A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that recreational and medical marijuana legalization does not lead to increased youth consumption. In fact, researchers found that legalization actually leads to lower youth consumption rates.
The study found that in states where recreational marijuana had been legal for two years or more, there was an associated decrease in marijuana use.
According to researchers, “medical marijuana law (MML) adoption was associated with a 6% decrease in the odds of current marijuana use and a 7% decrease in the odds of frequent marijuana use.”
The study further concluded that “estimates of the association between the opening of the first recreational dispensary and marijuana use were qualitatively similar” Meaning, that there’s a clear link between the first marijuana dispensaries opening and a decrease in teen use.
The overall association between legal recreational marijuana and marijuana use among adolescents was “statistically indistinguishable from zero.”
Critics of marijuana legalization often cite concerns about increased youth marijuana use in support of prohibition or more restrictive cannabis laws.
Researchers analyzed data compiled from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey from 1993 to 2017 in ten medical or adult-use states.
The JAMA results are consistent with other studies on youth marijuana use after legalization. Earlier this year, a federal study by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (CNES) found that states that have legalized adult-use marijuana did not see an increase in either youth marijuana use or availability.
A study published in JAMA Pediatrics in 2019 produced the same findings.
“Consistent with the results of previous researchers, there was no evidence that the legalization of medical marijuana encourages marijuana use among youth. Moreover, the estimates reported…that marijuana use among youth may actually decline after legalization for recreational purposes.”
Additionally, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the number of adolescents admitted to drug treatment programs for marijuana-related issues has fallen in states with legal adult-use marijuana.
Researchers could have access to retail cannabis as part of the infrastructure bill passed in the Senate last week.
What does marijuana have to do with infrastructure? Well, nothing, sort of. The provision included in the bill would require the US transportation secretary to develop a public report on the risk of cannabis-impaired driving within two years. As part of creating that report, researchers would have access to high-quality cannabis from state-approved dispensaries.
Scientists studying marijuana have been limited to notoriously poor-quality cannabis from the government-run research facility out of the University of Mississippi. The provision in the infrastructure bill would enable researchers to study the actual marijuana that people are consuming.
Additionally, the public report must include advice to lawmakers on how to set up a “national clearinghouse to collect and distribute samples and strains of marijuana for scientific research that includes marijuana and products containing marijuana lawfully available to patients or consumers in a state on a retail basis.”
In states that haven’t legalized either medical or recreational marijuana, this clearinghouse would ensure scientists’ access to high-quality cannabis from dispensaries in legal states.
If the new marijuana reform rules pass, states with legal medical or recreational marijuana would be required to develop programs to “educate drivers regarding the risks associated with marijuana-impaired driving” and “to reduce injuries and deaths resulting from individuals driving motor vehicles while impaired by marijuana.”
Senator John Hickenlooper (D-CO) sponsored the marijuana reform amendment that was included in the infrastructure bill.
“Colorado led the way on marijuana legalization,” Hickenlooper said in a press release. “The federal government needs to catch up by lifting outdated restrictions on the scientific study of cannabis so we can prevent driving while high.”
The Senate approved the infrastructure bill containing the marijuana reform provision by a 69-30 vote. Next, the bill will go to the House for approval before heading to President Biden’s desk for his signature.
New hemp-derived CBD regulations in Colorado
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has finalized state testing requirements for hemp. The new regulations take effect on October 1 and include all hemp-derived goods intended for human consumption, including hemp-infused CBD products.
“We don’t want to burden the industry,” Jeff Lawrence, CDPHE director of environmental health and sustainability, told Westword. “But what we’ve learned is that there are things in hemp products that we obviously need to be considerate of. Since the inception of hemp, Colorado has been a leader in this industry. This will provide some better guidance.”
Testing will screen for things like pesticides, heavy metals, and residual solvents.
Hemp-infused products like foods, drinks, nutritional supplements, cosmetics, and pet products will be subject to the new testing requirements. Industrial hemp products like textiles, fuel, and building materials, are excluded from the testing requirements. Hemp-derived smokable products, including those with modified cannabinoids like Delta-8 THC, are also excluded from the new regulations.
“Ultimately, this is a public-health issue. In 2018, when, statutorily, these products were allowed, we said it would be treated like every other food and dietary supplement requirement,” Lawrence said.
DEA-approved medical marijuana research facility coming to Denver
A Denver-based marijuana research and cultivation firm received approval from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to begin federally-approved medical marijuana studies.
The research license will allow MedPharm to study all of the molecules known to be made by the cannabis plant—more than 400 so far. The company will also be studying the interaction between phytocannabinoids and different brain cells.
“Access to the diversity of chemicals produced by cannabis has never been greater, and we are excited to unlock the medical potential of these compounds,” said Dr. Tyrell Towle, MedPharm’s director of chemistry and research.
Although MedPharm is licensed to grow medical marijuana for research purposes at the city and state levels, they’re still waiting on the DEA to approve federal licensing. That means that the company won’t be using its own marijuana for research. Currently, the University of Mississippi is the only federally licensed medical marijuana research supplier.
Colorado Cannabis Business Office focuses on social equity
Governor Jared Polis announced the creation of a new office aimed at supporting cannabis businesses and promoting social equity.
The Cannabis Business Office (CBO) was created as part of a bill passed earlier this year. $4 million was set aside for the program for the 2022-’23 fiscal year from the state Marijuana Tax Cash Fund.
According to the CBO, the office will:
- Provide loans to social equity licensees for seed capital and ongoing business expenses;
- Offer grants to social equity licensees to support innovation and job creation and organizations that support marijuana businesses to be used to support innovation and job creation of social equity licensees; and
- Support cannabis business owners with technical assistance, prioritizing social equity licensees who have been awarded a loan or grant through the program.
“This office will offer tools like technical help and improve access to money for businesses. Where the federal government has fallen behind, Colorado will lead. Colorado is, and always has been, the best place to live, work, grow and sell cannabis,” Polis said in a press release.
Researchers Study Whether Cows Fed Hemp Will Get Meat Eaters and Milk Drinkers High
Will feeding hemp to cattle pass along a high to humans? That’s what researchers at Kansas State University hope to discover after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded them a $200,000 grant.
Although the federal government legalized hemp under the 2018 Farm Bill, it’s prohibited for use as animal feed, and no one really knows what effect cannabinoids have on cattle. Plus, using hemp as livestock feed could potentially result in concentrations of THC in meat and milk.
“Our goal is to fill in the knowledge gaps,” said Michael Kleinhenz, one of the researchers at Kansas State University. “Until feedstuffs containing hemp are established as safe in animals, our data will assist producers in managing situations involving intentional or unintentional hemp exposures.”
Fewer Vaping Illnesses Reported in Legal Marijuana States
According to a study conducted by the Yale School of Public Health, higher rates of e-cigarette and marijuana vaping did not result in more vaping-related lung injuries (known as EVALI) in states with legalized marijuana.
“Indeed, the five earliest states to legalize recreational marijuana—Alaska, California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington—all had less than one EVALI case per 100,000 residents aged 12 to 64. None of the highest EVALI-prevalence states—Utah, North Dakota, Minnesota, Delaware and Indiana—allowed recreational marijuana use,” according to Yale researchers.
So what accounts for the difference? It turns out that the use of Vitamin E acetate, a vaping additive used to dilute marijuana oils in mostly black-market vaping products, is responsible for the rise in EVALI cases. People in states where marijuana is still prohibited are more likely to seek out black-market products.
Yale researchers used data collected by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) related to EVALI hospitalization and deaths nationwide.
Another Month, Another Colorado Marijuana Sales Record
Marijuana sales in Colorado have been breaking records nearly every month, despite (or maybe because of) the COVID-19 pandemic. July was no exception: Recreational marijuana dispensary sales amounted to $183,106,003, while medical marijuana sales amounted to $43,268,565. Combined, that’s $226,374,568 worth of weed, up 13.8% from June.
So far, Colorado dispensaries have sold more than $1.2 billion worth of marijuana edibles, concentrate, and flower in 2020, amounting to $203 million in taxes for the state.
If cannabis sales continue to break records, 2020 could surpass 2019’s record of $1.75 billion in annual sales.
Higher Education: Colorado State University-Pueblo offers cannabis major
Starting this fall, CSU-Pueblo will offer a bachelor of science in cannabis biology and chemistry.
The degree program will offer students two tracks–a natural products track focused on biology or an analytical track that focuses on chemistry. Students will have to complete general biology and chemistry courses in addition to nine proposed cannabis courses to complete their degree.
This is Colorado’s first cannabis degree program, and one of the first cannabis degree programs in the country. Northern Michigan University and Minot State University in North Dakota offer bachelor programs in medicinal plant chemistry.
“We have been working on this particular degree program for over a year now, and the chemistry department and the biology department have put together a program that really emphasizes the science of cannabis,” said David Lehmpuhl, dean of the College of Science and Mathematics at CSU-Pueblo.
The Colorado Commission on Higher Education approved the program earlier this month. According to Lehmpuhl, there are plans to create more cannabis-related degree programs at universities in the state.
“We anticipate this is the first of several cannabis-related degrees and certifications that will be developed by Colorado institutions of higher education in the near-term,” Lehmpuhl said.
“It’s a challenge in a way because cannabis has both positive and negative connotations. We want to make sure that we are viewed as being not pro or anti-cannabis, but just looking at the science behind it,” Lehmpuhl said.
“To those of us who are scientists, this is really exciting.”
Kentucky gives medical marijuana another try
A bill to legalize medical marijuana passed in Kentucky’s House Judiciary Committee for the second year in a row. House Bill 136 would legalize medical marijuana and allow doctors to prescribe it. Qualifying medical conditions have not yet been spelled out but would be determined by a panel of eight doctors, four public advocates, and a pharmacist.
The bill passed in the House committee last year, but failed to receive a full floor vote. The bill is expected to pass in the House but faces an uphill battle in the Senate.
Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) said that he hadn’t seen sufficient research into medical marijuana, but there’s a “narrow path” to passing the bill in the Senate.
“It’s a balancing test of do the goods outweigh the bads,” Stivers said. “And we just haven’t had anything done on that.”
Advocates of the bill say that medical marijuana is a better alternative to addictive opioids.
“If House Bill 136, medical cannabis, were to pass in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, I would not be a criminal,” said Eric Crawford, who spoke before lawmakers. “I would not have to live in fear. I would not have to lay awake at night worrying about law enforcement coming to my home. I would not have to stress about going to jail, or losing my home, work or freedom.” Crawford has been in a wheelchair since being involved in a car accident in 1994.
If the bill were to pass in both the state House and Senate, it would create one of the more restrictive medical marijuana laws in the country. Smoking marijuana would be illegal, although flower would be available for other uses. Colorful packaging and gummies would be prohibited. Even THC may be a no-go under the bill, something that would be decided on at a later date by the Kentucky Cabinet of Health and Family Services.
90 percent of Kentuckians support legalizing medical marijuana, according to a recent poll by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. That’s up from 78 percent support in 2012.
States with medical marijuana have fewer workers’ compensation claims
A new study found that in states with legal medical marijuana, there was a 6.7 percent decline in workers’ compensation claims. Medical marijuana “can allow workers to better manage symptoms associated with workplace injuries and illnesses and, in turn, reduce need for workers’ compensation,” according to the study.
Researchers from the University of Cincinnati Ash Blue College and Temple University analyzed data from the Census Bureau’s Annual Social and Economic Supplement to the Current Population Survey. The data spanned from 1990-2013 and included survey interviews from 150,000 U.S. residents 15 and older.
“We think there is a lot of overlap between conditions for which medical marijuana can be used in managing symptoms and the types of illnesses that lead people to file workers’ compensation claims,” said study co-author, Catherine Maclean, an associate professor in the economics department at Temple University.
When workers did file claims, they were for shorter periods of time, on average, after medical cannabis was legalized.
“Our findings add to the small, but growing, literature on the effects of MMLs (medical marijuana laws) on labor market outcomes. On net, the available findings suggest that MML passage may increase work capacity among older adults, reduce work absences, improve workplace safety, and reduce WC (workers’ compensation) claiming and the pain and suffering associated with workplace injuries.”
Hold on to your CBD-infused lattes, because cannabis is going to space.
Front Range Biosciences, an agricultural technology company, has partnered with the University of Colorado, Boulder to send 480 hemp and coffee plant cultures to the International Space Station (ISS).
“This is one of the first times anyone is researching the effects of microgravity and spaceflight on hemp and coffee cell cultures,” said Dr. Jonathan Vaught, Co-Founder and CEO of Front Range Biosciences in a press release. “There is science to support the theory that plants in space experience mutations. This is an opportunity to see whether those mutations hold up once brought back to earth and if there are new commercial applications.”
The goal of the experiments is to see if zero gravity and radiation will mutate or genetically alter the coffee and hemp plants. Scientists will be able to see how the plants react to the stress of space travel. The research could help scientists develop plants that can endure drought and cold. On Earth, that could mean developing more resilient crops that can be grown in environments that don’t normally support hemp growth.
“We envision this to be the first of many experiments together,” said Louis Stodieck, Chief Scientist of BioServe Space Technologies at the University of Colorado, Boulder. “In the future, we plan for the crew to harvest and preserve the plants at different points in their grow-cycle so we can analyze which metabolic pathways are turned on and turned off. This is a fascinating area of study that has considerable potential.”
The hemp and coffee cultures will travel to the ISS aboard SpaceX CRS-20 in March 2020. The incubated cells will spend a month is space before returning to Earth to be analyzed by Front Range Biosciences.
“In the future, we plan for the crew to harvest and preserve the plants at different points in their grow-cycle, so we can analyze which metabolic pathways are turned on and turned off,” Louis Stodieck, director of BioServe Space Technologies at the University of Colorado, Boulder, said in a statement. “This is a fascinating area of study that has considerable potential.”
The passage of the 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp as a Schedule I substance, legalized the production of hemp, and removed barriers to federal research. Hemp is a type of cannabis plant that contains less than 0.3 percent THC and has a variety of uses, including in textiles, bioplastics and biofuel, food, and insulation.
Hemp also contains high concentrations of CBD and other non-intoxicating cannabinoids.
While scientific research on hemp in space is in its early stages, it’s not the first time cannabis has left Earth. Earlier this year, Space Tango sent hemp seeds to the ISS for a series of experiments. The hemp seeds were sent back to Earth and planted for another series of experiments. The results have not yet been published.
After years of delay, researchers may soon have access to potent, high-quality cannabis for research and testing. A lawsuit brought by cannabis researcher Dr. Sue Sisley has forced the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to move forward with processing applications to cultivate marijuana for scientific research.
More than 30 organizations have filed applications to grow cannabis for research purposes since August 2016. Sisley filed one of those applications three years ago, but since then it’s been lost in bureaucratic limbo. None of the applications submitted to the DEA have even been processed, much less approved.
Under the Controlled Substances Act, the U.S. Attorney General is required to publish a notice of application within 90 days of receiving an application and the associated fee. In Sisley’s lawsuit, her attorneys argue that the DEA is violating the law by holding up the process.
“We are also suing the Attorney General, not just the DEA because my gut tells me that the DEA is not responsible for impeding this,” said Sisley, who leads the Scottsdale Research Institute in Arizona.
Cannabis research has been difficult, if not impossible, for researchers who want to study marijuana’s effects in controlled experiments and clinical trials.
“On the one hand, you can’t do the research with good, high-quality cannabis because it’s a Schedule 1 drug. On the other, it’s a Schedule 1 because nobody can really do the research,” said Matt Zorn, who represents the Scottsdale Research Institute in the lawsuit.
Since 1968, the only way researchers have been able to gain access to cannabis was through the University of Mississippi, which is notoriously bad. It’s moldy, full of seeds and stems, and less potent than cannabis available through the medical or recreational markets.
“Scientists need access to options and we are handcuffed by a government-enforced monopoly that has only allowed me to study this really suboptimal study drug from Mississippi,” said Sisley. “The scientific community is concerned this is harming our data — our outcomes.”
The news that the DEA will begin processing applications for clinical-grade cannabis is welcome news, but many in the cannabis community are skeptical that the DEA will follow through.
“We’re cautiously optimistic, and this is a positive first step,” said Zorn. “But it took Dr. Sisley three years and a lawsuit just to get to this point, so I wouldn’t say the case is closed.”
Even if the DEA picks up the pace on approving research-grade cannabis grows, it will likely be several years before researchers have access to it.
“We haven’t really won anything until scientists are finally utilizing real-world cannabis flower in their clinical trials,” Sisley said.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced Monday that eight universities in the state have been licensed to begin studying medical marijuana. Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program is just three months old, with the first dispensaries opening their doors to patients in February.
In a press conference announcing the colleges awarded the research permits, Gov. Wolf said, “Today, medical research is so limited by the federal government that only a few doctors can even have access to medical marijuana. Pennsylvania’s premiere medical schools will be able to help shape the future of treatment for patients who are in desperate need not just here, but across the country.”
The universities awarded research permits include the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, the Drexel University College of Medicine, Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, Penn State College of Medicine, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University.
Research of cannabis has been limited, mostly because the plant is still illegal under federal law, and the research that has been approved by government agencies so far uses notoriously poor quality cannabis from the University of Mississippi. However, the universities involved in the research program in Pennsylvania will use cannabis from the state’s licensed medical marijuana producers.
“It is important to note that Pennsylvania is the first and only state in the country to institute such a program, and we believe that the research that will be conducted by the School of Medicine in collaboration with [University of Pennsylvania Medical Center] will be of great importance in determining the safety, efficacy and effectiveness of medical cannabis products in treating specific diseases,” Pitt School of Medicine officials said in a statement Monday.
The eight available clinical registrant permits for growers/producers of medical marijuana have not yet been granted. Applications will be available through the Pennsylvania Health Department as of May 24 and must be filed no later than July 12.
There’s loads of anecdotal evidence that cannabis is effective in treating PTSD in veterans, but the Department of Veterans Affairs is not having any of it. Physicians in the VA are still prohibited from recommending cannabis to their patients, leaving veterans struggling with symptoms and addictive medications.
However, there is hope for veterans struggling to access medical marijuana. The first FDA-approved study on the effects of cannabis in treating veterans’ PTSD is nearly complete, and we could be one step closer to federally legalizing cannabis as a treatment.
The study, now in its third year, is being conducted by Dr. Sue Sisley and is funded by a $2.15 million grant from the University of Colorado. Sisley fought for seven years to get approval from federal officials to study the effects of marijuana, and while she may be well known as a marijuana advocate these days, she wasn’t always a fan.
“I was dismissive and judgmental, then I started losing a lot of vets in my practice to suicide, and it became a big wake-up call. The veteran community has a higher rate of prescription drug overdose, and many vets discovered they can substitute cannabis for the more addictive medications they’ve been prescribed, which is how we started to examine this,” Sisley told Healio.
The phase 2 study aims to provide more than anecdotal evidence through a controlled clinical trial. The study is triple-blind, randomized, and placebo-controlled. After a familiarization stage, veterans are given cannabis to take home and self administer. Subjects are randomly assigned to receive either high THC, high CBD, an equal THC/CBD mix, or placebo and asked to administer the medication at their own discretion for three weeks, followed by two weeks with no cannabis. Researchers monitor PTSD symptoms throughout the process.
In addition to PTSD, Sisley and her colleagues are also assessing biomarkers for inflammation and anti-inflammatory effect of cannabis.
Sisley said that only 19 additional veterans are needed to complete the dataset, and she hopes that the FDA will approve a phase-3 trial.
While that’s all good news, there is a potential hiccup in the research, and it has to do with the notoriously low-quality weed supplied by the government. The flower used in the study is grown at the University of Mississippi, and in addition to being full of stems and seeds, some samples also contain mold and lead.
“If half is extraneous nonmedical plant material, it could be sabotaging efficacy studies, meaning that if you’re trying to measure effectiveness of cannabis and you’re forced to use a very sub-optimal plant material, this could harm the outcome of tests looking at how effective cannabis is at treating a certain illness,” Sisley said to Healio.
Cannabis is credited with a whole host of therapeutic benefits and is effective at treating numerous medical conditions. But, it’s still early days when it comes to testing and researching marijuana, making the benefits of cannabis anecdotal evidence.
Scientists around the country are researching cannabis, hoping to expand our knowledge of the plant. Last month, two Colorado companies announced that they had mapped the cannabis genome. Sunrise Genetics, based in Fort Collins and Boulder-based CBDRx/Functional Remedies teamed up to map cannabis’ 10 chromosomes. Functional Remedies provided cannabis plants for Sunrise Genetics to study.
Understanding the genetic makeup of cannabis will make targeting specific desired effects, like making a consumer feel focused or relaxed, as well as treating specific symptoms, like muscle spasms or insomnia. Much of the current research around cannabis is focused on its medical uses, but there’s also increased focus on the uses of industrial hemp.
CJ Schwartz, chief executive officer of Sunrise Genetics, told Bloomberg, “DNA, of course I’m biased because it’s what I do, but it doesn’t lie. It really is a way to just sort of clear a lot of the b.s. The excessive claims are really doing a disservice to the plant or the potential of the plant and the science surrounding that.”
Matt Gibbs, president of Sunrise Genetics, told Biz West, “In this emerging industry, we all play a role in its success, and finding innovative and forward-thinking partners right here in Colorado has made the benefits of a joint effort to advance the science that benefits the hemp industry that much greater. Together, we look forward to continued expansion upon the map, expansion upon research opportunities,” he said, “and continuing to make better hemp and cannabis genetics.”
The full cannabis genome was presented at the Plant and Animal Genome Conference in San Diego in January.