Marijuana Legalization = Less Pain Killer Deaths

America has a major problem with prescription pain medications like Vicodin and OxyContin. Overdose deaths from these pharmaceutical opioids have approximately tripled since 1991, and every day 46 people die of such overdoses in the United States.

However, in the 13 states that passed laws allowing for the use of medical marijuana between 1999 and 2010, 25 percent fewer people die from opioid overdoses annually. 

“The difference is quite striking,” said study co-author Colleen Barry, a health policy researcher at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. The shift showed up quite quickly and become visible the year after medical marijuana was accepted in each state, she told Newsweek.

In the study, August 25 2014 in JAMA Internal Medicine, the researchers hypothesize that in states where medical marijuana can be prescribed, patients may use pot to treat pain, either instead of prescription opiates, or to supplement them—and may thus require a lower dosage that is less likely to lead to a fatal problem.

As with most findings involving marijuana and public policy, however, not everyone agrees on a single interpretation of the results. 

It certainly can be said that marijuana is much less toxic than opiates like Percocet or morphine, and that it is “basically impossible” to die from an overdose of weed, Barry said. Based on those agreed-upon facts, it would seem that an increased use in marijuana instead of opiates for chronic pain is the most obvious explanation of the reduction in overdose deaths.

 Read More: Newsweek

It Would Be Quite Simple for Obama Admin to Reschedule Marijuana

Marijuana is currently listed as a Schedule I drug, classifying it as a having no acceptable medical value, which creates a lot of legal issues for those needing medical marijuana. It was put in that schedule decades ago by Congress, but the Obama administration has the power to move it to a more appropriate classification at any time.

The recent executive decision to move Hydrocodone Combination from Schedule III to II shows how it works, this same basic process could be used to move marijuana from Schedule I to II, III or IV. From the DEA press release:

When Congress passed the CSA in 1970, it placed HCPs in Schedule III even though it had placed hydrocodone itself in Schedule II. The current analysis of HCPs by HHS and the DEA shows they have a high potential for abuse, and abuse may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence. Adding nonnarcotic substances like acetaminophen to hydrocodone does not diminish its abuse potential. The many findings by the DEA and HHS and the data that support these findings are presented in detail in the Final Rule on the website. Data and surveys from multiple federal and non-federal agencies show the extent of abuse of HCPs. For example, Monitoring the Future surveys of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders from 2002 to 2011 found that twice as many high school seniors used Vicodin®, an HCP, nonmedically as used OxyContin®, a Schedule II substance, which is more tightly controlled.

In general, substances placed under the control of the CSA since it was passed by Congress in 1970 are scheduled or rescheduled by the DEA, as required by the CSA and its implementing regulations, found in Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Scheduling or rescheduling of a substance can be initiated by the DEA, by the HHS Assistant Secretary of Health, or on the petition of any interested party.

The executive branch doesn’t just theoretically have the power to reschedule any drug without Congress, it is actually expected to use this power as needed based on the latest research. As we see here, drugs get moved to a lower or higher schedule all the time by the executive branch.

Since there is plenty of research showing marijuana has potential medical uses, it is basically a dereliction of duty for Attorney General Eric Holder to not reschedule marijuana, but instead of doing his job when it comes to marijuana rescheduling the administration has mostly fought and dragged its heels at every turn. Holder’s refusal to do so is a decision, which he effectively admitted; it’s not about legal constraints or science but about politics.

Jon Walker is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy

via: Just Say Now

MMJ Medicinal Marijuana vs Sickle Cell Anemia

The news: San Francisco General Hospital is making strides in developing a marijuana-derived treatment for sickle-cell anemia, a blood disorder that affects over millions worldwide, including 10% of African Americans in the U.S. It causes severe pain throughout the body. The condition is currently treated using opiate painkillers, but researchers believe that CBD, one of the compounds in marijuana, could cure the disease without the dangerous addictive, often lethal qualities of pharmaceutical painkillers.

A safer alternative. Rather than administering cannabis intravenously or through smoke, the study used vaporized cannabis extracts, specifically, oils that are high in CBD. After administering CBD to lab mice with sickle cell anemia, doctors discovered that the mice had far less pain and inflammation, reducing the need for high doses of opiates. That could mean that tens of thousands of human patients will be relieved from their ailments without having to turn to corrosive opiate drugs.

Long road until now. It’s making great headway now, but the study was delayed for over a year by the FDA because they wanted to ensure that CBD vapor wouldn’t be harmful to lab animals like mice and dogs. That seems rather ridiculous considering that the FDA has approved animal testing for countless chemical pharmaceuticals and held up a study because they were worried that a plant derivative would harm lab mice. Protecting lab animals is not part of their testing protocol.

Despite the needless hurdles, the trial is underway. Researchers are making progress on a treatment for sickle cell anemia that doesn’t have the potential to devastate the patient’s life like opiate painkillers do. It’s yet another example of cannabis effectively treating pain and outmoding the widely prescribed pharmaceuticals. For patients, it’s a new era of treatment options, but it poses a challenge to pharmaceutical companies, who are doing what they can to slow it down. But if discoveries like this keep coming up, they’ll have a hard time convincing the public otherwise.

Doctors in Pennsylvania are ready for Medicinal Marijuana

Several factors have recently converged to make passage of a medical marijuana law in Pennsylvania a distinct possibility.  First, public opinion in the state is now overwhelmingly in favor of legalizing marijuana (cannabis sativa) for medical use.  Results of a Franklin and Marshall College poll in February 2013, indicated that 82 percent of Pennsylvanians favored allowing adults to use marijuana for medical purposes if recommended by a doctor.   On March 3, 2014, a Quinnipiac University poll showed support in Pennsylvania at 85 percent.  When analyzed by age, gender, and political orientation groups, a minimum of 78 percent in each group supported medical marijuana.  Editorials urging the passage of a medical marijuana law recently appeared in major news outlets throughout the state.
The second key factor is development of bipartisan support for such a law in the state legislature. Senator Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon) is a prime sponsor of SB 1182, titled the Governor Raymond Shafer Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act.  The other sponsors at the time of this writing include one other Republican senator and nine Democrats (among whom is Senator Judy Schwank).  In the House, Rep. Jim Cox (R-Berks) will shortly be introducing HB 2182, which will be similar to the Senate bill but with updated language based on discussions with the Senate.  Sen. Folmer and Rep. Cox are both motivated by a desire to alleviate suffering on the part of patients with symptoms that cannot be relieved with currently available treatments.
In response to a request for comments for this article, Sen. Folmer provided a statement which included the following: “While the Pennsylvania Medical Society would like to wait for federal approval, there are Pennsylvania patients suffering and leaving Pennsylvania to seek medical treatment.  …  Senate Bill 1182 will provide safe access to patients in a medical environment.”  Rep. Cox explained his involvement in this effort by saying, in part, “I feel that it is our responsibility to address this as a means to help patients who are suffering with ailments whose symptoms cannot be relieved with conventional medications.  I feel that it is imperative that we move forward with the input and expertise of the medical community.”
The third factor making a medical marijuana law more likely in Pennsylvania’s near future is Governor Corbett’s low approval rating.  Governor Corbett does not support access to medical marijuana beyond a very limited program proposed to benefit a small number of children with a severe seizure disorder.  If he is replaced by Democratic challenger Tom Wolf after this year’s election, Pennsylvania will have a Governor who has come out in support of a much broader medical marijuana law.
Thus, a high percentage of Pennsylvanians would trust their doctors to prescribe marijuana for medical conditions, and momentum is building to pass legislation which would allow such prescriptions to be written.  How does this issue look from the other side of the prescription pad—to the physicians who would be faced with implementing such a law?  By an act of Congress– the Controlled Substances Act of 1970–marijuana was placed in the same category of drugs (Schedule I) as heroin: drugs with very high potential for abuse and addiction and no currently accepted medical use.  In contrast, cocaine and methamphetamine were placed in Schedule II, considered to have less potential for abuse and dependency than Schedule I drugs and known to have accepted medical use.  As long as this classification remains in effect, any physician who writes a prescription for marijuana risks federal prosecution and puts their career in jeopardy.  In addition, this classification has been an almost insurmountable hurdle to performing research on the potential medical benefits of products derived from cannabis.  Therefore, the evidence available to physicians on the safety and efficacy of medical marijuana products does not in most cases rise to the level of that available for drugs which have been approved by the FDA based on clinical trials.
Read More: Physicians News
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