Legalization Proponents Turn In Signatures for 2020 Ballot Initiatives
Phoenix, AZ: Proponents of various statewide initiative efforts to legalize marijuana access recently turned in signatures to qualify their respective measures for the November 2020 ballot.
In Arizona, proponents of a statewide initiative to legalize the sale of marijuana to adults
filed over 420,000 signatures from registered voters with the Secretary of State's Office. That total is nearly twice the number of signatures necessary to qualify it for the November 2020 ballot.
The measure, known as the Smart and Safe Arizona Act, was filed last year by a coalition of advocacy groups, including Arizona NORML. According to polling data collected in early June, an estimated two-thirds of Arizona voters say that they will "definitely" or "probably" vote 'yes' on the measure if it appears on the November ballot.
The Act permits those 21 or older to possess up to one ounce of cannabis and directs revenue from retail cannabis sales to fund various public education and safety programs. Adults would also be able to cultivate up to six plants for non-commercial purposes in a private residence. Those with marijuana convictions would be permitted to petition the courts to have their records expunged.
In Montana, coalition members affiliated with New Approach Montana recently filed 130,000 signatures to qualify a pair of complimentary ballot initiatives to regulate the commercial, adult-use cannabis market. State rules require the state to validate 25,000 signatures to qualify the first measure for the November ballot, and another 51,000 signatures to validate the second.
In Nebraska, members of the coalition Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana turned in over 182,000 signatures from registered voters to qualify a medical cannabis legalization measure for the 2020 ballot. To qualify, state officials must validate 121,000 signatures.
The proposed initiative amends "the Nebraska Constitution to provide the right to use, possess, access, and safely produce cannabis, and cannabis products and materials, for serious medical conditions as recommended by a physician or nurse practitioner." Nebraska is one of the only states in the nation that doesn't permit regulated access to either whole-plant cannabis or CBD.
Adult-use ballot initiatives have already qualified for the ballot in New Jersey and South Dakota. Ballot initiatives to legalize medical access to cannabis will appear on the ballot in Mississippi and South Dakota.
Additional information on these and other pending 2020 initiative efforts is available from NORML.
Study: History of Cannabis Use Associated with Lower BMI, Greater Exercise Frequency in Those Age 60 and Older
Boulder, CO: Seniors who use cannabis possess lower BMI (body mass index) and are more likely to frequently engage in exercise than are non-users, according to data published in the American Journal of Health and Behavior.
Researchers with the University of Colorado at Boulder measured differences in BMI and exercise behavior in 28 cannabis consumers and 136 matched controls who participated in an eight-week exercise intervention trial. All of the subject in the study were age 60 or older.
Authors reported: "Results of this analysis indicated that compared to older adult non-users, older adult cannabis users had lower BMI at the beginning of an exercise intervention study, engaged in more weekly exercise days during the intervention, and were engaging in more exercise-related activities at the conclusion of the intervention. Although preliminary, these findings suggest that it may be easier for older adults who endorse using cannabis to increase and maintain their exercise behavior, potentially because cannabis users have lower body weight than their non-using peers. At minimum, the evidence suggests that cannabis use does not hinder older adults' ability to engage in physical activity, to participate in a supervised exercise program, or to increase their fitness as a result of physical activity."
The findings that cannabis consumers are more likely than non-users to possess lower BMI and engage in regular physical activity are consistent with several other studies, such as those here, here, and here.
Full text of the study, "Exercise intervention outcomes with cannabis users and nonusers aged 60 and older," appears in the American Journal of Health and Behavior.
Study: Herbal Cannabis Associated with Short-Term Mitigation of Depressive Symptoms
Albuquerque, NM: Cannabis inhalation is associated with short-term reductions in depressive feelings, according to data published in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine.
Investigators affiliated with the University of New Mexico assessed the effects of herbal cannabis inhalation on depressive feelings in 1,819 subjects over a one-month period. Study participants self-administered cannabis at home and reported symptom changes in real time on a mobile software application.
Researchers reported that "almost all patients in our sample [96 percent] experienced symptom relief from using cannabis to treat depression … with an average symptom intensity reduction of -3.76 points on a zero-to-ten visual analogue scale."
Effects were generally limited in duration to two-hours or less. Cannabis varieties that were dominant in THC, not CBD, were most likely to be correlated with decreases in the intensity of depressive symptoms. Researchers reported "minimal evidence of serious side-effects in the short run," though they acknowledged that prior studies have shown "mixed findings on the association between cannabis use and symptoms of depression, with unclear conclusions as to the direction of causality."
They concluded: "Our results indicate that THC in particular is positively correlated with an immediate reduction in the intensity of depressive feelings. … Future research on cannabis and depression is needed, directly comparing the short- and long-term treatment effectiveness and side effect severity of cannabis use with conventional antidepressant treatment, in conjunction with conventional treatment approaches, and in the presence of clinically discouraged behaviors, such as alcohol consumption."
Full text of the study, "The effectiveness of cannabis flower for immediate relief from symptoms of depression," appears in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine.
Survey: One in Five Patients Report Using Cannabis Products for Musculoskeletal Pain
Toronto, Canada: One in five Canadian patients battling musculoskeletal disorders are using cannabis to ease their pain, according to survey data compiled by researchers at the University of Toronto and presented at a meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
Researchers surveyed 600 patients visiting a Toronto orthopedic clinic. Twenty percent of respondents reported either past or current use of cannabis products to assist in managing their pain conditions.
Cannabis is legal for both patients and adults in Canada.
Ninety percent of those currently using cannabis for pain management said that it provided either moderate or significant relief and 40 percent of subjects reported having decreased their consumption of other analgesic medications following their initiation of cannabis therapy. Pain patients most frequently reported consuming products high in CBD rather than THC.
A 2019 study assessing patients' motives for using medical cannabis determined that over six in ten users do so to treat symptoms of pain. Clinical trial data indicates that cannabinoids possess synergistic activity with opioids, which "may allow for opioid treatment at lower doses with fewer [patient] side effects." Among pain patients enrolled in medical cannabis access programs in the United States, most subjects report eventually decreasing or even eliminating their use of opiates.
Additional information on cannabis and chronic pain is available online.
Tennessee: Davidson County District Attorney Ceasing Low-Level Marijuana Prosecutions
Nashville, TN: The Office of the District Attorney for Davidson County (population: 694,000), which includes the city of Nashville, has announced that it will immediately cease prosecuting low-level marijuana possession offenses.
In a statement issued last week by District Attorney Glenn Funk, he said that activities involving the possession of up to one-half ounce of cannabis will no longer be prosecuted by county officials. "Marijuana charges do little to promote public health, and even less to promote public safety," he said.
The District Attorney further opined that the criminal enforcement of marijuana laws has disproportionately impacted people of color. The policy change reprioritizes funding and resources toward the prosecution of more serious crimes, he added.
In recent months, District Attorneys in several municipalities nationwide — including Baltimore, Maryland; St. Louis, Missouri; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania — have similarly taken steps to cease marijuana-related prosecutions.
The move marks the second time in recent years that Nashville officials have acted to limit criminal prosecutions for minor marijuana offenses. In 2016, city lawmakers in Nashville and Memphis passed legislation providing police with the discretion to cite and fine minor marijuana possession offenders in lieu of making an arrest and filing criminal charges. However, months later state lawmakers passed legislation repealing those municipal statutes.
Texas: Austin Police to Cease Making Arrests or Issuing Citations for Minor Marijuana Offenses
Austin, TX: Officers affiliated with the Austin Police Department will no longer arrest or ticket individuals for minor marijuana possession offenses.
The Department publicly announced the policy change on July 2 in a memorandum issued by the Chief of Police to the Mayor and the City Council. It states, "APD will no longer cite or arrest individuals with sufficient identification for Class A or Class B misdemeanor 'possession of marijuana' offenses, unless there is an immediate threat to a person's safety or doing so as part of the investigation of a high priority, felony-level narcotics case or the investigation of a violent felony."
State law classifies the possession of small quantities of cannabis as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a criminal record.
Members of the Austin City Council had previously called on the Department to cease taking actions against low-level marijuana violators, but the Police Chief had refused to direct his officers to do so. A member of the Council credited ongoing community engagement by reform advocates as the impetus for the Department's policy reversal.
"This is an important step forward for Austin," said Jax Finkel, Executive Director of Texas NORML. "The City used the powers of the purse to pressure APD to do what is best for Austin and to no longer waste taxpayers' funds on these victimless crimes that have disparately impacted communities of color. Texas NORML was proud to work alongside many local organizations to help push forward this important resolution."