New York: Governor Signs Adult-Use Legalization Measure into Law
Albany, NY: Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo signed The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) into law on Wednesday. The new law legalizes and regulates an adult-use commercial marijuana market in New York State and also permits those over the age of 21 to cultivate personal-use quantities of cannabis in their own homes.
The provisions specific to the personal possession of marijuana (up to three ounces of flower and/or up to 24 grams of concentrates) took effect upon signing.
NORML's Executive Director Erik Altieri stated, "This signals an end to the racially discriminatory policies that have long made the Empire State the marijuana arrest capital of the United States, if not the world. This stops police from annually arresting tens-of-thousands of New Yorkers for low-level marijuana offenses, the majority of whom are overwhelmingly young, poor, and people of color."
NORML's Deputy Director Paul Armentano added, "The passage of this legislation will not only have serious economic and social justice ramifications for its nearly 20 million residents, but it no doubt will have ripple effects across the nation and arguably also within the halls of Congress -- providing further pressure on federal lawmakers to amend federal law in a manner that eliminates the existing inconsistencies between state and federal cannabis policies."
Six percent of US House members represent New York State, and seven percent of all Congressional House Committee and Subcommittee Chairs are from New York.
The Act established a process for the licensed production and retail sale of marijuana to adults. Regulators would license delivery services and on-site consumption facilities. Retail sales will be taxed at nine percent, plus up to a four percent local tax, as well as an additional tax based upon THC content. Localities that do not wish to have cannabis retailers in their neighborhoods can opt out, but they will not receive tax revenues if they choose to do so. The Act also provides expungement relief for millions of residents with past cannabis convictions on their records. It also limits the ability of police to initiate a search based solely on the odor of cannabis.
Forty percent of tax revenue will be directed toward communities disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition. Provisions in the MRTA seek to award half of all business licenses to social equity applicants. An economic analysis published earlier this year estimated that legalizing the adult-use marijuana market in New York could yield over $700 million in tax revenue and create over 50,000 jobs by 2027.
New Mexico: Governor to Sign Adult-Use Legalization Law
Santa Fe, NM: Members of the House and Senate advanced legislation to the Governor late Wednesday night legalizing the adult-use marijuana market and expunging the criminal records of those convicted of low-level cannabis offenses.
The adult-use measure (House Bill 2) permits those ages 21 and older to legally purchase up to two ounces of marijuana and/or up to 16 grams of cannabis extract from licensed retailers. It also permits adults to home-cultivate up to six mature plants for their own personal use. Retail sales would begin by April 2022.
The expungement measure (Senate Bill 2) stipulates that those with past convictions for offenses made legal under this act are eligible for automatic expungement of their records. Those currently incarcerated for such offenses are eligible for a dismissal of their sentence.
The measures now await action from Democrat Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who is expected to sign them into law imminently. Both measures were finalized during a special legislative session called for by the Governor. In a statement, Gov. Lujan Grisham said: "This is a significant victory for New Mexico. Workers will benefit from the opportunity to build careers in this new economy. Entrepreneurs will benefit from the opportunity to create lucrative new enterprises. The state and local governments will benefit from the additional revenue. Consumers will benefit from the standardization and regulation that comes with a bona fide industry. And those who have been harmed by this country's failed war on drugs, disproportionately communities of color, will benefit from our state's smart, fair and equitable new approach to past low-level convictions."
Commenting on the legislature's passage of the bills, NORML State Policies Manager Carly Wolf said: "This is a day to celebrate! New Mexico will greatly benefit from this new revenue stream and the creation of thousands of jobs. Most notably though, it will spare thousands of otherwise law-abiding residents from arrest and a criminal record, and it will help provide relief to many who are suffering from the stigma and other collateral consequences associated with a prior marijuana conviction."
NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri added: "New Mexico joins an ever-growing list of states that have realized the failures of marijuana prohibition and the harms it brings to their communities and citizens. The American people are demanding an end to prohibitionist policies that have wreaked havoc on communities of color, squandered countless millions in taxpayer dollars, and wasted limited judicial and law enforcement resources on criminalizing otherwise law-abiding individuals for possession of a product that is objectively less harmful than alcohol or tobacco."
Earlier this week, the Governor signed legislation into law eliminating fines for the possession of cannabis by a minor and modifying the requirement for community service to a maximum of 48 hours.
Virginia: Governor Calls for Expedited Enactment Date for Adult-Use Legalization Law
Richmond, VA: Democratic Governor Ralph Northam announced amendments on Tuesday to legislation (Senate Bill 1406 | House Bill 2312) establishing a statutory timeline for the legalization of marijuana possession, use, cultivation, and retail sales. Among other proposed changes in the law, the amendments recommended that provisions legalizing the personal possession and personal cultivation of cannabis by adults take effect on July 1, 2021 rather than on January 1, 2024 -- the enactment date initially approved by lawmakers.
Should the legislature vote to approve the amendment, those ages 21 and older would be permitted to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and to cultivate up to four cannabis plants per household without penalty later this year. The legislature is set to reconvene on April 7 to accept or reject the proposed amendments.
The timeline by which state regulators would have to enact provisions governing commercial cannabis production and sales would remain January 1, 2024.
"Our Commonwealth is committed to legalizing marijuana in an equitable way," said Governor Northam in a statement. "Virginia will become the 16th state to legalize marijuana--and these changes will ensure we do it with a focus on public safety, public health, and social justice. I am grateful to the advocates and legislators for their dedicated work on this important issue, and I look forward to this legislation passing next month."
Commenting on the proposed amendments, NORML Development Director Jenn Michelle Pedini, who also serves as the Executive Director of Virginia NORML, said: "We're pleased Governor Northam agrees with NORML that the legalization of personal possession and personal cultivation ought to happen as soon as possible. Virginians have been very clear that they are ready for legalization this year, sending over 7,100 emails in support of these measures this session."
Another amendment recommended by the Governor expedites the timeline for state officials to begin expunging and sealing the records of those with prior marijuana-related convictions.
"NORML worked closely with the bill sponsors and the Attorney General to provide substantial amendment language to Governor Northam," Pedini added. "While a number of important improvements were made, we're disappointed that Virginia is not following the common-sense pathways previously established by other states that have successfully expanded from medical-use to adult-use. In the interest of public and consumer safety, Virginians 21 and older should be able to purchase retail cannabis products at the already operational dispensaries in 2021, not in 2024. Such a delay will only exacerbate the divide for equity applicants and embolden illicit activity. NORML remains dedicated to continuing our work with lawmakers and regulators to advance legislative reforms that are most closely aligned with the views of the majority of Virginians who desire a safe, legal cannabis market."
In recent days, Governor Northam approved multiple medical cannabis measures permitting dispensaries to provide botanical formulations of cannabis, expanding telehealth access for patients, and protecting registered patients who use cannabis in their off-hours from discrimination in the workplace.
Study: Cannabis Use Associated with Fewer Opioid Overdoses Among Patients Enrolled in Methadone Maintenance
Seattle, WA: Patients enrolled in treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD) who consume cannabis are less likely to suffer from a non-fatal opioid overdose than are non-users, according to data published in the journal Substance Use & Misuse.
Researchers with the University of Washington, the University of Rhode Island, and Oregon's Health & Science University evaluated the association between frequent cannabis use and non-fatal opioid overdoses among 446 subjects with OUD who were enrolled in a methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) program.
Investigators reported that "individuals enrolled in MMT ... who reported using cannabis at least once a week over the past month were 71 percent less likely to report a non-fatal opioid overdose over the past year compared to those who reported infrequent or no cannabis use."
They concluded: "To our knowledge, this is the first study to examine the association between cannabis use and opioid overdoses in individuals. The results provide preliminary evidence of a link between cannabis use and lower prevalence of opioid overdose among people enrolled in MMT. ... Methodological limitations caution against causal interpretation of this association. However, these preliminary findings encourage additional research to understand how cannabis use and non-fatal opioid overdose are related."
Dozens of prior studies have previously documented a decrease in subjects' use of opioids following their initiation of cannabis therapy. In February, data published in the British Medical Journal reported that greater cannabis access via storefront dispensaries and retailers is associated with declines in opioid-related deaths. Other studies have reported that cannabis use is associated with greater opioid treatment retention rates and that it may help to mitigate opioid-related cravings among dependent subjects.
Full text of the study, "Cannabis use and non-fatal opioid overdose among patients enrolled in methadone maintenance treatment," appears in Substance Use & Misuse.
Study: Gastroparesis Patients Who Use Cannabis Possess Better Hospitalization Outcomes
Boston, MA: Gastroparesis patients who regularly consume cannabis require shorter lengths of hospitalization than non-users, according to data published in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology. Gastroparesis is a disease characterized by the partial paralysis of the stomach. Symptoms of the disease include: poor appetite, weight loss, chronic abdominal pain, and vomiting.
A team of investigators affiliated with Harvard Medical School and with Yale University's School of Medicine evaluated the association between cannabis use and relevant clinical outcomes among hospitalized patients with gastroparesis. They reported that after controlling for confounders, patients with a history of cannabis consumption possessed "better hospital outcomes, including decreased length of stay and improved in-hospital mortality."
Separate studies have similarly reported that cannabis exposure is associated with decreased in-hospital mortality among patients suffering from heart failure, cancer, pancreatitis, burn-related injuries, traumatic brain injuries, and other types of severe trauma.
Full text of the study, "Trends and socioeconomic health outcomes of cannabis use among patients with gastroparesis: A United States nationwide inpatient sample analysis," appears in Clinical Gastroenterology.
Survey: Half of Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease Report Having Tried Cannabis
Dunedin, New Zealand: Many patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) report using cannabis for symptom relief, according to survey data published in the New Zealand Medical Journal.
A team of New Zealand researchers surveyed IBD patients' use of cannabis and their perspectives about it. Of the 334 respondents, 51 percent reported having had prior experience with cannabis. Among those, just under one-third reported using it for the purpose of reducing their IBD symptoms. Subjects were most likely to report using cannabis to reduce feelings of abdominal pain and cramping, as well as to reduce nausea and to improve appetite.
Authors concluded, "Overall, our research aligns with previous observational research that reports improvements in symptoms of IBD with cannabis use."
Last month, data from a randomized, placebo-controlled trial conducted in Israel reported that the inhalation of herbal cannabis is associated with clinical improvements and increased quality of life in patients with mild to moderate ulcerative colitis. Observational data has similarly shown that cannabis may alleviate symptoms of other IBD-related disorders, like Crohn's disease.
Full text of the study, "Attitudes towards and use of cannabis in New Zealand patients with inflammatory bowel disease: An exploratory study," appears in the New Zealand Medical Journal.
Clinical Trial: Short-Term Improvements in PTSD Symptoms Following Cannabis Exposure Similar to Those of Placebo
Philadelphia, PA: The short-term use of cannabis in subjects with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with "significant improvements" in symptom management; however, this improvement is not superior to changes seen following the administration of placebo cannabis (marijuana consisting of 0.03 percent THC and 0.01 percent CBD), according to randomized clinical trial data published in the journal PLOS One.
A team of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, the Scottsdale Research Institute in Arizona, and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) evaluated the short-term (three weeks) safety and efficacy of three distinct varieties of whole-plant cannabis (12 percent THC, 11 percent CBD, approximately equal percentages of THC and CBD) versus placebo in a cohort of military veterans with PTSD.
Authors identified "no significant between-group differences" in total severity scores. Specifically, they determined that "all four treatment groups, including placebo, achieved significant within-subject reductions in total CAPS-5 Total Severity scores from Stage 1 baseline (visit 0) to end of treatment (visit 5). Specifically, participants who received placebo in Stage 1 reported a mean reduction of 13.1 points, participants who received High THC reported a mean reduction of 15.2 points, High CBD participants reported a mean reduction of 8.4 points, and THC+CBD participants reported a mean reduction of 8.5 points."
They concluded: "The present study served as the first randomized placebo-controlled trial of smoked cannabis for symptoms of PTSD in US military veterans. Study-related AEs (adverse events) were generally mild to moderate and did not significantly differ by treatment condition. ... All treatment groups (placebo, High CBD, High THC, THC+CBD) achieved statistically significant reductions in PTSD severity on the CAPS-5 in Stage 1. ... The failure to differentiate treatment groups from placebo is likely attributable to the higher than average treatment response in the placebo condition and to the shorter than average duration of treatment.... Additional well-controlled and adequately powered studies with cannabis suitable for FDA drug development are needed to determine whether smoked cannabis improves symptoms of PTSD."
The results are inconsistent with those of another recent study, published in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research in December, which reported that PTSD patients who consume high-THC products obtained from state-licensed retailers possessed "a greater than two-fold rate of remission from their PTSD" as compared to non-users over one year.
Authors of the latest study speculated that the disparate results could be because their trial was shorter duration or because they were unable to obtain similarly "high quality cannabis flower" from federal government sources.
Last week, state officials in Michigan announced plans to appropriate up to $40 million to find state-sponsored clinical trials assessing the effects of cannabis upon veterans with PTSD.
Full text of the study, "The short-term impact of 3 smoked cannabis preparations versus placebo on PTSD symptoms: A randomized cross-over clinical trial," appears in PLOS One.