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Source: @norml @WeedConnection
Posted By: norml@weedconnection.com
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- Tue, 18 Jun 2019 04:20:21 PST

CRS Report: THC Levels Not Correlated With Driver Impairment

Washington, DC: The presence of THC in blood is not a consistent predictor of either driver performance or impairment, according to the conclusions of a new Congressional Research Service report assessing cannabis and psychomotor performance.

The report acknowledges: "Research studies have been unable to consistently correlate levels of marijuana consumption, or THC in a person's body, and levels of impairment. Thus, some researchers, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, have observed that using a measure of THC as evidence of a driver's impairment is not supported by scientific evidence to date."

It further reports that data is "conflicting" with regard to whether marijuana usage plays a substantial role in traffic accidents, noting, "Levels of impairment that can be identified in laboratory settings may not have a significant impact in real world settings, where many variables affect the likelihood of a crash occurring."

It concludes: "There is as yet no scientifically demonstrated correlation between levels of THC and degrees of impairment of driver performance, and epidemiological studies disagree as to whether marijuana use by a driver results in increased crash risk. ... Based on current knowledge and enforcement capabilities, it is not possible to articulate a similarly simple level or rate of marijuana consumption and a corresponding effect on driving ability."

The findings are consistent with prior studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and others reporting that the presence of THC in blood, particularly at low levels, is not consistently correlated with either psychomotor impairment or crash culpability.

Six states – Illinois, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington – impose various per se limits for the presence of specific amounts of THC in blood while twelve states (Arizona, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota Utah, and Wisconsin) impose zero tolerant per se standards. In those states, it is a criminal violation of the traffic safety laws to operate a motor vehicle with any detectable levels of THC in blood. Colorado law infers driver impairment in instances where THC is detected in blood at levels of 5ng/ml or higher.

Full text of the CRS report, "Marijuana Use and Highway Safety" is available here. Additional information is available from the NORML fact-sheet, "Marijuana and Psychomotor Performance."

Study: Pain Patients Use Fewer Opioids Following Initiation of Medical Cannabis

St. Paul, MN: Chronic pain patients typically decrease their daily intake of opioids following their enrollment in a state-sanctioned medical cannabis access program, according to data published in the journal Annals of Pharmacotherapy.

Investigators from HealthEast Care Systems, a non-profit health care provider, assessed the use of opioids and benzodiazepines in 77 intractable pain patients newly enrolled in the Minnesota Medical Cannabis Program. Researchers reported "a statistically significant decrease in MME (milligram morphine equivalents) from baseline to both three and six months."

Patients enrolled in other states' access programs – such as in Illinois, Michigan, New Mexico, and New York – have demonstrated similar trends.

Authors concluded: "Over the course of this 6-month retrospective study, patients using medical cannabis for intractable pain may have experienced a significant reduction in the average MME available for pain control. A non–statistically significant difference in average benzodiazepine dose was observed. The results of this study add to the currently mixed body of evidence suggesting that medical cannabis may be effective for treating pain."

Full text of the study, "Medical cannabis: Effects on opioid and benzodiazepine requirements for pain control," appears in Annals of Pharmacotherapy. Additional information is available from the NORML fact-sheet, "Relationship Between Marijuana and Opioids."

Study: Veterans Often Substitute Medical Cannabis for Alcohol, Prescription Drugs

Palo Alto, CA: Military veterans who participate in a state's medical marijuana access program frequently substitute cannabis for alcohol and other controlled substances, according to data published in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse.

A team of investigators from Palo Alto University in California, Harvard University, and the Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia surveyed marijuana use patterns in 93 US military veterans participating in a medical cannabis collective.

Nearly 80 percent of respondents reported using cannabis "to treat both physical and mental health symptoms." Respondents were most likely to report consuming cannabis therapeutically to mitigate symptoms of chronic pain (69 percent), anxiety (66 percent), post-traumatic stress (59 percent), and depression (56 percent).

Over 60 percent of respondents said that they consumed cannabis as a substitute for other illicit or licit substances, particularly alcohol. Nearly half of all respondents said that they use medical cannabis in place of other prescription medications.

Authors concluded, "The current study also confirms the findings of previous studies that have documented a trend in substitution behavior, where cannabis is substituted for other drugs, which, if associated with reduced harm, could be beneficial for overall health."

Full text of the study, "A cross-sectional examination of choice and behavior of veterans with access to free medicinal cannabis," appears in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse. Additional information is available in the NORML fact-sheet, "Marijuana and Veteran Issues."

Nevada: New Law Bars Employers from Discriminating Against Cannabis Consumers

Carson City, NV: Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak has signed legislation into law prohibiting certain employers from refusing to hire workers because they tested positive for cannabis on a pre-employment drug screen. The new law takes effect on January 1, 2020.

Assembly Bill 132 makes it "unlawful for any employer in [Nevada] to fail or refuse to hire a prospective employee because the prospective employee submitted to a screening test and the results of the screening test indicate the presence of marijuana."

The law is not applicable to prospective employees seeking certain safety sensitive positions, such as those seeking employment as firefighters, emergency medical technicians, or federally licensed drivers.

"This is a victory for both cannabis consumers and Nevada's economy," said Nevada NORML Director Madisen Saglibene. "Just as someone would not lose their job on a Monday for a cocktail they consumed the previous Friday, it is critical to protect the rights and dignity of individuals who choose to enjoy marijuana."

Earlier this year, New York City lawmakers enacted municipal legislation barring non-safety sensitive employers from administering marijuana drug tests to prospective employees.

Urinalysis drug screening, which is most commonly utilized by employers, detects the presence of inactive marijuana metabolites (breakdown products). The residual presence of these compounds may be detectable in urine for several weeks or even months following cannabis abstinence.

The Governor also signed legislation into law this session facilitating the expungement of prior marijuana convictions, expanding the state's medical cannabis access program, prohibiting the courts from denying child custody or visitation solely based upon a parent's medical marijuana patient status, and encouraging banking institutions to work with licensed marijuana businesses and to process financial transactions.

West Virginia: Governor Signs Bill Expanding Medical Access

Charleston, WV: Republican Gov. Jim Justice has signed legislation, Senate Bill 1037, into law amending the state's nascent medical cannabis program. The new law became effective upon passage.

The measure increases the total number of medical cannabis facilities in the state, and also permits those licensed to cultivate cannabis and to manufacture cannabis products to simultaneously operate dispensaries. It also allows physicians to recommend cannabis therapy to pain patients without first requiring them to undergo treatment with opioids. The new law also removes an existing regulation that requires dispensaries to have a licensed physician on staff at all times.

West Virginia lawmakers legalized medical cannabis access in 2016, but the program is yet to be operational.

New Jersey: Lawmakers Advance Expedited Expungement Legislation

Trenton, NJ: Members of the Senate and Assembly on Monday advanced legislation to the Governor's desk facilitating the expungement process for those with past marijuana convictions.

Senate Bill 3205 revises the state's expungement procedures. Specifically, it expands the pool of crimes eligible for expungement and it establishes an expedited process for those with minor marijuana offenses to petition the court to have their records vacated.

Lawmakers advanced the bill on the same day that NORML staff hosted a rally and lobby day at the state capitol. Legislators did not take any further action on separate legislation to expand the state's medical cannabis access program or to decriminalize minor marijuana possession offenses.

Illinois: Lawmakers Advance Medical Cannabis Expansion Bill

Springfield, IL: Members of both chambers have advanced legislation, Senate Bill 2023, to expand the state's medical cannabis access program.

The measure expands the pool of patients who are eligible to participate in the state's medical program to include those diagnosed with autism, chronic pain, and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (among other debilitating conditions), facilitates relationships between financial institutions and licensed medical cannabis businesses, and permits students to access infused cannabis products on school grounds, among other changes.

The measure now awaits action from Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzer.

Separate legislation before the governor, The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, would allow patients for the first time to cultivate personal use amounts of cannabis at home. The Governor is anticipated to sign both bills.

Once signed, SB 2023 takes immediate effect.

An estimated 40,000 Illinois residents are registered in the state's medical cannabis access program.

Connecticut: Board of Physicians Authorizes Expanded Use of Medical Cannabis

Hartford, CT: State regulators have moved to expand the pool of patients eligible to receive cannabis therapy.

Earlier this month, members of the state's Board of Physicians voted to allow doctors to recommend medical cannabis to patients diagnosed with Tourette syndrome, MALS syndrome (medial arcuate ligament syndrome), vulvodynia (burning irritation), interstitial cystitis, and neuropathic pain (that is unresponsive to conventional treatments). Board members postponed making a decision regarding whether to include those patients with more generalized chronic pain.

Over 33,000 patients are registered with the state to access medical cannabis.

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