- Happy (Medicated) Thanksgiving Massachusetts! November 26, 2014
- Smoking Weed Makes You Drink Less November 26, 2014
- Increased Brain Connections Found in Marijuana Users November 23, 2014
Marijuana News in MA and World
A recent Australian study found stimulant use is associated with excessive drinking, while cannabis use is not. While not a surprise for anyone that knows anything about partying, this study creates an important foothold for legalization efforts, which need to prove that legal recreational marijuana won’t negatively impact public health. What’s more, legal weed has the power to reduce the damage done by an existing public health problem: alcohol.
The online study took 1,994 Australians ages 18-30 that had drunk alcohol in the past year, and divided them into three groups: past-year ecstasy use, past-year cannabis use (but not ecstasy), and an alcohol-only group. They then asked if the participants drank five or more drinks (the definition of binge drinking) last Saturday night, and whether or not they took either a stimulant (ecstasy, cocaine, speed, or meth) or cannabis the same night.
They found that poly drug users of ecstasy and stimulants drank more than those who took ecstasy. Those who took ecstasy and smoked pot drank less, while marijuana-only users drank even less. The group that was least likely to binge drink was the alcohol-only group, curiously enough.
This proves the association between stimulants and binge drinking, but falls short on proving marijuana makes drinkers drink less. It shouldn’t be hard to design a study that focuses on exactly that, without a complicated pooling of poly drug users. A look into the binge drinking on a college campus should do the trick. Researchers will likely find that drinkers, who get high before or during their night partying, drink less compared to their peers in the same crowd.
The liquor and beer industries don’t need these studies to know that legal weed will hurt their sales; it’s just as obvious to them as it is to us. It’s the legislators that still think marijuana is dangerous that need to be shown that not only is it mostly harmless, it reduces the damage done by a legally existing public health issue.
If you were to peek inside the brain of someone who regularly smoked marijuana, you would find that it didn’t look quite like the brain of someone who didn’t smoke.
First, you might notice that a critical part of the brain that helps us process emotions and make decisions appeared smaller than in the brains of the nonsmoker.
But you would see something else, too: that the connections passing through that region of the brain were stronger and thicker.
Thankfully, you don’t have to go excavating brains anytime soon. A group of researchers has done the hard work for you. In a recent study, scientists used a combination of MRI-based brain scans to get one of the first comprehensive, three-dimensional pictures of the brains of adults who have smoked weed at least four times a week, often multiple times a day, for years.
Compared with people who don’t use, long-term, heavy marijuana smokers tend to have a smaller orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), a brain region critical for processing emotions and making decisions. But they also have more cross-brain connections that scientists think smokers may develop as a means of compensating for the difference in size.
Unlike previous research, which has looked mainly at short-term smokers or simply at young or older users, this study is one of the first to look at pot’s long-term effects on men and women between 20 and 40 years old who had smoked almost daily for between two and 30 years. The researchers looked at the brains of 110 people — 62 who didn’t smoke and 48 who did — using three different types of MRI scans.
In the smokers, these increased brain connections appeared to help them counteract the behavioral problems commonly associated with weed use, like trouble maintaining relationships or staying motivated enough to find or keep a job.
But while new connections blossom throughout the brain during the first few years of regular use, they eventually recede. Researchers saw a significant drop-off in new brain links after about six years of regular use.
So does smoking weed every day for a decade shrink your brain and make you dumber? Not quite.
The regular smokers did have lower IQ scores overall when compared to the people who didn’t smoke, but there’s no way to know yet whether or how that might be linked to smaller orbitofrontal cortices or marijuana use in general.
“We cannot honestly say that that is what’s happening here,” says Francesca Filbey, the lead study author and professor of neuropsychology at the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas at Dallas.
For starters, this study — the first ever to look at the long-term effects of weed smoking in heavy adult users across a wide age range — did not show that pot smoking caused certain regions of the brain to shrink. In fact, other studies suggest that having smaller orbitofrontal cortices in the first place could make someone more likely to start smoking. One recent study, for example, found that children as young as 12 who had smaller orbitofrontal cortices were significantly more likely to start smoking weed by the time they hit their 16th birthday.
In other words, it could be that people with naturally smaller versions of this region may simply be more likely to smoke, and the weed might not be shrinking that section of the brain at all. There is also no clear evidence linking the brain differences the researchers found with any particular behaviors.
In addition, all three things the researchers studied — drug-use habits, brain development, and IQ scores — are shaped by a variety of factors. Both the environment we grow up in and the specific combination of genes we inherit from our parents affect behavior and intelligence.
The age when someone starts smoking pot can also be a key clue to how the brain will be different from a non-user’s brain and how often someone smokes thereafter. Picking up the habit while young seems to be especially influential.
“The earlier the use — especially during adolescence, when the brain is developing — the greater the effects,” Filbey says. Of her study participants, those who started using the earliest had the most pronounced differences in brain development in terms of the size of the orbitofrontal cortex and the connections between parts of that region of the brain.
Other studies in people have shown similar links between weed and smaller prefrontal cortex regions, but only research in animals has suggested that marijuana may kill brain cells or reduce their size.
Scientists still don’t know whether giving up weed can reverse its changes to the brain (if the noted differences are indeed caused by pot in the first place — still an open question) or whether the alterations are also present in recreational or short-term users. But as legal marijuana becomes a reality in the US, researchers are scrambling to find out.
Following the passage of cannabis legalization measures in Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia on election day, the chief of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on Nov. 12 issued his requisite scolding.
UNODC executive director Yury Fedotov told reporters, “I don’t see how [the new] can be compatible with existing conventions.” He added that he plans to address the issue with the US State Department and other UN agencies. He admitted that the legalization measures are part of a global trend that the UNODC is monitoring.
The UN drug control apparatus has similarly lectured Colorado and Washington states over their legalization initiatives that passed in 2012, as well as Uruguay after its legalizationwas approved in 2013. The UN drug control treaties are under pressure not only from cannabis legalization measures in the US and South America, but also from Bolivia, where President Evo Morales is pressing the right to grow and chew coca leaf for traditional and medicinal purposes. Activists increasingly accuse the UN of “meddling” in domestic and local policies.
Marijuana reform was wildly successful in the 2014 midterm election, with voters in Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia marching to the polls to legalize recreational marijuana. Although the neware not scheduled to take effect until sometime next year, we at HIGH TIMES felt the stoner community should be made aware of some of the changes to come as a result of snuffing out prohibition in those areas. Here are 10 of our favorite:
First and Foremost, Get Stoned in the Privacy of Your Own Home Without Constantly Looking Out a Window to See If the Cops Are Watching
Some claim that marijuana causes paranoia, while others argue it is actually the fear of prosecution that puts people on edge. Well, for residents of Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia, who just voted to legalize recreational marijuana, there should be fewer semi-psychotic episodes taking place behind their living room windows.
Grow Weed on Private Property Without Worrying That the Smell Will Lure the Cops to Your Front Door
As soon as the laws go into effect, resident in Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia will be allowed to cultivate their own personal marijuana crop. In Oregon, residents will be allowed to grow up to four plants, while the in the nation’s capital will permit the cultivation of as many as six plants.
Purchase Weed From a Legal Pot Shop Instead of Waiting for Your Dealer to Call You Back
With the exception of the District of Columbia, which will not include a retail pot market when the law goes into effect, pot connoisseurs and die-hard stoners will soon be able to purchase weed similar to how beer and liquor is sold now. That means no more waiting around for hours – sometimes days – for your dealer to come through. Simply walk down to the local pot shop, hand some cash to a clerk, and it’s party time. The struggle is real, but the hassle is over.
Tell a Cop That You’re Holding Weed and There Isn’t a Damn Thing He Can Do About It
Soon, people in Alaska, Oregon, and the District of Columbia will be allowed to roam freely in the streets with a designated amount of marijuana. Although none of the newly approved laws allow for public pot consumption, you can still mess with the police from time to time by informing officers that you are holding weed, and then reminding them there is nothing they can do about it.
Give the Gift of Weed to Family and Friends During the Holidays Instead of That Lame Shit You Handed Out Last Year
Although the District of Columbia will not allow retail cannabis sales, like Alaska and Oregon, the passing of Initiative 71 will allow adults to give away up to an ounce of marijuana. This means for all of the important celebrations and holidays where a person is socially required to bring a gift, you can now show up with a small stash of weed in the same manner others have done for years with a bottle of wine.
Conserve Your Liver Function By Switching to Marijuana Instead of Drinking Booze
We cannot tell you how many times we’ve heard the excuse, “I’d smoke weed instead of drinking if it was legal.” Well, now all our yellow-eyed booze hound buds residing in Alaska, Oregon and the District Columbia can drop the bottle and pick up a bong, since the pot prohibition philosophies in those areas have since been eliminated.
Post Photos of Your Beautiful Buds to Social Media Sites Without a SWAT Team Kicking Down Your Front Door
It might seem miniscule, but soon residents in Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia will have the legal right to post pot porn to their social media sites without riling the local police force and spawning a heavily armed raid. For people living in prohibition states, simply posting a pot pic on Instagram is enough probable cause for police to obtain a search warrant and come in with all guns blazing. Yet, in legal states, they cannot do shit.
Take a Road Trip With a Stash of Weed Without Fearing a Highway Shakedown (Kind of)
As long as they are not driving high, crossing state lines, and not carrying more pot than what is legally permitted, soon there will be no reason folks in Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia can’t hop in the car with a fat stash of weed and take a road trip. Not that stoners haven’t been traveling with pot since the dawn of prohibition, but now that recreational marijuana is legal there should be no excuse for cops to pull over law biding motorists and shake them down along the highway in search for marijuana. There is still the possibility police will attempt to pin you with a DUI.
Tell Your Boss to Kiss Your Ass and Open a Legal Marijuana Business
Alaska and Oregon will soon experience the rise of a retail marijuana market, which will undoubtedly provide opportunities for people to start cannabis-related . In addition to retail pot shops, canna-commerce in the form of advertising firms, bakeries, cooking workshops, etc. will all become part of a vital marketplace once the laws goes into effect.
Start Looking for a Job That Does Not Do Random Drug Testing
Although recreational marijuana is now legal, workers can still be fired as a result of testing positive for marijuana. Unfortunately, this will likely be the scenario until the federal government decides to repeal prohibition. In the meantime, we suggest seeking out gainful employment with a company that does not force their employees to submit to drug tests. Otherwise, you will always be at risk of being tossed into the unemployment line.
On the heels of speculation swirling Sunday that New York would end the prosecution and arrest of individuals for low-level marijuana possession, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton announced that possession of 25g or less of cannabis would no longer be an arrestable offense. The change to the city’s policy will be issued Tuesday and will come into effect on November 19th — so be cool for a few days people!
As the New York Times reported, the NYPD has been arresting tens of thousands of people each year for low-level marijuana possession. Now, instead of getting thrown in the slammer, you will reportedly be issued a summons and get a ticket for $100. (Though beware, individuals caught “smoking or burning” pot are still subject to immediate arrest under the new policy.)
City officials said they are interested in shifting the time and energy spent currently on low-level marijuana offenses to more serious crimes. This surely has to be the biggest accomplishment of the de Blasio administration to date and falls in line with the efforts of Brooklyn DA Kenneth Thompson who declared in July that he had no intention of prosecuting such marijuana “crimes.”
“This should free up police manpower to pursue cases of greater magnitude while relieving some of the congestion in the courts,” Richmond County District Attorney Daniel Donovan explained.
A clearer picture of the specifics will emerge this week as Mayor de Blasio takes his first meeting with all 5 district attorneys since taking office.
“Let’s be real about this,” Police Commissioner Bratton began before he laid out the change in policy for the media — and surprisingly, for once, he was legitimately, somewhat keeping it real in respect to marijuana.
This historic shift represents a step closer to wider legalization in the state of New York. Stay tuned for more information as it develops.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has given three companies provisional approval to open four medicalin the state.
Patriot Care Corp., which already has a Lowellin the works, was approved for at 21 Milk Street in Boston and 7 Legion Avenue in Greenfield. Coastal Compassion, Inc.’s proposed facility at 2 Pequod Road in Fairhaven and Mass Medicum Corp.’s on Revolutionary Drive in Taunton were also approved to enter the inspection and permitting phase.
The four dispensaries are proposed in counties that did not previously have any provisionally approved medical marijuana dispensaries.
Eleven other dispensaries that have already been provisionally approved are currently going through the permitting and inspection process. No dispensaries have received final registration certificates yet.
“We’re really in a fabulous spot,” in terms of the progress DPH is making, medical marijuana program director Karen van Unen said. She added that the first dispensaries are expected to open in late winter.
But the program is considerably behind timetables set under the stateapproved by Massachusetts voters in November 2012. DPH has come under fire from advocates who say the state isn’t doing enough to ensure patient access to medical marijuana.
As WBUR’s Lynn Jolicoeur reported earlier this year, the DPH has faced widespread criticism for not thoroughly vetting applicants before provisionally approving 20 dispensaries in January.
There are still no planned medical marijuana dispensaries for four counties — Dukes, Nantucket, Berkshire and Hampden. By law, each county is required to have at least one but no more than five dispensaries. There’s also a large swath of the state including Worcester and the surrounding area that has no planned dispensary.
Van Unen acknowledged she’s concerned about the slower-than-expected rollout of the medical marijuana program.
“It’s just as important to us as it is to patients to make sure that access is there, but we also felt very strongly that we need to do this diligently and do it right,” van Unen told WBUR. “We’re able to now start focusing on how we’re going to move forward to ensure that we meet the voters’ will and ensure that we have at least one dispensary in every county, as well as serving the under-served areas.”
DPH recently unveiled its physician and patient medical marijuana registration program and plans to report its first data in February, which van Unen says will allow the agency to better pinpoint areas that need dispensaries.
The state plans to open a new round of dispensary applications sometime next year.
Marijuana won big last night!
Oregon became the third state in the Union to legalize recreational marijuana on Tuesday, while Washington, DC residents will soon be allowed to grow and possess pot without fear of legal repercussions. As if that wasn’t enough, Alaskan voters approved Measure 2 early this morning, which legalizes the possession, use and sale of recreational marijuana in the state.
It’s 3am in Portland, Oregon, where the lingering excitement of becoming the third state to legalize marijuana is still in the cold, wet November air. It’s clear that the biggest momentum in the midterms isn’t the Republican takeover of the US Senate, but the embrace of marijuana law reform by the American people.
Legalization goes 3-for-3: Washington DC’s Initiative 71 to legalize the personal possession and cultivation of marijuana crushed all expectations, garnering 69.4 percent of the vote. Oregon’s Measure 91 passed with 54.2 percent of the vote, making the Pacific Northwest the first legal region of the country and the first shared legalization border in the world. Alaska’s Question 2 also passed with 52.1 percent of the vote and like Oregon, will legalize the personal possession and cultivation of marijuana as well as marijuana markets, taxed at $35/ounce in Oregon and $50/ounce in Alaska.
Medical marijuana gets two clear majorities, but only one win: Our day started out with the good news that the island territory of Guam, where the sun first rises on the United States, passed its medical marijuana Proposal 14A with 56.4 percent of the vote. Florida overwhelmingly voted for its medical marijuana Amendment 2. But Florida’s constitutional threshold of 60 percent was just too high a hurdle for a Southern state to clear, falling just short at 57.6 percent.
California reduces felonies, but really wants to tax medical marijuana: Proposition 47 in California defelonized many low-level crimes, such as possession of personal amounts of any drug. The proposition passed with 58.2 percent of the vote. At the city and county level, however, voters were voting to tax medical marijuana, and keep or enactbans and medical grow restrictions. Voters in Blythe rejected a tax, in Santa Ana they prohibited dispensary bans, and in Shasta County they repealed medical grow restrictions; otherwise, every other measure on the ballot did not go reformer’s way.
Colorado legalized, but now cities want to ban pot shops: Colorado localities fared no better than California. The towns of Red Cliff and Manitou Springs rejected bans on pot shops; all other cities voting on bans accepted them, including the Denver suburb of Lakewood. The towns of Ramah and Hot Sulphur Springs rejected pot taxes; all other cities voting on taxes approved them. Vexingly, the towns of Palisade and Paonia voted to both ban pot shops and tax them.
Michigan’s unbeaten streak ends. Cities in Michigan had gone 16-0 up until this election in passing charter amendments to decriminalize personal amounts of marijuana. Last night, Clare, Frankfort, Harrison, Lapeer, and Onaway became the first to reject such an amendment, with Lapeer’s rejection decided by six votes. Those cities all had less than 2,000 total votes, while the six larger cities of Berkley, Huntington Woods, Mt. Pleasant, Pleasant Ridge, Port Huron, and Saginaw all supporting decrim.
perfect on decrim; Maine splits legalization: The two largest counties in New Mexico voted overwhelmingly to decriminalize marijuana, with Bernalillo (Albuquerque) voting 59.5 percent and Sante Fe voting a whopping 73.1 percent in favor. In Maine, South Portland joined neighboring Portland’s legalization vote from a year ago, approving legalization of 2.5 ounces by a 52.4 percent vote, but smaller Lewiston rejected legalization with only 45.1 percent support.
Massachusetts sweeps fourteen pro-legalization policy questions: Eight districts in Massachusetts voted on non-binding Public Policy Questions that asked whether their state rep should vote to support tax and regulate policies for marijuana like alcohol. The results ranged from a low of 69 percent to a high of 74 percent. Six Massachusetts House districts went further by polling support for tax and regulate policies for marijuana like common fruits, vegetables, and herbs! Support ranged from a low of 54 percent to a high of 63 percent. That’s a perfect 14-0 in a midterm election where many of those voters were asked to treat marijuana like tomatoes.
Despite a loss in Florida for medical marijuana, the victories are a cause for celebration!
The city of Las Vegas, Nevada has announced the initial number of medical that will be opening. After almost an entire day of hashing out the details, the City Council looked at applications of 50 different hopefuls and cut it down to 26.
This doesn’t mean that all 26will actually open. That remains to be decided by Nevada’s health department. The applicants that have been or will be denied will be permitted to reapply for licenses next year. Dispensaries were denied for everything ranging from missing paperwork to questions regarding security.
The City Council debated for nearly an hour before approving the first dispensary due to opposition from some of the city’s residents. The neighbors’ apprehension was overtaken by councilmen from the west side of town who granted approval to Las Vegas’s first medical marijuana shop.
One dispensary owner based out of California wasn’t so lucky. Nuleaf, which is owned and operated out of Las Vegas, had its application denied. Nuleaf spokesman, Bradley Mayer, said in reference to his company, that they are, “one of the longest-running dispensary operators in the country” and feel that they should have been approved.
Unfortunately for Nuleaf and many other hopefuls, they will just have to wait and try again next year.
A timeline for final approvals on dispensaries has yet to be released.
A global trial is underway in Houston, Texas at the Texas Children’s Hospital that will test Epidiolex, and CBD-based medicine, in children who have been diagnosed with a severe form of epilepsy known as Dravet Syndrome. The trial will be divided into two parts, the first will decide the dosage, and the second will decide whether or not the drug is efficient and safe to administer to children.
Epidiolex was created by England’s GW Pharmaceuticals and it is primarily composed of a highly concentrated form of CBD which exists only in marijuana plants. The drug contains zero THC, so there is no risk of the 30 test subjects catching an accidental “high.”
Dr. Angus Wilfong, a pediatric neurologist at Texas Children’s Hospital, was the first one to administer Epidiolex to patients and he is very optimistic. Wilfong has said that, “Initial trials of Epidiolex have shown promising signs of efficacy in children with treatment-resistant epilepsy and we are excited to be involved in research that will further determine if patients with Dravet syndrome will experience a reduction in their seizures. There are several extracts available from the cannabis plant that patients are trying, but with this trial, we are especially encouraged that Epidiolex does not contain any hallucinogenic or psychoactive components.”
Dravet syndrome is a terrible and debilitating disease that makes it nearly impossible for children to live an even remotely normal life. Dr. Gary Clark, the head of neurology at Texas Children’s hospital says, “We are hopeful that in the next year, the results of this trial will show this drug has a positive impact on enrolled patients and also that it will have implications for patients with other forms of intractable epilepsy.”
The introduction of a marijuana-based drug such as Epidiolex could change the future for anyone suffering from seizures.
A Pennsylvania senator has requested that the District Attorney not prosecute any offenders arrested for using medical marijuana.
Democratic Senator, Daylin Leach, wrote in a letter to the District Attorneys Association president: “Given the likelihood that using lifesaving medical cannabis will not be a legal issue in Pennsylvania much longer, I ask that you consider using your prosecutorial discretion.”
A bill was sent to the senate just last month entitled “The Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act” that would have outlined the way that Pennsylvania would have governed the medical marijuana market in its state had it passed. Although there was a lot of support behind it, the bill still managed to fall short of making it to the House of Representatives.
Recent polls have shown that 80% of voters in Pennsylvania support legalizing medical marijuana. With statistics like this, it would be a surprise to everyone if the District Attorney’s office still chooses to prosecute minor marijuana-related charges.
Leach ended the letter by saying, “I ask that you perform an act of compassion.” In situations where a state is inevitably going to pass some sort of medical marijuana reform, or it has already been passed, but yet to take effect, it seems like the only right thing to do would be for law enforcement officers and the courts to use their best judgment and not punish someone for trying to improve their quality of life my using small quantities of marijuana for personal use.