Cannabis Is A “Potential Exit Drug To Problematic Substance Use”

According to survey data published in the journal Addiction Research and Theory, three quarters of medical cannabis consumers report using it as a substitute for prescription drugs, alcohol, or some other illicit substance.

The subjective impact of marijuana on the use of licit and illicit substances via self-report in a cohort of 404 medical cannabis patients recruited from four dispensaries in British Columbia, Canada was assessed by an international team of investigators from Canada and the United States.

Subjects frequently substituted cannabis for other substances, including conventional pharmaceuticals, researchers reported and added, “Over 41 percent state that they use cannabis as a substitute for alcohol (n=158), 36.1 percent use cannabis as a substitute for illicit substances (n=137), and 67.8 percent use cannabis as a substitute for prescription drugs (n=259). The three main reasons cited for cannabis-related substitution are ‘less withdrawal’ (67.7 percent), ‘fewer side-effects’ (60.4 percent), and ‘better symptom management’ suggesting that many patients may have already identified cannabis as an effective and potentially safer adjunct or alternative to their prescription drug regimen.”

The authors concluded: “While some studies have found that a small percentage of the general population that uses cannabis may develop a dependence on this substance, a growing body of research on cannabis-related substitution suggests that for many patients cannabis is not only an effective medicine, but also a potential exit drug to problematic substance use. Given the credible biological, social and psychological mechanisms behind these results, and the associated potential to decrease personal suffering and the personal and social costs associated with addiction, further research appears to be justified on both economic and ethical grounds. Clinical trials with those who have had poor outcomes with conventional psychological or pharmacological addiction therapies could be a good starting point to further our under- standing of cannabis-based substitution effect.”

The study, “Cannabis as a substitute for alcohol and other drugs: A dispensary-based survey of substitution effect in Canadian medical cannabis patients,” appeared online in Addiction Research and Theory.

Criminal Sanctions For Cannabis Should End

According to the recommendations of a six-year study that was released recently by a coalition of leading British drug policy experts, treatment specialists, and law enforcement, the possession and cultivation of marijuana (cannabis) for personal use should no longer be a criminal offense in the United Kingdom.

Commissioned by the UK Drug Policy Commission, the study argues that police and prosecutorial costs would be reduced by decriminalizing minor cannabis offenses without adversely impacting levels of illicit drug use.

As per the study, criminal penalties for cannabis “could be replaced with simple civil penalties, such as a fine, perhaps a referral to a drug awareness session run by a public health body, or if there was a demonstrable need, to a drug treatment program. … These changes could potentially result in less demand on police and criminal justice time and resources. Given the experience of other countries, our assessment is that we do not believe this would materially alter the levels of use, while allowing resources to be spent on more cost-effective measures to reduce harm associated with drug use. … We would expect the net effect to be positive.”

The authors of the study didn’t recommend the removal of “criminal penalties for the major production or supply offences of most (illicit) drugs,” they do acknowledge that such non-criminal approaches out to be evaluated for cannabis, concluding: “For the most ubiquitous drug, cannabis, it is worth considering whether there are alternative approaches which might be more effective at reducing harm. For example, there is an argument that amending the law relating to the growing of it, at least for personal use, might go some way to undermining the commercialization of production, with associated involvement of organized crime. … Perhaps the most expedient course to take here would be to re-examine sentence levels and sentencing practice to ensure that those growing below a certain low volume of plants face no – or only minimal – sanctions.”

Marijuana Possession Cases Going Up In Smoke

Prosecutors in the two most populous counties of Washington state plan to dismiss scores of misdemeanor marijuana possession cases after after the passing of a landmark voter initiative to legalize pot for adult recreational use.

Washington and Colorado recently became the first U.S. states that removed criminal sanctions for personal possession of an ounce (28.5 grams) or less of marijuana with voters approving ballot measures for legalizing recreational use of the drug, setting up a possible showdown with the federal government.

The legalization measure of the Washington measure passed by more than 55 percent of voters supporting it and less than 45 percent opposed, and will take effect next month. However, prosecutors in King and Pierce counties of Washington that contain the cities of Seattle and Tacoma moved in a swift manner to announce that they were dropping 225 pending possession cases currently in the pipeline. All the cases slated for dismissal constitute the relative few in which the possession of marijuana alone is charged.

Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said, “I don’t believe any jury is going to convict on a simple marijuana case after this initiative has passed.” Lindquist said conviction for possession of an ounce or less carries a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail. “The people have spoken loudly in Initiative 502, and there seems to be no point in continuing to prosecute cases for conduct that’s going to be legal in a couple of weeks,” King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg said.

Washington state and Colorado were put by legalization efforts at odds with federal law that classifies marijuana as an illegal narcotic and the U.S. Justice Department has yet to say what if any actions it will take in response to the votes.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Western Washington when asked to comment on the charge dismissals said the Justice Department was reviewing the newly passed ballot initiatives and “has no additional comment at this time.”

The new Washington and Colorado laws, in addition to legalizing personal possession of marijuana, will permit cannabis to be legally sold and taxed at a state-licensed stores in a system modeled on what many states have in place for sales of alcohol.

The two states already have laws on the books legalizing marijuana for medical purposes, along with 15 other states and the District of Columbia.

Pot Use Not Related With Psychosocial Problems

According to survey data published in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, teenagers who make use of cannabis don’t report more frequent psychosocial problems compared to young people who abstain from the drug.

Survey data from over 5,200 students age 16 to 20 was analyzed by investigators at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. Of these, 455 reported making use of cannabis only and 1,703 subjects reported using both cannabis and tobacco while 3,105 subjects said they abstained from both drugs.

It was reported by the investigators that cannabis-only youth were more likely to receive good grades (77.5 to 66.6 percent), play sports (85.5 to 66.7 percent), and live with both parents (78.2 to 68.3 percent) compared with those subjects who reported using both substances and they were also less likely to have been drunk in the past 30 days (40.5 to 55 percent) or have used other illegal drugs (8.4 to 17.9 percent).

Teenagers who reported making use of cannabis only were more likely to engage in sport participation and have better friendships than those subjects who abstained from pot and tobacco.

Investigators concluded: “Cannabis-only adolescents show better functioning than those who use tobacco. Compared with abstainers, they are more socially driven and do not seem to have psychosocial problems at a higher rate.”

The study, “Characteristics of cannabis users who have never smoked tobacco,” appeared in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Marijuana Legalized By Colorado

The Denver NBC affiliated has projected that Colorado in a historic vote that will reverberate around the nation will pass Amendment 64 and would legalize marijuana. News networks have begun to confirm that Colorado’s Amendment 64 has been passed by voters by a vote of 53% to 47% (with 38% of the vote tallied).

This marks the first time in history that a state has moved for legalizing marijuana outright for adult consumers. The vote demonstrates that cannabis prohibition is a failed, unpopular policy, like alcohol prohibition before it, which largely relies on state and local enforcement. The prohibition of alcohol came to an end when some states enacted legislation repealing the state’s alcohol prohibition laws.

 Till now, no state in the United States of America has defined cannabis as a legal commodity though some state laws do provide for legal exceptions that permit certain qualified patients to possess specific amounts of cannabis as needed. But with this development from Colorado, cannabis has been classified as a legal product that may be lawfully possessed and consumed by adults.

Amendenment 64
Amendment 64

Cannabis Regulation In Missouri Would Provide $149 Million Annually

According to an economic analysis published recently, the legalization and regulation of the production and distribution of cannabis in Missouri for adults would produce $149 million annually in combined statewide savings and revenue.

The white paper, entitled “The Budgetary Implications of Legalizing Marijuana in Missouri,” is co-authored by Harvard University economist Jeffrey Miron and was commissioned by the National Cannabis Coalition.

It was estimated by the report that the legalization of cannabis in Missouri would save about $90 million in government expenditure and yield some $59 million in new tax revenue on an annual basis. The calculations of the report are based on the assumption that cannabis would be taxed at rates comparable to those on alcohol and tobacco and that all other states and the federal government will be enacting similar regulatory policies.

Stated Miron in a press release: “The savings to Missouri’s state and local governments from marijuana legalization consists of three main components: the reduction in expenditures by police from eliminating marijuana-related arrests; the reduction in spending on prosecution and judicial resources; and the reduction in spending on jails and prisons as well as probation and parole. … Marijuana legalization would allow taxation of commerce in production and sale of marijuana which are currently tax free.”

It was previously estimated by Miron that regulating cannabis nationwide would yield an estimated $17.4 billion dollars annually in cost savings and new tax revenue.

Percentage of Arrests Due to Marijuana Prohibition
Percentage of Arrests Due to Marijuana Prohibition1
Percentage of Arrests Due to Marijuana Prohibition2
Percentage of Arrests Due to Marijuana Prohibition3

Medical Cannabis Often Consumed For Pain And Muscle Spasms

According to population data published in the present issue of the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, patients in California with the recommendation of a physician are predominantly using cannabis to treat symptoms of pain, insomnia, and anxiety.

Data from 1,746 consecutive admissions to nine medical marijuana assessment clinics operating throughout California was analyzed by researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Authors reported, “Relief of pain, spasms, headache, and anxiety, as well as to improve sleep and relaxation were the most common reasons patients cited for using medical marijuana.” Patients usually reported that cannabis offered them with more than one therapeutic benefit.

Of those sampled, three-fourths of the patients were male and three-fifths were Caucasian. Compared to the US Census of California, the patients in this sample were on average “somewhat younger, reported slightly more years of formal education, and [were] more often employed.” Two-fifths of patients in the sample “had not been using marijuana recreationally prior to trying it for medicinal purposes.”

It was also reported by investigators that use of tobacco by patients was somewhat higher than in the general population, but [that their] prevalence of alcohol use was significantly lower” than that of the general population.

Authors concluded: “Compared to earlier studies of medical marijuana patients, these data suggest that the patient population has evolved from mostly HIV/AIDS and cancer patients to a significantly more diverse array. … This suggests that the patient population is likely to continue evolving as new patients and physicians discover the therapeutic uses of cannabis.”

The study “Who are medical marijuana patients? Population characteristics from nine California assessment clinics,” appeared in The Journal of Psychoactive Drugs.

Medical Marijuana Facts

Medical Marijuana Property Rights Protection Act Introduced

Legislation – House Bill 6335, the Medical Marijuana Property Rights Protection Act – has been introduced by United States Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), along with eight co-sponsors, for amending the federal Controlled Substances Act so as to “exempt real property from civil forfeiture due to medical-marijuana-related conduct that is authorized by State law.”

The first of its kind ever introduced in Congress, introduced by Representative Lee, is in response to increased use of the civil asset forfeiture statute of the Justice Department to sanction property owners whose tenants are involved in the production or distribution of cannabis in compliance with state medical marijuana laws. According to tabulations compiled by the group Americans for Safe Access, US Attorneys in California alone have sent more than 300 threatening letters to landlords across the state, resulting in the closure of more than 400 cannabis dispensaries since October.

Rep. Lee explained, “As a long-time supporter of the rights of patients to have safe and legal access to medicine that has been recommended to them by their doctors, this bill will provide clarification to California businesses and security for California patients. The people of California have made it legal for patients to have safe access to medicinal marijuana and, as a result, thousands of small business owners have invested millions of dollars in building their companies, creating jobs, and paying their taxes. We should be protecting and implementing the will of voters, not undermining our democracy by prosecuting small business owners who pay taxes and comply with the laws of their states in providing medicine to patients in need.”

The Medical Marijuana Property Rights Protection Act has been assigned before both the House Judiciary Committee and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Many other marijuana law reform measures – including HR 2306, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, HR 1983, the States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act, and HR 1831/S 3501, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act – also remain pending before Congress.

Medical Marijuana Approved By Sweden

Medicinal cannabis would now be available as a prescription in Sweden after Sativex, a cannabis-based mouth spray, was approved by the Medical Products Agency for the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS).

“This is great news for those who can’t get any relief from the most common drugs,” Jan Hillert, an MS researcher at Karolinska Institute and said the institute is planning to closely monitor prescriptions for Sativex to ensure against abuse.

The cannabis-based mouth spray does not result in a “high” as the cannabinoids included — a near 1:1 mix of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) — are not administered in large enough doses, according to both the agency and Sativex manufacturer GW Pharmaceuticals, which grows medicinal cannabis and prepares the extract in Britain.

Sativex spray is used sublingually (under the tongue), has been shown by a series of medical studies to be successful for alleviating multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms.
“Evidence generated from clinical trials shows that Sativex® has a positive impact on spasticity in multiple sclerosis, while alleviating associated symptoms including pain, bladder or sleep disturbance,” GW Pharmaceuticals said in a press release. “By relieving the symptoms of MS, Sativex® can improve patients’ quality of life and allow them greater independence in performing their daily activities.”

The cannabis spray is already available as a prescription medication in the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Denmark, Canada and New Zealand, according to GW.

Cannabinoids Useful For Treating Many Health Conditions

According to a just published review in the German scientific journal Deutsches Ärzteblatt International, scientific findings from over hundred controlled clinical trials that involved either cannabis or its constituents provide “clear evidence that cannabinoids are useful for the treatment of various medical conditions.”

Over 100 controlled trials assessing the safety and efficacy of cannabis and cannabinoids were reviewed by investigators from the nova-Institute and the Hannover Medical School in Germany.

It was reported by the researchers, “Knowledge about the therapeutic potential of cannabis products has been greatly improved by a large number of clinical trials in recent years. … There is now clear evidence that cannabinoids are useful for the treatment of various medical conditions,” including chronic neuropathy (nerve pain), multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, Gilles de la Tourette syndrome, and other indications.

Investigators determined regarding safety profile of cannabis and cannabinoids by saying, “The most common side effects of cannabinoids are tiredness and dizziness (in more than ten percent of patients), psychological effects, and dry mouth. Tolerance to these side effects nearly always develops within a short time. Withdrawal symptoms are hardly ever a problem in the therapeutic setting.”

However, the authors did reported that cannabis may pose additional health risks for adolescents and/or pregnant or breast-feeding women, as well as individuals diagnosed with Hepatitis C, severe cardiovascular disease, addictive disorders, or those vulnerable to certain psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia.

Investigators noted, “Patients who take cannabinoids at a constant dosage over an extensive period of time often develop tolerance to the impairment of psychomotor performance, so that they can drive vehicles safely.”

They concluded, “No acute deaths have been described that could be unequivocally attributed solely to cannabis consumption or treatment with cannabinoids.”