Study: Adult Use Legalization Associated With Improved Crime Clearance Rates
Pullman, WA: The enactment of state laws regulating adult marijuana use is associated with an increase in crime clearance rates, according to data published in the journal Police Quarterly. Clearance rates are calculated by dividing the number of crimes that are 'cleared' (charges are filed) by the total number of crimes reported.
Criminologists at Washington State University assessed crime clearance rates in Colorado and Washington in the years immediately prior to and immediately following the enactment of adult use legalization. They reported that clearance rates were either flat or decreasing prior to legalization, but then improved significantly following the change in law - particularly with respect to violent crimes and property crimes.
Authors concluded, "[T]he current evidence suggests that legalization produced some demonstrable and persistent benefit in clearance rates, benefits we believe are associated with the marijuana legalization proponents' prediction that legalization would positively influence police performance."
Separate studies have previously reported an association between legalization and decreased criminal activities, including a reduction in incidences of violent crime.
Full text of the study, "Marijuana legalization and crime clearance rates: Testing proponent assertions in Colorado and Washington," appears in Police Quarterly. Additional information is available from the NORML fact-sheet 'Marijuana and Crime Rates'.
Study: Medical Cannabis Access Associated With Significant Reduction In Prescription Opioid Use
San Diego, CA: The enactment of medical cannabis access laws is associated with significant reductions in prescription opioid use among Medicaid enrollees, according to data published online ahead of print in the journal Addiction.
Investigators with the University of California at San Diego assessed the relationship between medical cannabis legalization and opioid use among Medicaid enrollees over a period of 21 years (1993 to 2014).
Authors reported, "For Schedule III opioid prescriptions, medical cannabis legalization was associated with a 29.6 percent reduction in number of prescriptions, 29.9 percent reduction in dosage, and 28.8 percent reduction in related Medicaid spending." This correlation remained after authors controlled for potential confounders, such as the establishment of prescription drug monitoring programs and variations in patients' income.
By contrast, authors did not report similar changes in enrollees' use of Schedule II opioid drugs, like Oxycodone. Authors speculated that this result may be because physicians are more reticent to recommend medical cannabis options to these patients.
They concluded: "In this study, we found that statewide medical cannabis legalization implemented in 1993-2014 in the US was associated with close to 30% reductions in Schedule III opioids received by Medicaid enrollees."
Their findings are similar to those of several other observational studies - such as those here, here, and here - finding that medical marijuana regulation is correlated with reductions in opioid-related use, drug spending, abuse, hospitalization, and mortality. Separate data evaluating prescription drug use trends among individual patients enrolled in state-licensed medical marijuana programs is consistent with this conclusion, finding that many chronic pain subjects reduce or eliminate their use of opioids following enrollment.
Full text of the study, "Medical cannabis legalization and opioid prescriptions: Evidence of US Medicaid enrollees during 1993-2014," appears in Addiction.
New York: State-Commissioned Study Calls For Legalizing Adult Marijuana Use
New York, NY: A state-commissioned study released Monday by the New York Department of Health recommends replacing cannabis criminalization with a policy of adult use legalization.
The 74-page study, entitled "Assessment of the Potential Impact of Regulated Marijuana in New York State," acknowledges that regulating marijuana will create jobs, reduce the disproportionate criminalization and incarceration of ethnic minorities, reduce the use of opioids and synthetic cannabinoids (such as Spice or K2), and will likely "generate long-term cost savings."
It concludes: "A regulated marijuana program enjoys broad support and would have significant health, social justice, and economic benefits. ... Regulating marijuana enables public health officials to minimize the potential risks of marijuana use through outreach, education, quantity limits at point of sale, quality control, and consumer protection. ... The positive effects of a regulated marijuana market in NYS outweigh the potential negative impacts."
Full text of the study is online.
Oklahoma: Attorney General Warns Regulators Acted Improperly When Amending Voter-Initiated Marijuana Measure
Oklahoma City, OK: Oklahoma's Attorney General warns that members of the state Board of Health "acted in excess of their statutory authority" when they amended State Question 788 - the state's voter-approved medical cannabis access law.
In a letter issued on Wednesday to the Interim Commissioner of Health, Attorney General Mike Hunter states that the Board "overstepped its authority" by imposing new rules prohibiting the sale of herbal forms of cannabis, and mandating on-site pharmacists at licensed dispensaries.
"This is a wise move by the Attorney General, both from a policy and a political standpoint," said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. "When the will of the people is to ensure that patients have the ability to have access to physician-recommended therapeutic treatments, the will of the people deserves to be honored. Absent a majority vote of the legislature, the decision of the voters in this matter ought to remain sacrosanct."
To date, two separate lawsuits have been filed against the state health department in response to the new rules, which Republican Gov. Mary Fallin signed into law last week.
"I have no doubt that the board in good faith sought to regulate marijuana in a manner it believed would best promote the health and safety of Oklahomans," the AG said. "However, in so doing, the board made policy judgments not authorized by statute. Such policy decisions are the exclusive prerogative of the legislature and the people. ... [T]he people of the state have spoken and I have a legal duty to honor the decision made by the electorate."
He concluded, "It is therefore my judgement that the Board reconvene to reconsider the rules ... in a manner consistent with the advice of this letter."
Reform advocates in the state claim to be just several thousand signatures shy of those necessary to place a broader adult use initiative on the November ballot. However, Oklahoma's Secretary of State has claimed that a vote on the issue will likely be delayed until 2020 even if activists meet the signature requirements.
Rhode Island: Governor Signs Marijuana Expungement Legislation Into Law
Providence, RI: Democrat Gov. Gina Raimondo has signed legislation permitting those with past marijuana convictions to have their records expunged.
House Bill 8355/S. 2447 allows those with past convictions for crimes involving the possession of less than one ounce of cannabis to petition the court for an order of expungement. It states, "[W]here the court has determined that all conditions of the original criminal sentence have been completed, ... the court [will] order the expungement without cost to the petitioner." The law took effect upon passage.
State lawmakers enacted legislation decriminalizing minor marijuana possession offenses in 2013.
"If an act has been decriminalized since a person was charged and paid their price for it, that person shouldn't have to keep paying the price in the form of being denied jobs and other opportunities because of their criminal record," bill sponsor Sen. Harold Metts said in a statement. "Let them move on, and they can better support themselves and their families and contribute to our communities and our state."
Delaware lawmakers passed similar legislation this month permitting the expungement of marijuana-related offenses that have since been decriminalized. That bill is awaiting action from the Governor. Maryland enacted a similar law in 2017.
Both Massachusetts and Oregon have enacted legislation vacating the convictions of marijuana-related crimes that are now defined as legal under state law. In California, where voters elected to legalize the adult use of marijuana in 2016, District Attorneys in various cities and counties - including San Francisco and San Diego - are automatically reviewing and dismissing thousands of past marijuana-related convictions.
Hawaii: Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill, Vetoes Another
Honolulu, HI: Democrat Gov. David Ige has signed legislation into law expanding patient's access to medical marijuana and cannabis-infused products.
House Bill 2729 establishes criteria permitting out-of-state patients to access medical cannabis. It also permits regulators to certify patients' recommendations for up to a three-year period, and allows for physicians to make recommendations to patients via telehealth conferencing. The measure also permits licensed dispensaries to sell cartridges to patients containing cannabis extracts and oils. The law took effect upon passage.
By contrast, the Governor vetoed separate legislation - Senate Bill 2407 - which would have allowed physicians to recommend medicinal cannabis to patients as a substitute for opioids or to treat symptoms of opioid-related withdrawal. The Governor indicated that the responsibility of adding new eligible conditions ought to be left up to the Health Department, not lawmakers. Numerous studies find that chronic pain patients with legal access to cannabis reduce or even eliminate their use of prescription opioids.