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Colorado Governor Won’t Rule Out Banning Marijuana Again. Here’s Why.

Colorado Governor Won’t Rule Out
Banning Marijuana Again. Here’s Why.

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper told CNN the state may recriminalize marijuana if data show legalization has been bad for the community. Three areas of concern are:

  • Crime is up 5 percent in 2016 compared to 2013, while violent crime is up 12.5 percent.
  • Homelessness is up 5.3 percent even though national levels dropped 8.6 percent.
  • Colorado’s marijuana-related traffic fatalities more than quadrupled – from 18 to 77 — between 2013 and 2016.

The governor says these data aren’t proof. Most were not collected before pot was legalized and therefore there is no baseline from which to gage them. Others cannot be directly attributed to legalization, he says.

Read CNN story here.




The Washington Post’s Fact Checker Needs to Award A Few Pinocchios to One of Its Own

Last week we reported that The Washington Post’s Fact Checker awarded four Pinocchios to former House Speaker John Boehner for claiming “we have literally filled up our jails with people for minor marijuana possession.”

The Post’s Fact Checker found out of 20,000 people convicted of drug possession in federal prisons only 92 are there for marijuana possession. And of 1.3 million people in state prisons, approximately 19,000 (1.5 percent) are there for marijuana possession, generally associated with another charge.

But the Post’s article “Shifting Views on Marijuana Highlight Just How Differently People of Color Are Impacted by Drug Laws” makes the same claim that earned Boehner four Pinocchios.

We are not denying that people of color are disproportionately arrested for marijuana use. But arrests and incarceration are not the same thing, and it is time to stop conflating the two.

Read The Washington Post article here.



Prenatal Cannabis Use Associated with Low Birth Weights

Two studies this week from the University of Colorado track the impact marijuana legalization is having in that state. The first finds that pregnant women in Colorado who use marijuana have a 50 percent likelihood of delivering low birth weight babies, setting the stage for serious future health problems.

Researchers examined survey data from 3,207 women who participated in the Colorado Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System in 2014 and 2015. They found that 5.7 percent of pregnant women use marijuana during pregnancy and 5 percent use the drug while breastfeeding.

“There is increased availability, increased potency and a vocal pro-cannabis advocacy movement that may be creating a perception that marijuana is safe to use during pregnancy,” said lead researcher Tessa Crume.

Doctors should not recommend marijuana for medical use during preconception, pregnancy, and lactation, the researchers warn.

Read Science Daily summary here. Read Journal of Pediatrics abstract here.



Marijuana-Related ER Visits
by Colorado Teens on Rise

The other Colorado study looked at what’s happening to teens in a state that has legalized pot but not for teens. Between 2005 and 2015, emergency department and urgent care visits by youth ages 13 to 20 for marijuana-related illnesses quadrupled in Colorado, from 1.8 per 1,000 visits to 4.9 per 1,000.

The researchers identified more than 4,000 visits related to marijuana use at a children’s hospital system in Colorado. More than two-thirds had information about the patient’s behavioral health and about the same percent included a psychiatric diagnosis such as depression, mood disorder, or alcohol abuse. About half the patients were sent home after the visit, 30 percent were hospitalized, and the rest were transferred to different facilities.

Read Reuters article here. Read Journal of Adolescent Health study abstract here.



Doctors Highlight Cannabis Risks for
Pregnant or Breastfeeding Users

The Canadian Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has begun a public-education campaign to warn pregnant and breastfeeding women about the potential dangers of the drug to their babies.

The society says evidence-based studies suggest potential growth and development problems if marijuana is used during these times, including pre-term labor, low birth weight, lower IQ scores, and impulsivity and hyperactivity in childhood.

THC, the psychoactive element in marijuana, crosses the placenta into fetal tissue and can also accumulate in breast milk.

Read CTV News story here. Read the Society’s News Release here.



People Who Use Medical Marijuana More Likely to Use and Misuse Other Prescription Drugs—Including Pain Relievers

A roiling debate among scientists has to do with whether ecological studies – studies based on population data – can tell us anything about whether states that have legalized marijuana have lower rates of opioid use, overdoses, and deaths.

The population data scientists say yes; their counterparts say no because population data are based on ecological fallacies. The only way to answer the question is with individual data, they say.

In this study researchers analyzed more than 57,000 responses to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. People were asked about medical and nonmedical use of prescription drugs and were also asked about marijuana use and whether the latter was recommended by a physician. The effort identified 776 people who used medical marijuana.

These people were some 60 percent more likely to report any prescription drug use compared to those who don’t use marijuana for medical use and more than twice as likely to report nonmedical use of prescription drugs, including pain relievers, stimulants, and tranquilizers.

“Previous studies have reported that states where medical marijuana is legal have lower rates of medical and non-medical prescription drug use and related harms — including opioid overdose. ‘These reports have led many to believe that use of medical marijuana is a protective factor against non-medical prescription drug use,’ Theodore L. Caputi, one of the researchers, comments. ‘However, individual-level inferences cannot be made using the ecological studies cited frequently in the debate over medical marijuana.’”

Read Science Daily summary here. Read study abstract here.



Could Vaping Lead Teens to Pot Smoking?

Some 25 percent of teenagers who report e-cigarette use progress to smoking marijuana compared to just 8 percent of teens who do not vape, a new study finds.

Further, children ages 12 to 14 who used e-cigarettes were 2.7 times more likely to try marijuana than their peers.

Researchers surveyed 10,364 teens aged 12-17 twice, once in 2013-2014 and again a year later.  They found:

  • Teens who used e-cigarettes the first year were more likely to have tried pot a year later.
  • 12 to 14-year-olds who used e-cigarettes were two and one-half times more likely to become heavy users, smoking pot once a week or more.
  • The more often young teens use e-cigarettes, the more likely they are to try marijuana or become a heavy user.

Read Healthday article here.



Think It’s Harmless? Now Nine in Ten Teens at Drug Clinics Are Being Treated for Marijuana Use

Great Britain has release its annual report, United Kingdom Drug Situation 2017. It is not good news.

Nine in ten British teenagers at the country’s drug clinics are being treated for marijuana use.

What’s more, a high-potency form of marijuana, which the British call skunk, is causing more people to seek treatment. Research shows skunk is having a detrimental effect on mental health.

At least two studies show that “repeated use triples the risk of psychosis, with sufferers repeatedly experiencing delusional thoughts. Some victims end up taking their own lives.”

Read Daily Mail summary of this report here. Read report here. Access report data tables here.



FDA Panel Votes to
Approve Marijuana-Based Drug for Epilepsy

A panel of experts voted 13 to 0 to recommend that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approve Epidiolex® for treating rare forms of epilepsy. Epidiolex is a pharmaceutical-grade form of cannabidiol (CBD) that is purified and whose doses are standardized. FDA will make its final decision June 27, 2018. If approved, the drug’s maker, GW Pharmaceuticals, plans to bring Epidiolex to market by the end of this year.

Read Forbes article here.

Note: the executive editor holds stock in GW Pharmaceuticals.



SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana)
Hosts Experts to Talk about the
Science of Marijuana on 4/20

SAM held a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington DC April 20th to push back against the marijuana hype and misinformation about the drug’s “harmlessness” that accelerates on 4/20, the unofficial pot-smoking national holiday.

View press conference here.


Letters to the Editor

Oases of Pot?

By Josephine S. Hensley, MEd.

A strange thematic narrative has crept into the pro-marijuana press. It refers to areas without commercial marijuana as “marijuana deserts” and communities with commercial marijuana as “marijuana oases.”

This is a perverse metaphor as it has its basis in the concept of “food deserts” meaning areas, usually urban and economically challenged, where people have little access to good quality fresh food and produce. “Food deserts” have mostly low quality, highly processed food in their neighborhood grocery and convenience stores. And high concentrations of junk and processed food are tied to poorer health outcomes.

The positive public-health goal for such communities? Putting more fresh food and produce into “food deserts.”

Now that term has been co-opted by the pro-marijuana press, and its reporters have turned it on its head, dubbing areas without quick access to commercial pot “marijuana deserts.”

Neighborhoods strewn with pot shops and higher use rates are more likely to face more economic challenges.  And have poorer health outcomes. Marijuana oases indeed.

Read article that triggered Ms. Hensley’s response here.