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Substance Abuse

Recreational Marijuana Legalized in Four Additional U.S. States After November 8 Vote

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More states in the United States are legalizing the use, sale, possession and cultivation of marijuana, and this became more evident after the November 8 ballot wherein four additional U.S. states have voted in favor of recreational marijuana use.

Despite the inclusion of cannabis in the Schedule 1 controlled substances category, this didn’t hamper the legalization of recreational marijuana on the states of Nevada, Maine, California and Massachusetts, which voted last November 8 for the affirmative.

Here are some of the details involving the votes:

  • Massachusetts: 54 percent voted for the legalization of recreational marijuana. However, they all agreed that regularization of the drug is of utmost importance.
  • California: 56 percent voted yes to recreational pot, but legalization is limited to individuals 21 years of age and older.
  • Nevada: 54 percent voted for the legalization of cannabis for recreational use. Same as in California, Nevada is making legal the use, possession, cultivation and sale of marijuana only to people at least 21 years of age.
  • Maine: 3 percent voted for recreational marijuana use. The state of Maine only allows people over the age of 21 to use, cultivate and sell the substance.

The rest of the U.S. is waiting for the next move of the remaining states that have yet to legalize cannabis for medical or recreational purposes. Until then, marijuana remains to be illegal in these states.

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 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

Group of Doctors Supports New Marijuana Act in California

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Marijuana use in the state of California has long been legal for medical purposes. However, the implementation of the law has been met with much criticism, especially because many people have resorted to use cannabis for recreational purposes.

This is the reason why the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act was created: “to establish a comprehensive system to legalize, control and regulate the cultivation, processing, manufacture, distribution, testing, and sale of nonmedical marijuana, including marijuana products, for use by adults 21 years and older, and to tax the commercial growth and retail sale of marijuana.” (text from ReformCA.org)

In line with the proposed bill, the California Medical Association (CMA) said that they are in support of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act. The group, with no less than 41,000 doctor members in the state, believes that the act will not merely allow recreational use of cannabis, but also allow the government to control and regulate its distribution. “The California Medical Association believes the Adult Use of Marijuana Act is a comprehensive and thoughtfully constructed measure that will allow state officials to better protect public health by clarifying the role of physicians, controlling and regulating marijuana use by responsible adults and keeping it out of the hands of children,” said CMA president Steven Larson in a news release.

The proposed act also includes a sizable budget provided on an annual basis for drug prevention, treatment, and education programs for the youth.

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Medical Marijuana

Marijuana Legalization Increases Risk of Child Exposure To Cannabis

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Medical marijuana may be considered by many as the wonder drug of the century, but as more states approve the sale and distribution of marijuana, more children below the age of five are at higher risk of exposure.

This was revealed by a team of researchers from the Nationwide Children’s Hospital, after conducting a study to review data from the National Poison Database System on child cases related to marijuana exposure. Results of the study showed that the number of cases of child exposure to marijuana rose by 147.5 percent in the U.S. between 2006 and 2013. The figure is more startling in states that have legalized medical marijuana: an increase of close to 610 percent for the same period.

The research team from the hospital’s Center for Injury Research and Policy and the Central Ohio Poison Center also discovered that more than 75 percent of the cases involved kids below 3 years old, most of whom were reported to have ingested marijuana in food-based form. “Very young children explore their environments by putting items in their mouths, and foods such as brownies and cookies are attractive,” said study co-author Henry Spiller in a news release. “The high percentage of ingestions may be related to the popularity of marijuana brownies, cookies and other foods.”

Study senior author Gary Smith added that marijuana legislation must always consider the welfare of kids in the discussions. “Any state considering marijuana legalization needs to include child protections in its laws from the very beginning,” Smith added.

The study was published in the online journal Clinical Pediatrics.

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Medical Marijuana Substance Abuse

Marijuana Still A Dangerous Drug, Says Federal Judge

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In a move that will probably delay the acceptance of pot in all U.S. states further, a federal judge did not grant the proposal to exempt marijuana from the Schedule 1 category of dangerous drugs.

According to AP News via Yahoo!, U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller refused the removal of marijuana in the category of dangerous drugs characterized as having “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” The federal judge acknowledges the fact that the drug categorization has not been updated for decades. “It has been 45 years since Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act,” Mueller said. She adds that the changes in society and culture has definitely brought up the need to revisit the classification set by the Controlled Substance Act (CSA) Scheduling.

Despite the circumstances behind a possible yes vote, Mueller said that “this is not the court and this is not the time” to change things in the drug scheduling act.

National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws deputy director Paul Armentano expressed that had Mueller rejected the inclusion of marijuana into the Schedule 1 drug category, it “would have been significant because you would have had a federal judge acknowledging what a majority of the public has already concluded: That marijuana does not meet the three criteria of a Schedule 1 drug.”

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Medical Marijuana Substance Abuse

Debates For Marijuana Legislation Heating Up In Congress

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As more states are embracing legalized marijuana use and distribution, discussions on the controversial drug are now reaching the House.

Two congressmen — Colorado Rep. Jared Polis and Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer — introduced a new bill that aims to legalize cannabis across the entire federal jurisdiction. Polis revealed in a news statement that Colorado has benefited hugely from legalizing marijuana. “Over the past year, Colorado has demonstrated that regulating marijuana like alcohol takes money away from criminals and cartels, grows our economy, and keeps marijuana out of the hands of children,” Polis said. Colorado is one of the U.S. states that has legalized marijuana.

The proposed bill, tagged as “Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act”, aims to treat cannabis just like the country does alcohol: remove it from the list of illegal drugs and transfer regulation to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Meanwhile, another proposal called “Marijuana Tax Revenue Act” focuses on imposing taxes on cannabis from a starting rate of 10 percent and gradually rising over the years.

This new move by members of the House is being pushed amidst numerous complaints against marijuana shops and dispensaries are “nuisances” to nearby communities and neighboring states.

Medical Marijuana Real Drug Stories

Alaska, Oregon, District of Columbia Sets Voting On Marijuana Legalization in November

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In an unprecedented turn of events, two U.S. states and the capital city are set to vote on the legalization of recreational marijuana by next month.

marijuana legalization alaska oregon district of columbiaAccording to a news release, the month of November will see votes in the states of Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia as the push for legalizing the recreational use of pot is under way. These three areas have already approved the use of medical marijuana, so it’s just logical that the next step would be to say yes to recreational marijuana.

They have all signed on to the “Yes to Marijuana Ballot Measures” movement, which supports the legal use of the illicit drug other than for medical use. The three regions may have the same goal, but are attacking the issue through varying approaches:

  • Alaska pot supporters are pushing for a Marijuana Control Board to facilitate the price regulations on the drug.
  • Oregon wants the state’s Liquor Control Commission to take charge in the regulation of selling marijuana.
  • A proposal in D.C. aims to give adult locals the right to cultivate marijuana in their homes.

Should any of these states vote the affirmative, they will be joining Washington and Colorado as the only U.S. states that have legalized cannabis for all uses.

Medical Marijuana Substance Abuse

Bill Clinton Pushes for Marijuana “Laboratories of Democracy”

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billclintonIn yet another controversial remark from one of the most influential people in recent history, former U.S. president Bill Clinton expressed his openness to studying marijuana within the confines of state law.

According to an NBC interview as published at Yahoo! News, Clinton wants the public to be informed about the whole pot debacle. “I think there’s a lot of evidence to argue for the medical marijuana thing,” said Clinton. He futher added that the issue on marijuana legalization should be dealt with at the state level, and not through federal law. “I think we should leave it to the states… If the state wants to try it, they can. And then they’ll be able to see what happens,” Clinton expressed.

His stance is based on the premise of creating “laboratories of democracy, because nobody really knows where [the issue on marijuana] is going.” Clinton wants the public to get clear answers to unresolved queries about pot.” Are there adequate quality controls? There’s pot and there’s pot; what’s in it? What’s going to happen? There are all these questions.”

It may be recalled that in 1992, the former president admitted to experimenting with the controversial substance, but adamantly denied having inhaled it.

Substance Abuse

Marijuana Holiday Celebrated Through Pot Smoking In Public

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People from Denver, Colorado gathered around the Civic Center Park April 20 to celebrate the traditional 4/20 pot holiday, the celebration of which has gone mainstream.

marijuana useThe activity started as a gathering to defy those resisting the legalization of marijuana. Colorado is the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. Although public consumption remains illegal, the organizers went ahead and planned the smoke-out, as reported in Yahoo! News. This year is different because the activists were able to secure an official city permit to do it in public.

According to one of the organizers, Gavin Beldt, the event got a new face. It is not just a pot holiday now, but more of a celebration that signifies the legal status of marijuana use in Colorado.

Event organizers put up booths selling funnel cakes and Greek food, glass pipes and hemp lollipops. Vendors were seen selling rolled dried leaves to puff. It was a liberating protest for the marijuana smokers.

Apart from Denver, other localities in New Jersey, San Francisco, and Washington also conducted marijuana celebrations. They did this in the hope that state and federal lawmakers will decriminalize marijuana to help medical marijuana patients.

A huge chunk of the general public is shouting for the legalization of this medicinal plant the lawmakers call drugs.  “Legalize it, tax it, and move on.”  Activists say alcohol and cigarettes are everywhere, and yet these two are more addictive and dangerous to health than marijuana, and without medical benefits.  Some say it would be nice to have the choice legally.