now moves over to the Senate, so you know what to do.
Unlike medical marijuana programs you’ve heard about in other states, HB 1101 would allow academic medical centers, like Johns Hopkins, to apply to an independent commission for the ability to administer a research-focused program through which participating patients could obtain marijuana without fear of arrest and prosecution. The bill is far from perfect – it could take years to get up and running and would require either federal cooperation or medical centers in Maryland to violate federal law – but it’s a start. The bill could be amended down the road if the current version proves unworkable.