Study: Cannabis Inhalation Not Associated With COPD, Other Tobacco-Related Harms
London, United Kingdom: Cannabis smoke exposure, even long-term, is not positively associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, or irreversible airway damage, according to a literature review published in the journal Breathe.
British researchers reviewed nearly 20 observational studies assessing cannabis inhalation and lung health, involving over 25,000 subjects.
Investigators reported that the available literature fails to support an association between cannabis smoke exposure and the onset of COPD, emphysema, lung cancer, shortness of breath, or irreversible airway damage. "The long-term respiratory effects of cannabis differ from traditional smoking," authors concluded. "[C]annabis smoking does not appear to be carcinogenic."
Researchers did identify a link between marijuana inhalation and more frequent cough, sputum production, wheezing, and chronic bronchitis - though they acknowledged that these symptoms largely cease upon quitting. Authors also acknowledged that vaporizing cannabis - a process which activates cannabinoids, but does not heat them to the point of combustion - reduces many of these symptoms.
The study's findings are similar to those of others reporting that cannabis smoke and tobacco smoke differ significantly in their health effects, and that long-term marijuana smoke exposure is not associated with poor lung health.
Full text of the study, "Marijuana and the lung: hysteria or cause for concern?", appears in Breathe. See the NORML fact-sheet, "Cannabis Exposure and Lung Health."
Congressional Leadership Strips Provisions Facilitating Medical Marijuana Access For Veterans
Washington, DC: Lawmakers have removed language from pending federal legislation that sought to facilitate veterans' access to medical cannabis in jurisdictions that regulate it.
Under existing federal regulations, physicians affiliated with the US Department of Veterans Affairs are prohibited from filling out the necessary paperwork required in legal medical marijuana states. A budgetary amendment included in the Senate's version the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill sought to end this prohibition. However, Congressional leaders on Tuesday voted to eliminate the provision during hearings to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the bill.
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), who is a veteran, said, "Our veterans put their lives on the line for our country, and many come home dealing with visible and invisible wounds. To continue limiting their access to quality healthcare through the VA is a disservice to them and the sacrifices they've made."
Similar language was included by both chambers in the 2016 version of the funding bill, but was stripped from the text during meetings in conference committee.
Last week, Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) for the first time introduced stand-alone Senate legislation to expand medical cannabis access to military veterans. Similar legislation also remains pending in the House. A 2017 American Legion poll found that nearly one in four veterans use marijuana to alleviate a medical condition.
New York: District Attorney To Vacate Thousands Of Past Marijuana Convictions
Brooklyn, NY: Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez on Friday publicly announced his intent to vacate over ten thousand low-level marijuana convictions.
Though state lawmakers decriminalized minor marijuana possession offenses in 1977, possessing small amounts of cannabis "in public view" remains a criminal misdemeanor. City police have made several hundred thousand arrests since the late 1990s for violation of the 'public use' statute - primarily due to aggressive 'stop and frisk' policing. Over 80 percent of those arrested were either Black or Latino.
Under the new initiative, those with low-level convictions will be eligible to have their criminal records vacated beginning September 21. Prosecutors estimate that the effort may ultimately result in the expungement of some 20,000 past convictions.
Earlier this year, DA Gonzalez, along with Manhattan DA Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. declared that their offices would no longer prosecute low-level marijuana offenses. "It's a little unfair to say we're no longer prosecuting these cases, but to have these folks carry these convictions for the rest of their lives," Gonzalez told The Associated Press ahead of Friday's announcement. This week, CNN reported that Vance's office has dismissed over 3,000 low-level marijuana cases, including some dating back to the late 1970s.
In recent months, District Attorneys in a number of metropolitan areas, such as San Francisco and Seattle, have begun the process of reviewing and vacating past, low-level marijuana convictions. Lawmakers in several states - including Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, Oregon, and Rhode Island - have enacted expungement laws following the passage of either marijuana decriminalization or legalization. In California, legislation providing for mandatory expungement of past marijuana convictions is awaiting the Governor's signature. An estimated 220,000 cases would be eligible for erasure or a reduction under the proposed California law.
Study: Consumers Willing To Pay A Premium For Legal Cannabis, Eschew Illegal Markets
Ontario, Canada: Consumers generally believe that cannabis sold in legal markets is "superior" to that available on the black market, and are willing to pay a premium for it, according to data published online ahead of print in the journal Addiction.
Investigators from Canada and the United States assessed adults' opinions with regard to the impact of cannabis pricing on their own purchasing habits.
Researchers reported that most consumers perceive legal cannabis to be of greater quality, and that the advent of a legal marijuana markets reduces consumer demand for black market products. Authors also reported that most consumers will pay a premium price for legal cannabis, up to approximately $14 per gram, but warned that excessive pricing can induce consumers to return to the illicit market.
They concluded: "[T]his study provides empirical evidence that cannabis users treat legal cannabis as a superior commodity compared to illegal cannabis, and exhibit asymmetric substitutability that supports the use of price policy that results in higher consumer costs for legal cannabis relative to contraband product. These findings suggest that availability of legal cannabis generally does not incentivize and expand the illegal cannabis market, unless the price of the legal product is too high. Pricing policy will need to be optimized to maximize the benefits of a legally regulated cannabis marketplace."
The findings are similar to those of a study published in July which concluded, "[T]he introduction of legal cannabis into the market may disrupt and reduce illegal purchases."
Full text of the study, "Price elasticity of illegal versus legal cannabis: A behavioral economic substitutability analysis," appears in Addiction.
Percentage Of Adults Consuming Cannabis Rising
San Francisco, CA: Approximately one in seven US adults acknowledge having consumed cannabis within the past year, according to data published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
A team of investigators from the University of California and Columbia University in New York assessed cannabis use patterns in a nationally representative sample of 16,280 US adults. Overall, 14.6 percent of respondents said that they had used marijuana within the past 12-months. Respondents were most likely to have consumed cannabis via smoking, and use rates were higher among those residing in jurisdictions where adult use is legally regulated. Over 80 percent of respondents perceived the plant to possess various therapeutic benefits, such as pain relief or relief from stress and depression.
Separate demographic data published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence reports that self-reported marijuana use by older Americans is also increasing. New York University researchers analyzed use patterns in a cohort of 17,608 ages 50 and older. Authors reported that an estimated nine percent of those between the ages of 50 and 64 consumed cannabis within the past year, while three percent of those ages 65 and older acknowledged doing so.
Prior demographic data published earlier this year similarly reported that cannabis use in increasing among older Americans, many of whom are using it as a substitute for prescription pain medications.