Category Archives: Medical Marijuana

Medical Marijuana Substance Abuse

Employees Using Medical Marijuana Are Protected by New Pennsylvania Law

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In April, Pennsylvania legalized marijuana to regulate the use and distribution of the substance. In line with this, employees who use marijuana for medical purposes are protected under equal employment opportunity laws, based on panel discussions on Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana law during a Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce gathering.

Pennsylvania’s law regulates medical marijuana use to that of pill prescribed to the patient by a legitimate physician. Once prescribed, the patient will receive a certificate from the state as well as a 30-day supply obtained from a specific provider.

According to panelist Keya Denner in a news item, businesses in Pennsylvania will have to revise their policies regarding medical marijuana in order to provide human resources training.

Meanwhile, panelist Frank Troilo, a lawyer specializing in workers’ compensation, also highlighted that employees in certain fields of work are excluded from the new regulations if their usage of medical marijuana is a risk to other employees or to the public.Troilo also stated that since medical marijuana is a regulated substance of the state, the individuals in question cannot be sued under the Americans Disability Act.

Other panelists argued that since the substance is regulated, it does not cause impairment, therefore rendering the act of discrimination moot in its existence.

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Medical Marijuana Substance Abuse

Excessive Marijuana Use Increases Risk of Bone Fractures and Osteoporosis

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A lot of people may find the solution to their ailments in medical marijuana, but a new study suggests that excessive use the controversial substance may affect the integrity of the skeletal structure.

U.K. researchers discovered that people who use marijuana in large quantities may be at a higher risk of bone injuries and abnormalities. The results were based on diagnosis of close to 300 patients at a U.K. medical facility, some of which admitted to regular smoking of marijuana while others having no experience of marijuana use.

In addition, results point to a higher probability of bone thinning in people who use pot on a regular basis compared to those who haven’t smoked a single joint in their life.

The research team suggested that this may be due to the effect of the metabolites of cannabis in the bone composition. “Our research has shown that heavy users of cannabis have quite a large reduction in bone density compared with non-users, and there is a real concern that this may put them at increased risk of developing osteoporosis and fractures later in life,” said study co-author Dr. Stuart Ralston in a news release.

Despite this link between bone strength and marijuana use, the researchers found no evidence that says heavy marijuana use causes bone thinning.

Details of the study is set to be published in the next issue of The American Journal of Medicine.

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Medical Marijuana Substance Abuse

TestCountry Talks About Synthetic Marijuana in K2 Spice Webinar

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The global threat of illicit drugs continues to instill fear and grip the hearts of millions of individuals who have witnessed the adverse effects of drug abuse. Amidst the huge number of substances being abused in today’s generation, more and more drugs are coming up every so often, reeling in more victims and destroying more families.

It is in this light that TestCountry decided to launch a webinar about synthetic marijuana (more commonly known as K2 or Spice). The webinar discusses some facts about synthetic marijuana, its effects on the human body, and its impact on society.

Here’s a snippet of the synthetic marijuana webinar:

Synthetic marijuana can be made with hundreds of different liquid chemicals that are blended with Acetone and then sprayed onto dried, shredded plant material. Commercial chemistry labs mostly concentrated in China and Pacific Rim countries produce these chemicals on-demand for distributors. K2 can be more potent than natural THC, potentially having much more dangerous side effects.

Watch the webinar through this link.

Medical Marijuana

Dealing With Employee Medical Marijuana Use in the U.S.

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Marijuana is a psychoactive substance prepared from the dried leaves and flowering tops of the hemp plant Cannabis sativa. It is composed of several compounds including over 60 cannabinoids.  The main psychoactive component is delta-9-tetrahdrocanabinol (THC). When taken, marijuana can induce altered perceptions and mood upswings, colloquially called a “high.”

The drug is used for both recreational and medicinal purposes but because the substance is highly addictive, it is either totally outlawed or restricted in most countries. Its therapeutic effects are vastly debated and controversy surrounds the legalization of its use.

marijuana use

Brief History of Medical Use of Marijuana

The use of marijuana for medical purposes began in ancient China where it was first used as an anesthetic. According to Wikipedia, the narcotic properties of the plant were explored in the country as early as during the first millennium B.C. and it was one of the fundamental herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine. This practice of utilizing Cannabis to treat various ailments including chronic pain, fever, and dysentery later spread throughout Asia, Africa, Middle East, and the western countries.

Legal History in the United States

Marijuana first entered the United States sometime during the 1900s and was used for recreational purposes. During this period, it became associated with criminality and was banned in several states which passed marijuana prohibition laws. In 1970, it was formally categorized as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

Then U.S. President Richard Nixon was strongly opposed to legalizing marijuana and he firmly rejected the recommendations of the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse to decriminalize personal possession and use of marijuana and to remove it from the scheduling system.

From the middle to the late 1990s, voters in the United States began showing their support for cannabis prescriptions, against federal policy and FDA regulations.  California was the first state to pass an initiative to permit the use of medical marijuana in 1996, and several other states followed. As of March 2016, 24 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical cannabis while 6 other states have pending legislation, according to this report. Meanwhile, marijuana is approved for recreational use in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia.

At present, the use of marijuana for any purpose is still criminalized by Federal laws and the substance remains to be classified as a Schedule 1 drug, along with heroin, LSD, and other dangerous substances. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) denied the petition to reschedule marijuana in 2001, maintaining the position that “it has a high potential for abuse, has no currently accepted medical use for treatment in the United States, and has a lack of safety for use under medical supervision,” as reported in this article.

The FDA policy likewise maintains the same stance. It has only approved two drugs that contain THC. While it is allowed in some states, its use and acquisition are subject to strict qualifying conditions. Only those patients diagnosed with epilepsy, seizures, cancer, HIV, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, glaucoma, wasting syndrome, and post-traumatic stress disorder are legally allowed to obtain cannabis to help alleviate their conditions. However, the use, dosage, and distribution of medical cannabis for the treatment of the aforementioned conditions vary from state to state, according to respective legislation.

As of March 2016, the Marijuana Medical Project recorded an estimate of 1.2 million users of medical marijuana.

Studies on Beneficial Effects of Medical Cannabis

A number of studies have shown that marijuana is effective in controlling and treating various medical conditions. For instance, a 2007 study published in the journal Neurology and conducted by Donald Abrams and colleagues among HIV patients revealed that marijuana is more efficient at reducing neuropathic pain as compared to morphine or other opiates.

Another research which was conducted at the University of Cologne and published in the journal Translational Psychiatry in 2012 found that medical cannabis may be effective for the treatment of schizophrenia.

Also related to mental health was an investigation published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs in March 2014. The findings of the study conducted by Dr. George Greer and other physicians revealed that cannabis reduced symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorders among patients diagnosed with the illness.

Other studies have found cannabinoids to be effectual in managing nausea and vomiting among patients undergoing chemotherapy.  Moreover, a cancer study conducted by Sean McAllister, Ph.D. in 2011 suggested that the drug could be helpful in controlling metastasis and tumor progression in breast cancer cases.

Other investigations disclosed that marijuana is useful in the treatment of other ailments including rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, glaucoma, Parkinson’s Disease, Chron’s Disease, and ALS. In addition, several published studies showed that medical cannabis provides substantial appetite stimulation among HIV and AIDS patients.

Despite numerous findings, the American Medical Association, and other medical organizations stand firm in their opposition to the use of cannabis, arguing that the clinical samples are too small to render the results conclusive and that the reported therapeutic benefits do not outweigh the adverse side effects.

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Legal Controversy Affects the Workplace

Employers in the private sector are not spared from the effects of the controversy. The divergent positions taken by federal and state laws pose a dilemma relevant to the proper application of anti-drug policies in the workplace.

Companies and human resource practitioners find themselves confronting serious questions such as: Should the regulations be relaxed in view of state legalization? May an employer still validly terminate the services of an employee found positive for marijuana use? Must the policies allow employees to smoke marijuana during working hours? The answers have profound effects on the companies’ policy formulation strategies as well as on the industries’ compliance with federal laws.

What makes it more challenging for employers is that legislation varies among states and no standard set of guidelines could be implemented. Thus, they must look to jurisprudential doctrines within their respective jurisdictions for guidance.

In the case Roe v. Teletech Customer Care Management, LLC decided in 2011, the Washington Supreme Court held that the Washington State Medical Use of Marijuana Act does not prevent an employer from validly imposing disciplinary sanctions including termination on an employee for using medical marijuana. This means that the state law legalizing medical cannabis does not impose upon the employer the duty to accommodate the use of marijuana even for medicinal purposes anywhere within the workplace premises.

The same doctrine was laid down by the Oregon Supreme Court in the case of Emerald Steel Fabricators, Inc. v. BLI decided in 2010, which confirmed that the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act did not oblige employers to accommodate the medical use of the drug in the workplace. The Court upheld the validity of the employer’s revocation of the employee’s permanent employment and his subsequent termination.

In a more recent case of Coats v. Dish Network, LLC decided in June 2015, the Colorado Supreme Court upheld the validity of the termination of an employee (Brandon Coats) for violation of the company’s anti-drug policy. In the case, Coats had tested positive at a random drug test conducted by the employer and was subsequently discharged. Even though the plaintiff only consumed marijuana in his home after office hours in compliance with Colorado’s Lawful Off-Duty Activities statute, the Court opined that his use of medical marijuana could not be considered lawful per se in view of the strict federal laws that declare it illegal.

The rulings are consistent in upholding the validity of employers’ zero tolerance policies on drug use as well as in maintaining that state legislation authorizing the use of medical marijuana only provide an affirmative defense against criminal prosecution for possession and use of the substance. Such defense, however, does not lend its application to the workplace policies.

How To Deal With Employees Using Medical Marijuana

It can be inferred from the above rulings that courts tend to interpret the laws in favor of the employer and to uphold the employer’s efforts to adhere to federal laws. So how does an employer balance the scales between protecting his business and respecting his employee’s disabilities? Here are a few guidelines:

marijuana workplace policy

Stay abreast on current laws and jurisprudence

It is incumbent upon the employer and the HR professionals to keep up to date with current state laws and case rulings in their respective jurisdictions. Cases doctrines such as those mentioned should be resorted to as basic guidelines in reviewing their company regulations and formulating strategies for the implementation of their policies.

Employers must strive to ensure that their workplace rules are compliant with both federal and state laws. The best way to protect themselves against lawsuits is to confirm that their policies are pursuant to the applicable statutes and case laws.

Discuss accommodation requests

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, an employee can request an employer to “reasonably accommodate a disability” so that he can perform his work duties. When this request is raised, the employer should be sent to the HR Department where dialogue should be conducted as to the extent of accommodation requested. At this point, the workplace policies must be explained to the employee.

The employer is not mandated to accommodate conditions that may impair work performance or pose potential hardships on the business. Although the Act protects employees against discrimination on the basis of their disabilities, the protection does not extend to use of marijuana. Thus, an employer may qualify that while the “medical condition” may be accommodated, it is subject to the requirement that elected treatment options including medical marijuana will not impair work functions.

Handle exceptions with extreme caution

Employers may choose to make “reasonable exceptions” to their drug policies. But this approach should be taken only after thorough deliberation and careful considerations of possible repercussions. The same note of caution applies in defining “reasonable accommodations.”

For instance, companies that are federal contractors are required to implement the Drug- Free Workplace Act and those operating under the Department of Transportation are mandated to observe certain drug testing standards. Hence, employers must take these matters into strict consideration when attempting to modify their policies to ensure that the implemented regulations do not compromise the company’s adherence to federal laws.

Measure work performance

In the event that accommodation is granted, employers should carefully monitor the employer’s work performance without being discriminatory. Like all other employees, a medical marijuana user is subject to the same performance evaluation procedures but in this case, the employer must check to see if the use of the substance in any way impairs or negatively affects his work output.

For instance, does it cause him to incur tardiness or absenteeism? Does it result in failure to meet work quotas?  If performance issues are linked to cannabis use, the employer is certainly entitled to address the matter and review the accommodation considerations.

Train and communicate

Lawsuits and termination disputes often arise due to a lack of effective communication of company policies and procedures. These could be avoided if the employees are made aware of the employer’s stand on the issue of drug use, to avoid misinterpretation of regulations.

Line managers, supervisors, and HR personnel should especially be trained in communicating and implementing anti-drug policies as well as in handling drug-related concerns. Given the sensitive nature of the issue, it is best addressed professionally. Supervisors and HR personnel should be consistent as to their answers to queries and positions taken on the matter.

Implementing a drug-free workplace policy remains a sound practice that protects the industry from the dangers of drug use. Fortunately, more case laws are now emerging to address the gray areas that affect the implementation of these regulations.  Employers can be assured that their zero-tolerance policies can be validly applied and upheld despite state legalization and decriminalization statutes. Employers must monitor legal developments and consult appropriate legal counsel in cases of doubt to ensure their policies keep up with current laws.

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Medical Marijuana Substance Abuse

Washington State Records More Car Accident Deaths After Marijuana Legalization

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A recent study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety revealed that the number of traffic-related deaths more than doubled in Washington after the legalization of marijuana use and sale. This remarkable increase in marijuana-related road mishaps is very alarming, said foundation president Peter Kissinger in a news item.

Washington legalized the sale and use of recreational marijuana on December 2012. As per recorded fatal vehicular accidents from 2013 until 2014, the percentage has gone up from 8 percent to 17 percent, all of which are attributed to marijuana use. Marijuana legalization in the state is seemingly leaving policymakers and safety advocates worried that people who are high on pot are being allowed to drive freely.

In most accidents, drivers are immediately tested for alcohol toxicity. If found positive, they will be slapped with charges. In contrast, drug testing becomes a second option not unless the driver is suspected to be drug-impaired. Authorities cannot yet disclose on the extent of the accountability of pot use in these accidents since THC does not carry the same effects in all users regardless of the amount used. Some people automatically become impaired even with minimal consumption, while some users on high dosage don’t seem fazed.

Authorities can only be hopeful that Washington will serve as a case study for future states planning to legalize recreational marijuana, so that flaws on the enforcement of the law may still be corrected.

The use and sale of recreational marijuana has been legalized in Washington and four other U.S. states, but driving under the influence of marijuana is still illegal in all areas in the country. Bottom line, people who are drug-impaired are not allowed to drive.

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Medical Marijuana Workplace Testing

4 Things Employers Should Know About Marijuana and the Workplace

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With marijuana now slowly being legalized in more states, employers should now become aware of their rights and obligations about marijuana in the workplace. Here are four things they need to bear in mind:

  1. Employers have the option to implement drug-free workplace policies.

In most states where recreational or medical marijuana has been approved, zero-tolerance policies are explicitly allowed. Therefore, every employer must make sure that they have established a drug-free workplace policy. For their protection, they should communicate the policies to all workers and direct employees to sign a form acknowledging their receipt of the same.

  1. Employers have the right to terminate employees who use marijuana in the workplace.

Recreational marijuana has been approved in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and the District of Columbia. According to the Federal Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is still a Schedule 1 drug and hence prohibited under federal law. Because of this, employees found using marijuana within the workplace premises may be held liable to the point of job termination.

  1. Careful consideration for the marijuana holder is required.

While marijuana is still illegal under federal law, medical marijuana has been legalized in almost half of the U.S. The problem with most employers is that the laws in at least three states (Arizona, Delaware, and Minnesota) prohibit termination of employees for testing positive for marijuana metabolites alone as long as they possess a valid medical marijuana card. Employers should prove impairment of work by the employee before the latter can be discharged for testing positive for marijuana metabolites.

  1. Marijuana use in the workplace is not a disability accommodation.

At the moment, it is unclear how the American with Disabilities Act’s (ADA) reasonable accommodations requirement will interact with marijuana laws. However, once employees inform their employers that they are using medical marijuana, the employers should check if the employee is potentially disabled pursuant to ADA. However, while it does not require accommodations based on the use of medical marijuana, it does offer protection for the disabled employee.

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Medical Marijuana Substance Abuse

Marijuana Legalization in the U.S.

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While many people are aware of the dangers of marijuana for recreational purposes, many states are pushing for the legalization of medical marijuana. Several studies of cannabinoid compounds have revealed its medicinal qualities, which have further fueled the call for legalizing medical marijuana.

What is Medical Marijuana?

Medical marijuana refers to the treatment of a disease or symptom using the whole unprocessed plant of marijuana or its basic extracts. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet given its stamp of approval or recognition to the use of the marijuana plant as medicine.

However, scientific studies of marijuana chemicals called cannabinoids resulted to a couple of FDA-approved medications that contain cannabinoid chemicals in the form of a pill. Because the marijuana plant contains chemicals useful for the treatment of a wide range of illnesses or symptoms, many people are calling for the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes. In some states, medical marijuana has already been legalized.

Health Benefits

Medical marijuana comes in a variety of forms. It can be smoked, vaporized, or taken as a pill. It may also be prepared as edible foods such as brownies, cookies, and chocolate bars.

The Federal Drug Enforcement Administration classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, which means that it has a high potential for abuse and with no legitimate medical uses. However, the idea that marijuana may have therapeutic uses is based in solid science. The body has the natural ability to manufacture its own cannabinoids designed for modulating pain.

The main psychoactive cannabinoid in marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. It targets the CB1 receptor, a cannabinoid receptor located in the brain as well as in the nervous system, liver, kidney, and lungs. This receptor is activated to silence the body’s response to pain and noxious chemicals.

medical marijuana legalization

Medical marijuana: Is it the miracle cure that millions of patients are looking for?

In a placebo-controlled study published in the journal Neurology, Abrams and his colleagues discovered that marijuana is effective at lowering neuropathic pain caused by damaged nerves. Opiates, such as morphines, are not effective at treating neuropathic pain.

Another study revealed that marijuana, aside from opiates, caused dramatic levels of pain relief. Researchers at the American Academy of Neurology revealed that medical marijuana in the form of pills or oral sprays had the ability to reduce stiffness and muscle spasm.

In addition, the medications also reduced certain symptoms of pain associated with spasms, painful burning and numbness, as well as overactive bladder, according to another study.

One of the well-known effects of using marijuana is the “munchies,” which is used to stimulate appetite among HIV/AIDS patients and others with suppressed appetite after a medical condition or treatment. Medical marijuana is also frequently used for treatment of nausea induced by chemotherapy, although scientific studies of smoked marijuana are limited.

Two FDA-approved chemically altered forms of THC, namely dronabinol and nabilone, have been proven to lower reduce chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting in cancer patients.

Medical marijuana may also be used for treating glaucoma, an elevated pressure in the eyeball that can result to blindness. The American Cancer Society revealed that while marijuana can decrease intra-ocular pressure, it must be taken several times during the day in order to produce the desired effect.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychoactive component of marijuana that contains medicinal benefits. However, since it does not target the CB1 receptor, it does not leave people feeling stoned.

In a 2012 study published in the Journal Translational Psychiatry, it was revealed that cannabidiol can be effective as a treatment for schizophrenia. In a study conducted at the University of Cologne, 42 patients randomly received either cannabidiol or amisulpride, an effective drug used for treating schizophrenia for 28 days. When compared, clinical effects revealed “no relevant difference” between the two treatments.

Side Effects

The active compound in marijuana binds itself to cannabinoid receptors, located in the areas of the brain associated with thinking, memory, pleasure, coordination, and time perception. Its effects can disrupt attention, judgment, and balance.

Meanwhile, studies have produced different results on whether smoking marijuana can have a significant cancer risk.

Short-term

When smoking marijuana, THC can quickly pass from the lungs into the bloodstream. The blood transfers the chemical to the brain and other organs in the body. When eating or drinking it, the body absorbs THC more slowly with the user generally feeling the effects within 30 minutes to 1 hour.

THC acts on specific brain cell receptors that naturally respond to natural THC-like chemicals in the brain. These natural chemicals play a role in the normal functioning and development of the brain.

Marijuana over-activates that area of the brain that contains the biggest number of receptors. It is responsible for causing the “high” that marijuana users experience. It can bring about other effects such as:

  • impaired senses (for example, seeing brighter colors)
  • impaired sense of time
  • mood changes
  • impaired body movement
  • difficulty with thinking and problem-solving
  • impaired memory

Long-term

Marijuana may have adverse effects on brain development. When used as early as teenage years, it can reduce thinking, memory, and learning functions and may affect how the brain connects between the areas needed for these functions. The effects on these areas of the brain can be long-term or even permanent.

One study revealed that people who were heavy marijuana smokers during their teens and currently has cannabis use disorder lost an average of eight IQ points between 13 and 38 years old. The lost mental skills did not completely return even after they stopped smoking marijuana as an adult. On the other hand, those who began smoking marijuana as adults did not show a notable decline in their IQ.

Medical Marijuana Legalization By States

As of April 2016, there are 24 U.S. states that have legalized medical marijuana: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Guam, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

California was the very first state that legalized medical marijuana in 1996. From the list of 24 states above, Pennsylvania was the latest state that legalized medical marijuana. Meanwhile, New York legalized the vaporized form of medical marijuana in 2014.

As for recreational marijuana, only four states have so far legalized it: Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington. It is likely that 11 more states will also legalize recreational marijuana in the near future.

All the 24 states require the approval of a doctor. With the exception of Washington, all states require an identification card to be shown at the dispensary in a patient registry. In most of the states where medical marijuana is legal, there is an online application process.

In majority of the states, patients are required to fill up an application form, pay the necessary fee, and provide identification information. In order to receive an identification card, the patients are required to get a signed statement from a doctor who diagnosed the condition and proof that medical marijuana was the recommended form of treatment for the patient’s particular condition and situation.

In states where medical marijuana is legal, laws permit dispensaries and outline certain conditions for medical marijuana prescription. The restrictions on the format and amount of medical cannabis allowed for personal use in every visit may vary from one state to another.

marijuana legalization in the U.S.

Only time will tell if the entire U.S. legalizes marijuana for medical purposes.

In New York, medical marijuana is highly regulated and legalized for just a few medical conditions, such as epilepsy and cancer. In California, the law applies only for conditions such as arthritis, migraine, and other conditions for which marijuana can offer relief. As such, California legalizes medical marijuana for a wide range of conditions, ranging from insomnia to substance abuse.

In the District of Columbia, recreational marijuana has been decriminalized so residents are allowed to carry up to two ounces of cannabis and own six plants. However, it is still illegal to purchase pot in the District.

The expensive nature of incarceration is one factor that is stopping states from decriminalizing cannabis. In an interview with Vice News, President Obama said that it would require a huge amount of money.

“It costs a huge amount of money to states,” Obama said, speaking to Vice’s Shane Smith. “What I’m encouraged by is you’re starting to see not just liberal democrats but also some very conservative Republicans recognize that this doesn’t make sense, including the libertarian wing of the Republican Party. They see the money and how costly it is to incarcerate. At a certain point, if enough states end up decriminalizing, Congress may then reschedule marijuana.”

On the other hand, legalizing recreational marijuana has paved the way for a whole new economy involving the sale of cannabis, oils, lotions, edibles, and other paraphernalia. Efforts to promote new related businesses have started to emerge supporting these industries despite the regulations state by state. The states that have set the pace in the cannabis market are starting to reap the fruits in the form of tax revenues.

In Colorado, marijuana-specific tax revenue has reached $70 million during the last fiscal year. This was two times higher than what the state earned from alcohol tax revenues.

Throughout the U.S., sales of legal marijuana reached $2.7 billion in 2014, an increase from $1.5 billion the previous year, as reported by cannabis investment and research company ArcView Group. If all 50 states as well as District of Columbia were to legalize marijuana, the U.S. marijuana retail market could exceed the $35 billion plateau by 2020, based on estimates by independent research firm GreenWave Advisers.

The clamor for legalizing marijuana is growing, according to a new survey conducted by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research published in The Washington Post. The study revealed that a record 61 percent of Americans support legalization of marijuana. A similar survey conducted by Gallup reflected a 58 percent support for legalization.

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Marijuana has risen in popularity amidst controversies and the tendency for abuse and addiction. As the road to marijuana legalization continues to be paved, only time will tell whether the entire U.S. and other countries will follow suit.

Medical Marijuana Substance Abuse

NORML Recommends Framework for Marijuana Policy In The Workplace

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As the issue on substance abuse continues to haunt the workplace, more and more companies are now laying out their drug policies. The aim is not to reprimand erring employees who are found positive for drug use, but rather to protect the welfare of these employees and the whole workforce.

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) has devised a model for marijuana workplace policy. Based on its recommended framework, here are some of the highlights of the NORML policy:

  • The company shall promote its interests in guaranteeing a secure, healthy, and efficient working condition for its employees, co-employees, and the customers it serves. The use or possession of alcohol or other intoxicating drugs in the workplace poses a risk to everyone. For these reasons, a framework that contains conditions for employment and continuous employment with the company will be established.
  • Federal and state governments shall define controlled substances in order to describe them according to five levels of drugs. Schedule I drugs shall be the most restrictive and illegal to possess or use, while Schedule V drugs will be easily accessible at retail stores even with no prescription.
  • Employees will not be allowed to report for work while under the influence of alcohol and/or other drugs that can have an impact on the employee’s ability to safely continue with their job duties.
  • The company will not engage in random and/or pre-accident drug testing of workers. Any problems with substance abuse will be determined using behavior and performance measures only.
  • The company is aware that there is a distinction between substance use and substance abuse and that the former is not tantamount to abuse. Employees can freely choose their own lifestyle choices when outside their workplace or otherwise with the company. However, such choices should not interfere in the performance of their jobs.
  • Employees shall be restricted from reporting for work or staying on duty while under the influence of alcohol or any other intoxicants in their systems. Furthermore, they will not be allowed to consume alcohol or other intoxicants during office hours, as well as during their meal and break periods.
  • Failure to comply with these substance abuse policies will merit a disciplinary action, which could include discharge. For more details about the policy, you can get in touch with the immediate superior or the chief operating officer (COO).

This framework from NORML should serve as a base structure for companies to develop their own drug policies in the workplace.

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Medical Marijuana Substance Abuse

Excessive Marijuana Use May Impair Brain’s Dopamine System

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Dopamine is a chemical produced by the brain, and it serves as a neurotransmitter of signals to the brain and other significant areas of the human body. It is responsible for several processes in the brain related to motor activities, cognitive reasoning, mood swings, memory, behavior, sleep, learning, and attention.

Abnormal levels of dopamine in the brain may cause brain diseases like Parkinson’s disease, dopa-responsive dystonia, schizophrenia, ADHD and even drug addiction. In addition, this chemical affects the compulsive reaction of the brain towards drug use. Recreational drugs like marijuana or cannabis can trigger our brain to release dopamine, which stimulates pleasure.

A recent study revealed that prolonged use of marijuana may impair the dopaminergic system, which may lead to slow learning and absorption, as well as behavioral changes. Another effect is that it disrupts the user’s memory.

“We don’t know whether decreased dopamine was a preexisting condition or the result of heavy cannabis use,” said study lead author Anissa Abi-Dargham in a news release.

A team of researchers from Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) conducted the study, which investigated cannabis-dependent adults and their dopamine levels through positron emission tomography (PET).

Cannabis may have many therapeutic advantages, but the results of the study seemed to point out that marijuana is not suitable for people with psychological disorders.

The research team believes that more studies should focus on the impact of marijuana use on brain functioning. “In light of the more widespread acceptance and use of marijuana, especially by young people, we believe it is important to look more closely at the potentially addictive effects of cannabis on key regions of the brain,” Abi-Dargham added.

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Medical Marijuana Substance Abuse

Excessive Long-Term Marijuana Use May Lead To Poor Social And Financial Status At Middle Age

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Marijuana is said to be less destructive than alcohol health-wise, but it can give one’s financial and social well-being a blow. Heavy users and long-term dependents of cannabis are often faced with economic and social problems when they reach midlife. They find themselves being into less prestigious jobs with low pay and poor skills. Persistent use of the drug affects job performance and relationships with others.

This was confirmed through a study led by Magdalena Cerda, an associate professor at the University of California, Davis. Her research team concluded that people “who smoked regularly, defined as at least four times per week over the course of several years, had significantly more economic problems such as high levels of debt, poorer credit rating, limits on cash flow and even difficulty paying for food or rent,” as reported in this article.

Furthermore, they have a higher likelihood to manifest antisocial behaviors in the workplace. Lying may be natural for them and they may find themselves more irritable that they easily figure in conflicts with people at work. Moreover, they may find it hard to maintain intimate relationships as conflicts will always arise.

To date, no study has solidified the conclusion that marijuana intake causes the aforementioned problems, but this study seems to have proven a strong link between them.

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