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Analysis: Marijuana Legalization Associated with Improved Clearance Rates for Violent Crimes

Salt Lake City, UT: The legalization of marijuana is associated with improvements in police clearance rates for multiple types of violent crimes, according to data published online ahead of print in The International Journal of Drug Policy.

A pair of researchers affiliated with the University of Utah and the University of China assessed trends in crime clearance rates in Oregon versus control states in the years prior to and immediately following the enactment of adult-use legalization.

Investigators identified "significant increases in the clearance rate for overall violent crimes and for aggravated assault in Oregon counties relative to those in non-legalized states following legalization." They concluded, "The finding largely aligns with the argument made by the proponents of marijuana legalization that legalization would improve police effectiveness in addressing serious crimes, and as a result would increase clearance rates and generate a crime deterrence effect."

Their findings are consistent with those of a prior study documenting improved crime clearance rates in Colorado and Washington following legalization, particularly for violent crimes and property crimes.

Commenting on the study's findings, NORML's Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: "These conclusions reaffirm the notion that states can sensibly regulate the adult use and sale of cannabis in a manner that doesn't adversely impact public safety. Moreover, in some cases, legalization may contribute to an environment that positively affects police officers' performance in solving serious crimes."

Full text of the study, "Effect of recreational marijuana legalization on clearance rates for violent crimes: Evidence from Oregon," appears in The International Journal of Drug Policy.

Clinical Trial: CBD Cigarettes Associated with Reductions in Antipsychotic Medications in Patients with Schizophrenia

Basel, Switzerland: The adjunctive use of CBD is associated with a reduction in patients' use of antipsychotic medicines, according to placebo-controlled trial data published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry.

An international team of researchers from Canada, Switzerland, and Germany assessed the use of CBD cigarettes versus placebo in a cohort of acutely psychotic patients with schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders. Patients received either CBD or a placebo daily for 28 days in addition to their standard treatments.

Investigators reported that both CBD and placebo were associated with similar reductions in psychotic symptoms and depression, but that those participants who consumed CBD cigarettes used fewer antipsychotic medication during treatment. Conversely, those in the placebo group increased their use of prescription medications.

They concluded: "The main group effects in the discontinuous multilevel model were higher subjective well-being and less overall antipsychotic medication use throughout the acute therapy for the CBD-group. These results may suggest an antipsychotic medication sparing effect of CBD-cigarettes as adjunctive therapy in acutely psychotic patients. ... However, future studies with more rigorous study designs and larger samples are needed."

CBD administration is established to have anxiolytic and antipsychotic effects in human subjects, and its use is associated with changes in brain activity that may lower some people's risk of a psychotic episode. Previously published clinical trial data indicates that the daily administration of high doses of CBD (1,000mg) reduces psychotic symptoms in patients with schizophrenia in a manner that is superior to the prescription antipsychotic agent amisulpride.

Full text of the study, "Cannabidiol cigarettes as adjunctive treatment for psychotic disorders – A randomized, open-label pilot study," appears in Frontiers in Psychiatry.

South Dakota: State's Supreme Court Strikes Down Adult-Use Marijuana Vote

Pierre, SD: Justices on the South Dakota Supreme Court ruled 4 to 1 last week to strike down a voter-approved initiative (Constitutional Amendment A) legalizing the adult-use possession and sale of cannabis.

"Legalization opponents cannot succeed in the court of public opinion or at the ballot box," NORML's Deputy Director Paul Armentano said. "Thus, they are now petitioning the courts to overturn the will of the people. Whether or not one supports marijuana legalization, Americans should be deeply concerned by this trend and by the outcome of this case."

Fifty-four percent of South Dakota voters decided on Election Day in favor of the ballot measure. However, shortly following the vote, Republican Gov. Kristi Noem facilitated litigation seeking to strike down the law as unconstitutional. In February, Judge Christina Klinger of the state's Sixth Judicial Circuit Court ruled in favor of the challenge - opining that the amendment violated state requirements that ballot measures not encompass more than one topic. Last week, the majority of the Supreme Court affirmed her ruling, opining that the amendment "violated the single subject requirement in the South Dakota Constitution."

The decision marks the second time this year that a state Supreme Court has nullified the result of a statewide vote legalizing the use of cannabis. In May, justices of the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled 6 to 3 to nullify Initiative 65, which sought to regulate medical cannabis access in the state. Seventy-three percent of Mississippi voters had approved the measure on Election Day.

Over the past year, political opponents of marijuana law reform have been more frequently turning to the courts in efforts to either repeal cannabis-related votes or to stop them from taking place. In Nebraska, members of the state Supreme Court struck down a 2020 ballot initiative months after it had been approved by the Secretary of State's office. Polling in the state showed that 77 percent of Nebraskans backed the proposal. More recently, Florida's Republican attorney general successfully brought suit to preemptively deny a proposed 2022 legalization initiative from appearing on the ballot.

South Dakota voters last November also decided in favor of a separate ballot measure (Measure 26) regulating medical marijuana access by qualified patients. State lawmakers have not challenged that law from taking effect.

Proponents behind Amendment A have already taken steps to place a new legalization measure before voters in 2022. Some state lawmakers are also recommending that the legislature implement legalization legislation next year.

A summary of the decision is available online from the Supreme Court of South Dakota.

Study: Cannabis Use History Inversely Associated with Common Stomach Infection

Pittsburgh, PA: The use of cannabis is associated with a decreased risk of Helicobacter Pylori infection (HPI) – a bacterial stomach infection that can be associated with abdominal pain, weight loss, and ulcers. HPI is relatively common in adults worldwide, though many people with it do not experience severe symptoms.

A team of investigators from the United States and Canada assessed the relationship between cannabis use and an HPI diagnosis in a nationally representative cohort of 4,556 subjects.

They reported that subjects with no prior use of cannabis were nearly twice as likely to have HPI as compared to subjects with a history of marijuana use, even after authors adjusted for demographic confounders and comorbidities.

They concluded: "Recreational cannabis use is associated with diminished risk of HPI. These observations suggest the need for additional research assessing the effects of medical cannabis formulations on HPI."

Separate studies have shown that cannabis can provide relief to patients with a variety of gastrointestinal disorders, including IBS, Crohn's disease, while preclinical data indicates that cannabinoids can inhibit the development of gastric ulcers.

Full text of the study, "Relationship between recreational cannabis use and Helicobacter pylori infection," appears in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.

Study: Maternal Cannabis Use Not Linked to Higher Risk of Autism in Children

Aurora, CO: Mothers with a history of consuming cannabis in the months prior to or during pregnancy do not possess a greater likelihood of having children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to data published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

A team of researchers with the University of Colorado, School of Public Health assessed whether mothers with a self-reported history of maternal cannabis use are more likely to give birth to children with either ASD or development disorders. They reported that mothers with a history of marijuana use were no more likely than non-users to have children with either autism or developmental delays by age five.

Other studies have shown inconsistent results with respect to in utero cannabis exposure and certain neonatal outcomes, including birth weight and certain behavioral outcomes.

Full text of the study, "Per-pregnancy cannabis use and autism spectrum disorder in the offspring: Findings from the study to explore early development," appears in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

FDA: No Regulations on OTC CBD Products Forthcoming

Washington, DC: Nearly three years following the passage of federal legislation legalizing hemp production, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to promulgate rules regulating the marketing and sale of commercial products containing hemp-derived CBD.

Speaking last month at the National Industrial Hemp Business Summit in Washington, DC, FDA representative Gail Sipes said that the agency cannot move forward with regulations without more data on the safety of CBD products. She reiterated the agency's position that companies which market CBD-infused products as either food products or as dietary supplements are violating the Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics Act.

NORML and other groups have urged the FDA to provide regulatory guidelines overseeing the production, testing, labeling, and marketing of hemp-derived CBD products. Analyses conducted by the FDA and others have consistently reported that many over-the-counter (OTC) CBD products are of variable quality and potency, and that they may contain contaminants or elevated levels of heavy metals.

Survey data compiled last year by the National Consumers League reported that more than eight in ten US voters desire greater federal regulatory oversight over the labeling and marketing of commercially available CBD products.

In a report provided by the FDA to Congress in 2020, the agency said that regulating OTC CBD products presents unique challenges because the substance is already available as a FDA-approved medicine (Epidiolex).

Additional information is available from the NORML fact sheet, "FAQs About Cannabidiol (CBD)."

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National Polling Shows Strong Bipartisan Support for Legalization

Asbury Park, NJ: Nearly two-thirds of US adults, including 54 percent of Republicans, support 'the national legalization of marijuana," according to polling data compiled and released this week by Rasmussen Reports.

Overall, 62 percent of respondents expressed support for legalization – a percentage that is consistent with prior national polls. Only 23 percent of respondents voiced opposition to legalizing cannabis. Last week, national polling data provided by Gallup reported that 68 percent of Americans endorse making the use of marijuana legal.

Similar to previous surveys, Rasmussen reported that 50 percent of US adults acknowledged having personally tried cannabis.

Commenting on the latest polling data, NORML's Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: 'Voters' support legalizing marijuana regardless of political party affiliation. At a time when politics remain acutely polarized, elected officials ought to come together in a bipartisan manner to repeal the failed policy of cannabis prohibition. It is one of the few policy reforms that voters on the right and on the left can all agree upon."

Report: Legal Cannabis Among Nation's Most Valuable Crops

Seattle, WA: Cannabis cultivated in 20202 for the state-legal adult-use market possessed a wholesale harvest value of more than $6 billion, ranking it among the nation's most valuable crops, according to an analysis.

Nationwide, state-legal cannabis ranks fifth among America's most valuable crops – trailing only corn, soybeans, hay, and wheat. In five states – Alaska, Colorado, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Oregon – cannabis grown for the adult-use market is the 'single most valuable crop."

Last year, 11 states licensed commercial marijuana growers to produce cannabis for the adult-use retail market. In those states, over 13,000 state-licensed farmers produced over 2,200 metric tons of cannabis, Leafly calculated.

'With US state cannabis prices ranging from about $500 to $3,000 per wholesale pound, you're looking at a crop worth $6.175 billion per year," the authors of the report estimated. 'As measured against US Department of Agriculture (USDA) data, the value of America's legal cannabis crop ranks fifth nationwide, ahead of cotton."

Authors concluded: 'By refusing to recognize cannabis crops and cannabis farmers, the USDA ignores a fact that exists in plain sight: Cannabis is now a major agricultural commodity that supports thousands of American farmers, farm families, and farm communities."

Full text of the report, 'Leafly Cannabis Harvest Report 2021," is available online.

CRS Report: President Lacks Constitutional Authority to End Cannabis Prohibition by Executive Order

Washington, DC: Congressional lawmakers, not the President, possess the authority to declassify cannabis from the US Controlled Substances Act – thereby repealing federal marijuana prohibition, affirms a newly issued report by the Congressional Research Service.

The report indicates that the President does not possess unilateral authority to amend drug policies – stating: 'The CSA does not provide a direct role for the President in the classification of controlled substances, nor does Article II of the Constitution grant the President power in this area. ... Thus, it does not appear that the President could directly deschedule or reschedule marijuana by executive order."

However, the President can engage in various activities that can influence federal marijuana policies and their enforcement – such as directing the Department of Justice 'to exercise its discretion not to prosecute some or all marijuana-related offenses." Last month, Senators Corey Booker and Elizabeth Warren drafted a letter to US Attorney General Merrick Garland asking him to 'initiate the process to decriminalize cannabis." The Office has not yet provided a response.

The President also possesses the discretion to issue mass pardons and/or to provide general amnesty to a class of people, such as those with criminal records for federal marijuana violations. Earlier this year, dozens of members of Congress signed on to a letter calling for the President to 'issue a general pardon to all former, federal, non-violent cannabis offenders in the United States."

By contrast, on the explicit issue of changing the status of a controlled substance or the punishment for controlled substances offenses, 'Congress unquestionably holds the power to amend the CSA to reschedule or deschedule a controlled substance or change applicable penalties." Several pieces of legislation to do so are currently pending in Congress. Last year, members of the House of Representatives voted in favor of one such bill, The MORE Act, to remove marijuana from the CSA. That language was never taken up by the US Senate.

Commenting on the report, NORML's Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: 'NORML has long argued that the President can set the tone for the national political discussion surrounding marijuana, but that the office lacks the unilateral authority to repeal marijuana prohibition via the stroke of a pen. That authority primarily lies with the 535 members of Congress and sweeping federal changes will likely only occur when a majority of members from both chambers advance legislation to the President's desk. That is why constituents need to continue to pressure their members of Congress to advance this issue and to support legislative efforts to end the federal criminalization of cannabis."

Full text of the CRS report – 'Does the President Have the Power to Legalize Marijuana?" – is online. NORML's memorandum, 'Federal Marijuana Prohibition Can Only Be Repealed by Descheduling, Not Rescheduling, Cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act," appears online.

Analysis: Grey Market Delta-8 Products Frequently Mislabeled

Tustin, CA: The percentages of cannabinoids advertised on the labels of grey market delta-8 THC products is typically inaccurate, according to an analysis of products by an independent testing laboratory.

Of the 51 products analyzed, 77 percent possessed less delta-8 THC than advertised. Three-quarters of the products also contained higher levels of THC than permitted by federal law. Dozens of assessments of the potency and quality of unregulated, over-the-counter CBD products have revealed similar discrepancies.

Although delta-8 THC appears organically in cannabis, it is only produced in minute amounts. By contrast, the elevated quantities of delta-8 THC found in grey market products is the result of a chemical synthesis during which manufacturers convert CBD to delta-8 THC. Manufacturers engaged in synthetizing delta-8 THC are not regulated and may use potentially dangerous household products to facilitate this process.

Statements issued by the US Drug Enforcement Agency in the Federal Register in 2020 indicated that delta-8 THC products are federally illegal because they contain 'synthetically derived" cannabinoids. The substance is also among those explicitly identified as a Schedule I drug by the DEA. In recent months, lawmakers in several states have also taken steps to prohibit the manufacture and sale of such products.

Last month, NORML issued a report on delta-8 THC and other novel, synthetically derived cannabinoids that cautioned consumers to avoid these unregulated products because they are untested and may contain impurities.

Full text of NORML's report, 'NORML's Guide to Delta-8 THC and Other Novel Cannabinoids," appears online.

Federal Housing Authority to Continue to Take Punitive Actions Against Marijuana Consumers

Washington, DC: A representative with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) affirmed this week that the agency will continue to discriminate against those who use cannabis, including those who do so in compliance with state and local laws.

In a letter addressed to Rep. Eleanor Holmes-Norton, the agency says that it will continue to enforce policies that involve the 'termination of the tenancy of any household" in instances where a tenant is found to have engaged in the use of a controlled substance while on the premises - 'including [the use of] state legalized medical marijuana."

Because cannabis remains classified under federal law as a Schedule I controlled substance, 'HUD prohibits the admission of users of marijuana to HUD assisted housing, including those who use medical marijuana," the letter reads.

Representative Norton had contacted the agency in May, requesting that it 'use executive discretion to not enforce rules against marijuana use in federally assisted housing" in jurisdictions where cannabis use is state-regulated. 'Individuals living in federally assisted housing should not be denied admission, or face eviction, for using a legal product," her letter opined.

Representative Norton has long advocated for changes in HUD policies with respect to state-legal marijuana use and she is the sponsor of HR 3212: The Marijuana in Federally Assisted Housing Parity Act of 2021. Similar bills spearheaded by Rep. Holmes-Norton have failed to garner significant legislative support in past sessions of Congress.

NORML's Political Director Justin Strekal strongly criticized the federal agency's decision. 'It is a travesty that the Administration would prioritize process over people when it comes to the issue of fair housing. No one should be evicted or denied public housing simply because they use cannabis responsibly in private. With tens of millions of patients - many of them veterans - now using medical cannabis in compliance with state laws, federal actions must be taken to accommodate and reflect this reality."

A copy of the HUD letter is available online.

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