Poll: Americans View Cigarettes and Alcohol as More Harmful Than Cannabis
Boston, MA: Most Americans perceive cigarettes and alcohol to pose greater risks to public health than cannabis, according to survey data compiled by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and first reported by MarijuanaMoment.net.
According to the survey, 81 percent of respondents believe that tobacco cigarettes are "very harmful." Fifty-one percent of respondents similarly view alcohol as "very harmful." By contrast, only 26 percent of those surveyed ranked marijuana as "very harmful."
Eighteen percent of those surveyed opined that cannabis was "not harmful at all." By contrast, only two percent of respondents believed the same about alcohol and only one percent said so about tobacco.
DEA Promises Progress on Federal Cultivation Applications, But Provides No Timetable for Action
Washington, DC: The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on Monday pledged to take action to facilitate clinical cannabis research.
According to the agency's filing in the Federal Register, it "intends to promulgate regulations" to evaluate several dozen applications before it from private entities that wish to cultivate cannabis for FDA-approved research. However, this is not the first time the agency has made such a promise. In 2016, the DEA similarly announced the adoption of new rules to expand to supply of research-grade cannabis, but failed to take any further action.
"For the past three years, the DEA has failed to take any steps to follow through on its promise to facilitate clinical cannabis research, and this announcement makes it clear that this foot-dragging will continue," NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said. "According to the DEA's filing, the agency has yet to evaluate even one of the dozens of applications before it – many of which have been pending for more than two years, nor do they provide any timetable regarding when or if they will in the immediate future. In an era where public and scientific interest in the cannabis plant, particularly with regard to its therapeutic properties, has never been greater, and where patients in a majority of states are already using cannabis in compliance with state law, it is inexcusable that the DEA continues to take this 'head-in-the-sand' approach to this rapidly changing cultural and legal landscape."
In June, one of the applicants seeking a DEA cultivation license – the Scottsdale Research Institute – filed a petition in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia seeking a writ of mandamus to order the DEA to comply with its 2016 policy. On July 29, the Appellate Court ordered the DEA to provide a written response to the filing within 30 days.
Since 1968, only the University of Mississippi has been federally licensed to engage in the growing of cannabis for FDA-approved clinical research. Scientists familiar with the product have consistently said that it is of inferior quality and fails to accurately reflect the types of marijuana varieties commercially available in legal states. Further, the University only provides scientists with the option to access herbal cigarette formulations of the plant, not concentrates, edibles, or extracts. Strains high in the compound cannabidiol (CBD) – a chemical of particular interest to many scientists – are also not currently available from the University.
Study: Cannabis Use Associated with Fewer Complications in Patients with Ulcerative Colitis
Baltimore, MD: A history of cannabis use is associated with fewer complications among patients hospitalized for ulcerative colitis (UC), according to data published in the journal Medicine.
Investigators from the John Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore and the Digestive Disease Institute in Cleveland compared the prevalence of UC complications during hospitalization in cannabis users versus matched controls. Researchers reported that cannabis users, on average, had shorter hospital stays compared to non-users and were far less likely to require either a partial or a total colectomy (a surgery to remove part or all of the colon).
Authors concluded: "The present study is the first, large-scale nationwide cohort study to evaluate the association between cannabis use and clinical outcomes in hospitalized patients with UC. ... [O]ur study suggests that cannabis use may mitigate some complications of UC among hospital inpatients and this could be due to an anti-inflammatory effect of cannabis and potential improvement in gastrointestinal mucosal healing. Our study has important clinical findings and warrants further investigations."
Full text of the study, "Association between cannabis use and complications related to ulcerative colitis in hospitalized patients: A propensity matched retrospective cohort study," appears in Medicine.
Hospitalizations Linked to Use of Unregulated Vapor Cartridges
Hanford, CA: California health officials have identified a link between the use of unregulated vapor cartridges and patients seeking hospitalization for respiratory distress. In each of the cases, patients presented symptoms of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome and possessed a history of consuming either THC or CBD extracts via the use of unlicensed vapor cartridges.
The incidents highlight the potential risks associated with the use of certain unregulated cannabis products, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said. NORML has previously expressed concerns regarding the identification of adulterants and heavy metals in some unregulated cannabis extract products.
"Unregulated illicit market cannabis products, like products in an unregulated marketplace, are of variable quality and may put some consumers at risk," Armentano said. "These incidents linked to the use of unregulated, illicit market vapor cartridges reinforce the need for greater market regulation, standardization, and oversight — principles which NORML has consistently called for in the cannabis space. Consumers must also be aware that not all products are created equal; quality control testing is critical and only exists in the legally regulated marketplace."
Lab testing of vapor cartridge products in California have flagged various products in the past for impurities, leading to their removal from the marketplace.
A press release issued by the City of Hanford (CA), Department of Public Health advises, "[I]f you are going to use cannabis or CBD oil or a combination of both, be cautious, and only purchase from a licensed retailer."
The US Centers for Disease Control has recently identified cases in other states linked to the use of unregulated vapor cartridges or e-cigarette devices, including one fatality. The agency states: "Investigations into these cases are ongoing. ... Even though cases appear similar, it is not clear if these cases have a common cause or if they are different diseases with similar presentations. ... Investigators have not identified any specific product or compound that is linked to all cases."
Updates from the CDC are available online.
New York: Law Reducing Marijuana Possession Penalties Takes Effect
Albany: NY: Legislation reducing marijuana possession penalties and facilitating the expungement of past cannabis convictions took effect on Thursday.
Assembly Bill 8420-A reduces the penalty for minor marijuana possession violations (up to one ounce) to a $50 fine. It also amends penalties for offenses involving the possession of more than one ounce but less than two ounces of cannabis from a criminal misdemeanor (formerly punishable by up to three months in jail) to a non-criminal violation punishable by a $200 fine – regardless of an offender's prior criminal history.
The new law also amends the classification of offenses involving the use or possession of marijuana in public from a criminal misdemeanor, formerly punishable by up to 90 days in jail, to a fine-only offense. In New York City, police have made over 700,000 arrests for 'public view' violations. Eighty-six percent of those arrested were either Black or Latino.
Finally, A. 8420-A establishes procedures to allow for the automatic expungement of criminal records specific to crimes involving the possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana. Several hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers are eligible for expungement under the plan.
Assembly Bill 8420-A was negotiated in the closing days of the 2019 legislative session after lawmakers failed to agree on provisions of a marijuana legalization measure.
Oklahoma: Expanded Protections for Cannabis Patients Take Effect
Oklahoma City: Legislation takes effect Friday expanding protections for state-qualified medical cannabis patients.
House Bill 2612, which was signed into law in March, will go into effect on Friday, August 30. It strengthens patient protections by explicitly stipulating that registered cannabis consumers may not be denied public assistance, access to firearms, or certain types of employment solely based upon their patient status. It states, "No employer may refuse to hire, discipline, discharge or otherwise penalize an applicant or employee solely on the basis of a positive test for marijuana components or metabolites."
Oklahoma is the fifteenth state to explicitly protect medical cannabis patients from workplace discrimination, according to California NORML.
The new law also seeks to facilitate standards for banks who wish to partner with medical cannabis businesses, and prohibits local governments enacting "guidelines which restrict or interfere with the rights of a licensed patient or caregiver to possess, purchase, cultivate or transport medical marijuana." It also allows podiatrists to make medical cannabis recommendations, among other changes.
Over 146,000 Oklahomans are registered with the state to access medical cannabis therapy.
New Jersey: Expungement Measure Receives a Conditional Veto from Governor
Trenton, NJ: Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy conditionally vetoed Senate Bill 3205, which sought to expand the pool of crimes eligible for expungement and establish an expedited process for those with minor marijuana offenses to petition the court to have their records vacated.
"I believe this bill can go further for the cause of justice, and I am hopeful that we can move forward together with a bill that provides a path to automatic expungement and allows for relief for those convicted for those convicted of low-level marijuana offenses," the Governor said. "I will continue to work with the legislature to build a more complete system of expungements, so that more New Jerseyans are given a second chance and can better reintegrate into our society."
The Governor recommended several changes to the bill, including having criminal records specific to low-level marijuana offenses "immediately sealed" upon disposition and passing a supplemental appropriation of $15 million to hire additional employees to facilitate the expungement process.
It remains unclear whether lawmakers will revisit the legislation this year and amend it in a manner that concurs with the Governor's recommendations.