Binghamton, NY: Over half of all young people entered into drug treatment for marijuana are placed there by the criminal justice system and this percentage is increasing, according to data published online in the journal Substance Use & Misuse.
A team of researchers from Binghamton University in New York and the University of Iowa reviewed youth marijuana treatment admission data (TEDS-A) during the years 1995 to 2012.
Investigators reported that youth admissions for cannabis rose 65 percent during the study period - from 52,894 annual admissions in 1995 to 87,528 in 2012. Admissions rose most precipitously among Latinos (an increase of 256 percent since 1995) and African American youth (an increase of 86 percent). Criminal justice system referrals rose 70 percent during this period, and now account for 54 percent of all substance abuse admissions by young people.
Among those enrolled in treatment, half exhibited little if any evidence of suffering from marijuana dependence or a disorder. Specifically, 30 percent of all young people admitted into marijuana treatment since 2008 had no record of having consumed cannabis in the 30 days prior to their admittance. Another 20 percent of those entered into treatment had used cannabis three times or fewer in the month prior to their admission. Prior evaluations of TEDS data among adults have yielded similar results.
"Our findings indicate that the severity of drug use involved in those admissions has decreased," authors concluded. "This study highlights the importance of identifying youth in actual need of treatment services."
Since the late 1990s, both youth use of marijuana and the prevalence of cannabis use disorder by young people have declined significantly.
For more information, contact Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director, at (202) 483-5500. Full text of the study, "Trends in youth marijuana treatment admissions: Increasing admissions contrasted with decreasing drug involvement," appears in Substance Use & Misuse.
Massachusetts: Medical Marijuana Patients Afforded Workplace Protections
Boston, MA: State-registered medical cannabis patients may sue a private employer for discrimination if they are fired for their off-the-job marijuana use, according to a first in the nation ruling issued Monday by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.
Opining for the court, Chief Justice Ralph Gants determined that it is "not facially unreasonable" for employers to make exceptions to their substance abuse policies in instances where employees are using cannabis at home to treat a debilitating condition. "The fact that the employee's possession of medical marijuana is in violation of federal law does not make it per se unreasonable as an accommodation," he wrote.
The defendant in the case was fired on her first day on the job for testing positive for carboxy-THC on a company drug test. The former employee possessed a doctor's recommendation to use cannabis to treat symptoms of Crohn's disease and irritable bowel syndrome. Qualified patients may legally obtain cannabis in Massachusetts under a 2012 voter-initiated law.
The unanimous verdict reverses a lower court decision and is contrary to rulings in California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington. In each of those states, justices ruled that employees had no legal protection if they were fired without cause for their use of medical cannabis.
"Patients should never have to choose between their heath and their job and for the first time, the courts are beginning to recognize that they shouldn't have to do so," NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said. "It is our hope that courts in other jurisdictions begin to apply this same rationale to patients as well as to all adults who are using cannabis responsibly off-the-job in compliance with the laws of their states."
The case is Barbuto v. Advantage Sales and Marketing LLC.
New Hampshire: Governor Signs Bill Decriminalizing Marijuana Possession Offenses
Concord, NH: Republican Gov. Chris Sununu has signed legislation into law decriminalizing minor marijuana offenses.
The new law, which takes effect in mid-September, eliminates criminal penalties for the possession of up to 3/4 of an ounce of cannabis and/or up to five grams of hashish for those age 18 and older. First and second time offenders will face a $100 civil fine.
"New Hampshire will soon join the chorus of states that recognize the baseline level of dignity for it's citizens and tourists who choose to consume marijuana," said Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director. "Soon, throughout New England, individuals will be able to freely travel without the threat of jail time for possession of marijuana."
New Hampshire is the only New England state that presently imposes criminal penalties for minor marijuana possession offenses.
Governor Sununu also signed separate legislation, HB 215, establishing a commission to "study the legalization, regulation, and taxation of marijuana." However, many of those initially advocating for the commission, including the bill's primary sponsor, withdrew their support for it following concerns that task force members largely consist of those opposed to any further changes in marijuana policy.
Massachusetts: Lawmakers Agree On Question 4 Implementation Measure
Boston, MA: House and Senate leaders have reconciled a pair of bills seeking to amend Question 4 - a voter-approved measure regulating the licensed production and sale of marijuana.
The compromise bill raises the maximum tax rate that can be imposed on commercial cannabis transactions from 12 percent to 20 percent. Medical marijuana retail sales will not be subject to taxation under the new plan.
The revised bill limits the ability of local communities to ban retail facilities if a majority of voters approved Question 4, but it makes it easier for communities to do so if they opposed the initiative. Lawmakers also agreed to expand patients' access to medicinal cannabis by permitting nurses and physician assistants the ability to recommend cannabis therapy.
The revised measure now goes to Gov. Charlie Baker who is expected to sign it into law.
In January, Gov. Baker signed legislation into law delaying the timeline for the implementation of retail cannabis sales from January 1, 2018 to July 1, 2018.
Study Linking Cannabis Use And Increased Risk Of Metabolic Syndrome Is Inconsistent With Prior Data
Atlanta, GA: The findings of a recent, well-publicized study correlating long-term cannabis use with a slightly increased risk of metabolic syndrome are inconsistent with those of several prior observational studies. Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is a constellation of risk factors linked with an increased likelihood of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke.
Investigators at the Georgia State University School of Public Health assessed the association between subjects' duration of cannabis use and MetS in a cohort of 3,051 adults who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) during the years 2011 and 2012.
Researchers reported that subjects' cannabis use history was correlated with a "small, yet consistent increase in odds" for hypertension, obesity and other MetS risk factors. For many factors, the data showed "an initial decrease in values but [then an] eventual increase." Authors of the study were unable to control for subjects' diet, an important risk factor for MetS.
They concluded, "Extended duration of marijuana use could possibly increase the risk for the development of metabolic syndrome. ... Longitudinal research is required to define the true relationship between marijuana use and metabolic syndrome."
Researchers acknowledged that their findings are largely inconsistent with those of prior studies. Specifically, a 2016 study involving a significantly larger cohort of NHANES participants reported that "current marijuana use is associated with lower odds of metabolic syndrome."
Several other observational trials have similarly reported that those with a cannabis use history are less likely to be obese, possess lower BMI, and are less likely to suffer from adult onset diabetes as compared to non-users. A 2017 longitudinal study reported that those who consume cannabis long-term suffer no greater likelihood of cardiovascular disease by middle age than do those with no history of use.
Recent clinical trials data also finds that the administration of specific cannabinoids, such as CBD and THC-V, are positively associated with reductions in blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
Full text of the study, "Relationship between years of marijuana use and the four main diagnostic criteria for metabolic syndrome among United States adults," appears in the Journal of Addiction Research and Therapy.