Posts Tagged ‘Medical Marijuana’

Coloradoans Increasingly Turn to Marijuana for Relief

medical-cannabisSometimes it feels like people don’t agree on anything these days, so it’s reassuring to find that, in Colorado at least, there’s still one thing that can bring people together: weed.

At least according to a new survey released by Consumer Research Around Cannabis.

Consumer Research compiled data from Denver and Colorado Springs, the state’s two largest cannabis markets. They found that despite differences in city size, demographic makeup, and overall political affiliation, more than half of the respondents approved of recreational and medical marijuana use.

Jeff Stein, Vice President of Consumer Research Around Cannabis, said the survey results show that “Denver leads Colorado Springs, 58% to 52%, in acceptance of medical and/or recreational marijuana, but the two regions reflect each other almost identically when looked at through a political lens. In both areas, nearly 75% of liberals, about 60% of independents, and roughly 35% of conservatives approve of legal usage.”

Colorado Springs is home to 725,00 adults and was rated the fourth-most conservative major city in the country in 2014, while Denver, with at population of 3.2 million adults, was rated the 19th most liberal city.

On top of high marijuana approval rates, respondents from both cities reported having similar reasons for using cannabis. More than 40% of respondents said that they used marijuana to help them sleep, followed closely by those who use it to treat chronic and recurring pain.

One notable difference in the data was the percentage of people who used cannabis to treat “temporary or minor pain” in Colorado Springs at 17.2%, making it the city’s third most important reason for using cannabis. Lumping together chronic and temporary or minor pain means that about 67% of cannabis use in Colorado is as a painkiller.

“Over the long run, It will be interesting to see how marijuana use affects sales of traditional pharmaceuticals for these kinds of ailments,” said Stein.

The survey didn’t identify how respondents consumed cannabis: whether flower, concentrate, or edible.

Hawaii Opens First Medical Marijuana Dispensary After 17-Year Wait

hawaii_2After a 17-year wait, Hawaii’s 18,000 medical marijuana patients will finally have a place to shop.

Maui Grown Therapies is set to open next week, having been the first dispensary to receive approval from the Department of Health to begin selling medical cannabis.

“Clearly this is a historic day not just for Maui but for the state of Hawaii. This is the first time in Hawaii that patients will be able to buy lab-tested, quality-assured medical cannabis from a state-licensed dispensary. We’re so excited,” said Teri Freitas Gorman, Maui Grown’s director of community relations and patient affairs.

Hawaii legalized medical marijuana in 2000, but dispensaries weren’t legal in the state until 2015. Eight other medical marijuana dispensaries have also been granted licenses (three on Oahu, two on Hawaii Island, and two on Maui), but sales were delayed until this year because the state didn’t have a certified lab–meaning that dispensaries who had begun growing and harvesting plants were unable to sell it.

Maui Grown had a “soft opening” yesterday, limiting sales to pre-registered patients by appointment only. Freitas Gorman said that they made 22 transactions and encountered a few software glitches, but she said patients were very excited. Flower was sold for $20 per gram and $90 to $125 for a quarter-ounce, depending on the strain. Regular hours and walk-in sales will begin with the official opening on Tuesday, August 15.

Registered patients and caregivers can purchase up to 4 ounces of medical marijuana during a 15 consecutive day period and purchase a maximum of 8 ounces over a 30 consecutive day period.

“This is an important day for qualified patients and caregivers on Maui who now have assurance the medical cannabis they purchase at Maui Grown Therapies has been thoroughly tested and is safe for them to use,” said Virginia Pressler, director of the state Department of Health, in a statement. “Implementing a new health program is always challenging, and the dispensary program was no exception.”

Aloha Green in Honolulu will open on the heels of Maui Grown Therapies. They’ve received the go-ahead from the Department of Health and expect to open Wednesday.

Colorado’s $100 Million/Month of Cannabis Sales the “New Norm”

mjbizAnother month, another record-breaking amount of cannabis sales in Colorado. The cannabis industry achieved a milestone in May, with $100 million in pot sales for the 12th consecutive month.

“I think that $100 million a month (in sales) are the new norm,” said Bethany Gomez, director of research for Brightfield Group, a cannabis market research firm.

Over 12 months, Colorado saw monthly sales reach $1.4 billion the state collected nearly $223 million in taxes and license fees. Since recreational marijuana was legalized four years ago, recreational sales have consistently counted for two-thirds of the monthly pot sales totals.

In May, recreational-use sales accounted for about $90.1 million and those from medical marijuana contributed just over $37.5 million. The industry’s 2017 cumulative sales through five months neared $620 million, generating close to $96 million in state revenue from taxes and fees.

However, Colorado is seeing a slow-down of growth in the industry as more states legalize recreational marijuana. Sales in Nevada–where dispensaries made about $3 million in sales and the state made about $1 million in tax revenue between July 1 and July 4–prompted the governor to declare a state of emergency as marijuana supplies ran dry. Recreational marijuana sales launch in California in 2018.

In Colorado, the market is still growing, but Gomez said that the market is approaching maturity.

“What you’re seeing in Colorado is similar to other industries, we’re starting to see lower double-digit growth rates, rather than the triple-digit growth rates,” she said. “That time of massive growth expansion in Colorado, I think, is over.”

Signs of market maturity includes the increased demand for concentrates and edibles, as well as a decrease in overall number of medical marijuana patients. New Frontier Data, a cannabis analytics firm, said that falling prices have reduced the incentive for patients to apply for medical marijuana prescription.

As of May 31, 2017, a total of 86,964 patients had an active medical marijuana registration, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. A year before, that figure was 106,066.

Since recreational use began in 2014, the products that cannabis users have evolved. Consumers have shifted from dried marijuana flower to infused products, edibles, and concentrates.

“There is increased innovation in the product category, and that’s continuing,” she said. “Consumption patterns haven’t really settled in the recreational market yet; people are still experimenting. There is still a lot of room for change there.”

 

Massachusetts Court: Employees Can’t be Fired for Medical Cannabis

cannabis-lawsuitFollowing up on a hot button issue this week: In a first of its kind ruling, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decreed on Monday that employers in the state cannot fire employees for medical cannabis use.

Cristina Barbuto was fired after her first day at Advantage Sales and Marketing after she testing positive for marijuana. Barbuto has a prescription for medical marijuana to treat Crohn’s disease, something she disclosed to the company after being told that she would need to take a mandatory drug test. Barbuto’s supervisor told her twice that her cannabis use shouldn’t be a problem, as long as she didn’t use it before or during work.

But after she’d completed her first day of work, an HR representative told her that her employment was terminated because, “We follow federal law, not state law.”

Barbuto filed suit against the employer, claiming that her termination violated state anti-discrimination laws. The case reached the state supreme court after being dismissed in 2015. Similar cases have been filed in the past, but have often ruled against the employee.

In this ruling, the state supreme court said that, “the use and possession of medically prescribed marijuana by a qualifying patient is as lawful as the use and possession of any other prescribed medication.”

Similar cases have been tried in Colorado, California, Washington, and Montana. In each, the court ruled that employers could fire workers for legal, off the clock, cannabis use because it is still illegal under federal law.

“I can’t stress this enough, it’s the first case of its kind in the country,” said Dale Deitchler, a shareholder at world’s largest labor and employment law firm and an expert on marijuana issues in the workplace.

“Massachusetts is not a state where such protections are written in the law so this is really significant,” Deitchler said. “The court created law.”

The ruling means that the case will be sent back to the Suffolk County Superior Court, the court that initially dismissed Barbuto’s suit.

The justices concluded that, “An employee’s use of medical marijuana under these circumstances is not facially unreasonable as an accommodation of her handicap.” However, “it does not necessarily mean that the employee will prevail in proving proof of handicap discrimination”, If accommodating an employee’s medical cannabis use, “would create undue hardship” on an employer.”

“Undue hardship” would apply, for example, in the transportation industry, where cannabis use would impair an employee’s ability to do their work or endanger public safety. Past cases have been with employees with less physically stressful jobs so this ruling has not yet applied. Let’s hope this means a step forward for cannabis patients’ rights!

 

UN Report: Cannabis Still Hasn’t Caused One Overdose Death

legal cannabis salesCannabis is the most widely used, cultivated, and confiscated drug on the planet, according to a new report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). But despite its use, there hasn’t been a single report of fatal cannabis overdose.

The 2017 World Drug Report states that between 128 million to 238 million people used cannabis in 2015–that equates to an estimated 3.8 percent of the world’s adult population. Amphetamines were the second most commonly used drug used worldwide, while opioids were found to cause the highest negative health impact.

Prevalence of cannabis use varies by country, but it’s not surprising to see that cannabis use in the U.S. is on the rise.

“According to data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), the past-month prevalence of cannabis use among the population aged 12 years and older in the United States increased from 6.2 per cent in 2002 to 8.3 per cent in 2015, with an estimated 22 million people aged 12 years and older being current (past-month) cannabis users in 2015,” the report states. “Since 2008 there has been a consistent year-on-year increase in cannabis use among the population aged 12 years and older, particularly in those states that currently allow the production and sale of cannabis for recreational use among adults.”

Cannabis cultivation was reported in 136 countries, while opium poppy cultivation was reported in 49 countries. Coca bush–the plant used to make cocaine was cultivated in 8 countries.

Globally, UNODC estimates that there were 190,900 drug-related deaths in 2015, although the report notes that “this is likely and underestimate.”

Approximately one quarter of global drug-related deaths are in the United States.

“Mostly driven by opioids, overdose deaths more than tripled in the period 1999-2015 and increased by 11.4 per cent in the past year alone, to reach the highest level ever recorded,” according the the report. “Of the 52,000 total drug-related deaths reported for the United States, those related to opioids accounted for more than 60 percent.”

Recreational Cannabis in Nevada Hits a Roadblock

vegas-cannabisExcited for recreational marijuana in Nevada on July 1? Hold that thought.

On Tuesday, a Carson City judge, James Wilson, issued an injunction that reverses the Tax Department’s decision to allow more than just alcohol wholesalers to transport recreational marijuana from growers to dispensaries. The move could delay a planned July start date for recreational cannabis sales.

When voters approved Question 2 to legalize recreational marijuana in November, the initiative included a requirement that distribution licenses would be issued only to alcohol wholesalers for the first 18 months of sales.

Representatives from the Independent Alcohol Distributors of Nevada (IADON) and the state Department of Taxation gave testimony on Monday in an 8-hour hearing. In his 11-page ruling, Wilson said that a “brief filed on behalf of the liquor distributors corroborated evidence that the businesses would be shut out of the marijuana distribution business entirely if the tax department issues licenses to non-alcohol distributors…Once licenses are issued to others, it will be difficult if not impossible to revoke those licenses.

However, the Department of Taxation said in March that there was limited interest among alcohol wholesalers and that the requirement would result in an in insufficient number of distributors.

According to the spokesperson for the tax department, Stephanie Klapstein, at the end of the application deadline in May, only five of 93 applications for recreational cannabis distribution licenses were issued to alcohol wholesalers. And of those five, none have actually completed the application. The other 85 applications were from existing medical marijuana dispensaries.

The Nevada Department of Taxation is reviewing the court’s decision with the attorney general’s office and “will explore all legal avenues to proceed with the program as provided in the regulations,” Klapstein said in a statement.

The approval of Question 2 tasked the state with creating a regulated marijuana sales structure by the start of 2018. But after visiting and studying other states that legalized marijuana, Nevada officials determined that waiting a full year after the drug became legal would risk growing the black market. Instead, they planned for an “early start” to get the program up and running by July.

Medical Marijuana in Dispensaries Hawaii are Open but Unable to Sell

hawaiiHawaii’s first medical marijuana dispensary opens Thursday, but don’t expect to see any cannabis on the shelves.

The problem? The state labs tasked with testing medical marijuana prior to sale have yet to be certified. The state Department of Health says they must take the necessary time to ensure that testing is accurate.

“It has to be done in the right way and we think we’re going about a very deliberate path to make sure the law is followed,” said Keith Ridley, chief of the health department’s Office of Health Care Assurance.

So instead of selling medical cannabis on Thursday, Aloha Green will open its doors for patient outreach and education.

“Once they saw that it wasn’t this dingy, scary place, then they started to see it’s something legitimate that will provide relief for a lot of patients,” said Tai Cheng, Chief Operating Officer of Aloha Green.

Cheng says that they’ve harvested four times since last month, but instead of putting product out into the market, they’ve had to vacuum seal their flower and hope that testing is certified sooner rather than later.

“It’s frustrating for our team and our growers. You’re able to hold that product for an extended period of time between 6-12 months, but oxidization of the product does cause it to lose not only its flavor but its efficiency as well,” Cheng said.

The delay is putting dispensary owners in a tough spot: operating costs can exceed $100,000 per month, and without product to sell, there’s no money coming back in.

Hawaii was one of the first states to legalize medical marijuana 17 years ago, but dispensaries weren’t legalized until 2015. Dispensaries were slated to open in July 2016, but the state had not approved software to track the product from seed-to-sale.

The health department plans to have labs up and running by summer.

Colorado Approves Medical Cannabis for PTSD

medical-cannabisOn Monday, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed Senate Bill 17, enabling physicians to prescribe cannabis to patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Veterans and patient advocates in Colorado have been working for years to get PTSD included on the list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis.

There hasn’t been an addition to the list of conditions approved for treatment with medical marijuana since 2001. The state Board of Health had rejected inclusion of PTSD at least four times in the past, with the most recent rejection in 2015, despite support from physicians and scientists.

The 2015 rejection led to a lawsuit filed by a group of veterans with PTSD. One of the plaintiffs, Larisa Bolivar, has been petitioning the state since 2006 to include the condition as eligible for medical marijuana treatment.

“It’s always been mired in politics. It’s always been an uphill battle,” Bolivar said. “But this is relieving. I know this is going to save a lot of lives and have open relationships with medical practitioners. Patients can talk about using cannabis for PTSD with them. Now we can have documentation about what used to be assumed was anecdotal.”

The bill was sponsored by Senator Irene Aguilar and Representative Jonathan Singer. Colorado legislators approved the bill in the Senate in early February and the House on April 20.

Prior to Hickenlooper signing the bill, the state had eight qualifying conditions: HIV or AIDS, seizures, cachexia, muscle spasms, cancer, glaucoma, severe pain, and severe nausea.

Although Colorado was an early adopter of medical marijuana, the state has been alone in its failure to include it as a treatment for PTSD. Colorado joins 20 other states, plus the District of Columbia, in its inclusion of PTSD in state medical pot laws.

“I hope it opens a door so that physicians recommending marijuana are no longer considered pseudo-scientific or quacks for recommending marijuana,” Singer says. “We aren’t really a trailblazer in this — a number of other states already allow it — but when the next issue comes along, maybe we have a template now.”

As soon as application forms are updated, patients can apply for doctor recommendations as early as next week.

Marijuana Boosts Memory in Aging Brains

According to a study released in Nature Medicine, marijuana may boost cognitive function and memory in elderly brains–at least in mice.

In past years, the focus of marijuana research has looked at effects of cannabis consumption in teenagers and young adults. Findings concluded that cannabis use in young brains is detrimental–and this most recent study did corroborate those findings.

However, when it comes to elderly brains and cannabis, it’s a completely different story.

Andreas Zimmer, a professor of molecular psychiatry at the University of Bonn in Germany, along with a team of researchers, found “a dramatic improvement in cognitive functions” in mice given daily, low doses of THC for a month.

Researchers included young, mature, and elderly mice in the study and performed a number of behavioral experiments. In some of the experiments, THC seemed to improve the memory in the older mice to such a degree that their cognitive function appeared to be as good as those of young mice.

In one of the tasks, mice were placed in a water maze with a hidden platform that allowed them to escape. In the control group, (mice who were not given THC) the mature and old mice took longer to climb out than the young mice. Among mature and elderly mice that had been given THC, they found the platform faster than the control mice in corresponding age groups. Young mice given THC took longer to learn where the platform was hidden.

The findings raise the possibility that cannabinoids might act as anti-aging molecules in the brain. “That is something we absolutely did not expect: the old animals [that received] THC looked most similar to the young, untreated control mice,” Zimmer said.

However, other scientists cautioned that extrapolating findings in mice to humans is premature. “This well-designed set of experiments shows that chronic THC pretreatment appears to restore a significant level of diminished cognitive performance in older mice, while corroborating the opposite effect among young mice,” Susan Weiss, director of the Division of Extramural Research at the National Institute on Drug Abuse who was not involved in the study, wrote in an e-mail to Scientific America. Nevertheless, she added, “While it would be tempting to presume the relevance of these findings [extends] to aging humans…further research will be critically needed.”

Zimmer and his colleagues have already been awarded funding to begin a clinical trial studying the effects of THC in elderly adults with mild cognitive impairments.

“If we can rejuvenate the brain so that everybody gets five to 10 more years without needing extra care, then that is more than we could have imagined,” study co-author Andras Bilkei-Gorzo told The Guardian.

Ending Marijuana Prohibition Would Save Lives and Taxpayer Money

A father-daughter duo of public policy researchers from the University of Georgia have published a follow-up to their 2016 research that found in states with a medical marijuana program, prescriptions for medications like painkillers, antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications dropped sharply.

That means that among adults 65 and older who are enrolled in Medicare, many are choosing to self-medicate with cannabis rather than taking medications prescribed by a doctor. It’s a significant shift in approaches to healthcare, and is especially relevant given the opioid epidemic in the U.S. Numerous studies have found that opiate abuse and overdose rates fell in states with medical marijuana laws.

The Bradfords’ new study applies the same analysis as the Medicare study, but this time they looked at Medicaid prescriptions. Medicaid covers low-income people of all ages. The results were similar to the Medicare research: in states with a medical marijuana program, prescriptions for certain drugs fell significantly.

Anti-nausea prescriptions fell by 17 percent, anti-depressants fell 13 percent, and anti-seizure and psychosis drugs fell 12 percent. Prescriptions for painkillers, including opiates, fell by 11 percent.

“Patients and physicians in the community are reacting to the availability of medical marijuana as if it were medicine,” the Bradfords concluded.

They also concluded that a nationwide medical marijuana program would save taxpayers about $1.1 billion on Medicaid prescriptions annually. However, while Medicaid and Medicare see cost savings, medical marijuana must be purchased outside of the insurance system, essentially shifting the burden of cost to low-income and senior patients.

Last summer the DEA affirmed marijuana’s status as a Schedule 1 drug–categorizing cannabis as an addictive drug with no medical benefits. The Bradfords warned that, “This decision was made despite the substantial and growing evidence that the requirements for Schedule I status involving ‘no currently accepted medical uses’ are no longer met by marijuana.”

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