Cannabis Law Prof Blog

Editor: Franklin G. Snyder
Texas A&M University
School of Law

Friday, October 19, 2018

OPINION: Oklahoma Hospitals Should Reconsider Their Decision to Not Recommend Medical Marijuana

AaaTwo prominent Oklahoma hospitals have instructed their physicians to not make recommendations for medical cannabis under the state's new MMJ law, according to a recent article in Tulsa World.  The private Tulsa-based Saint Francis Health System and the public Oklahoma State University Medical Center are turning away requests for cannabis recommendations from their primary care providers.

These hospitals are doing a disservice to their patients and should reconsider their decisions.  Patients should not be blocked from using these treatments because of antiquated laws and outdated perceptions of the substance. 

Cannabis Illegal and of No Therapeutic Value, Health Systems Say

A Saint Francis spokeswoman has said that hospital rules require physicians to follow federal law, which considers marijuana a prohibited Schedule 1 drug. She explained in a statement:

Warren Clinic’s provider contracts and our hospitals’ bylaws require that physicians follow both state and federal laws governing the practice of medicine … To this end, Warren Clinic physicians and providers are not able to endorse or promote the use of cannabis with their patients.

For its part, OSU Medical Center pointed out that its decision was based on the lack of evidence that any of the Schedule 1 drugs on the federal list have therapeutic value.

“Schedule I drugs lack clinical evidence for therapeutic purposes,” a statement from OSU Medical Center reads. “To this end, OSUMC physicians and providers are not able to endorse or promote the use of cannabis with their patients.”

True, marijuana is still illegal under federal law as a Schedule I drug. However, there is a move in many states to approve recreational marijuana (California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada), as well as and medical marijuana use (Florida, North Dakota, and Arkansas). There are now eight states where individuals can purchase marijuana for recreational use and 28 states and Washington, D.C. where medical marijuana is legal under state law.

Further, laws enacted in Connecticut and Maine permit the use of medicinal marijuana formulations by hospitalized patients.

Hospitals are exposed to a significant risk for allowing cannabis use by patients as cannabis continues to be illegal under federal law. This is because hospitals receive their accreditation from the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services. These facilities also receive federal funds which may be vital to their ability to operate and provide services.

This threat may be perceived as real—especially since U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that he will enforce federal law as it pertains to marijuana. Sessions rescinded a 2013 memo by the Obama administration that instructed federal attorneys not to hinder states’ ability to legalize marijuana, provided state officials prevented the drug from migrating to places where it remained outlawed, such as federal property, and kept it away from criminal gangs and children. This will allow U.S. attorneys throughout the country to decide whether to devote federal resources to marijuana enforcement based on their district’s priorities. Hospitals are reticent to risk penalties and the loss of federal funding by prescribing or providing the drug in their facilities.

But with more states approving the use of marijuana, hospitals are frequently being asked to allow patients to bring in their own supply for their own use. These hospitals have created their own inpatient medical marijuana policies. To help standardize this, the Minnesota Hospital Association has created a set of policy templates. These policies may help to insulate the hospital and its staff from the threat of federal prosecution, and permit patients to use a drug that has proven to be effective in their treatment.

Healthcare providers such as Saint Francis should implement similar policies that help to reduce liability without sacrificing patient care. Yes, there are potential legal implications for such an approach -- but the likelihood they will be targeted for prosecution is low, while the likely improved patient outcomes are high. 

The benefits of medical marijuana have been proven.  Patients report many benefits of CBD or cannabidiol—the chemical found in marijuana plants. This includes relieving insomnia, anxiety, spasticity, and pain, as well as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and the side effects of chemotherapy. In fact, one form of childhood epilepsy, Dravet syndrome, is nearly impossible to control; however, it has been found to respond dramatically to a CBD-dominant strain of marijuana called Charlotte’s Web.

Those suffering from debilitating illnesses should not be denied access to treatments that can help them, whether it is to ease their pain or to find a cure. Medical research in the past 20 years has uncovered substantial data about the benefits of medical marijuana and the chemicals found in cannabis. Further, hospitals are warranted in putting their federal funding at risk in order to prescribe marijuana in the interest of improved patient care and outcomes.

The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority has released a list of close to 40 physicians across the state who have registered as providers willing to recommend medical marijuana for patients. The agency said it released the list “as a courtesy” to potential applicants whose own physicians may be unwilling to sign a recommendation.  But patients of St. Francis and OSU deserve to get this badly needed medicine from their own providers.

--Jason Carr

October 19, 2018 in Federal Regulation, Legal Ethics, Local Regulation, Medical Marijuana, Research, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Investment firm Merida invests $50 million in cannabis related companies

Cannabis-Investing

A Manhattan based investment firm, Merida, has invested $50 million in 17 companies related to cannabis in less than two years. According to a Forbes article by contributor Julie Weed, the firm's owner Mitch Baruchowitz says his company invests in the "boring" parts of the cannabis industry. 

That includes any technology or equipment related to cannabis that gets widely used like laboratory testing services, compliance and data collection software, production equipment, and packaging. “There is a lot of traction in lab testing,” Baruchowitz said for example, “because it’s part of the supply chain, so everyone needs it and you can’t get around it.”

Weed writes that Baruchowitz's methods for choosing companies to invest in include analysis of company management and potential for growth. 

The first question is always: how big can sales get? “We look for products that have large potential markets,” Baruchowitz said. “We don’t want a small brand or niche product that might not grow at the rate the market grows.” The national market is expanding “so we want something that will grow along with overall industry increases.”

The article also mentions that family wealth offices are starting to invest in cannabis as a higher growth, higher risk investment. 

The stock prices of some of the companies have risen after Baruchowitz's investment, such as KushCo Holdings and GrowGeneration

Stock prices of the publicly traded KushCo Holdings and GrowGeneration are both up from their launch. KushCo launch January 2016 at $2 per share and has recently been trading at over $5 per hare. GrowGeneration launched in November 2016 and ended its first day of trading at $2.30. It recently traded at $5.30. Most of the investment and return information is not shared because the company is privately held.

This article seems to demonstrate that the growth of the cannabis industry is not limited to just distributors and dispensaries.

Companies in charge of packaging, research, and compliance validation are also part of this, and may continue to grow along with the rest of the market.

-- Alex Bennett

October 14, 2018 in Business, Finance, Research, Stocks | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Study Raises Concerns About Adolescent Use of Marijuana

AaaA recently published study shows that most teens who have tried marijuana have used it in more than one form, including smoking, eating, and vaping. The study, conducted by the University of Southern California Health, Emotion, and Addiction Laboratory, raises concerns about adolescent health amid a surging marijuana market according to the University’s recent press release.  

The study, published in JAMA Network Open, surveyed of 3,177 10th-graders from the Los Angeles area via questionnaires at 10 Los Angeles area high schools from January to October 2015, three years before California legalized marijuana. Of the 33.9 percent of students who reported ever using marijuana, smoking it was the most popular, followed by marijuana products that were vaporized or edible.

The study also found that most 10th-graders (61.7 percent) who had ever used cannabis used multiple products to administer the drug. Since the study occurred before marijuana was legalized in California in 2018, the results raise new questions about adolescent use today.

“A key question is whether a new pool of teens who’ve traditionally been at lower risk for smoking marijuana have been drawn to using the drug in these alternative non-smoked forms,” the study’s senior author, Adam Leventhal, professor of preventive medicine and psychology and director of the USC Health, Emotion and Addiction Laboratory at the Keck School of Medicine of USC told the press.

The legalization of marijuana has given rise to new products offering new ways to ingest and consume the drug. Additionally, legalization has caused a perception change amongst teens, according to Leventhal:

In recent years, there’s been a shift in teens’ perception. Legalization and commercialization of cannabis are fostering the perception that this drug is not harmful. On my drive to work, I pass an advertising billboard for marijuana delivery right to your house. Marijuana has gone mainstream.

Leventhal believes that the study's results raise new concerns about adolescent health today, given the wide variety of products offered and the change in perception due to the legalization of marijuana,. “Cannabis use in adolescence increases risk for chronic use throughout adulthood, addiction and impaired cognitive development, ” Levnthal told the USC press. The study results raise new questions about the health effects of when marijuana goes mainstream. 

– Colin Heinrich

October 13, 2018 in Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 23, 2018

One in 11 US Teenagers Has Vaped Cannabis

JAMA PediatricsAccording to a new report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics, Prevalence of Cannabis Use in Electronic Cigarettes Among US Youth, roughly one in 11 American middle and high school students have used a battery powered vaping device, or e-cigarette, to consume marijuana or other cannabis products. The report was based on a 2016 National Youth Tobacco survey, which found that about 9% of the 20,000 youths surveyed had vaped cannabis at least once. Applied across the US, this means that nearly 2 million teens have used e-cigarettes to vape cannabis. 

Although using cannabis through an e-cigarette does not have the same risks of smoking it, there are still health risks to be concerned about. Lead study author Katrina Trivers of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta told The Verge:

"The use of marijuana in these products is of particular concern because cannabis use among youth can adversely affect learning and memory and may impair later academic achievement and education."

Earlier this month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) responded to what regulators have described as an "epidemic" of teen vaping. The FDA's proposed crackdown gives vaporizing companies two months to demonstrate efforts to keep vaping devices out of the hands of the youth population, or risk being shut down. 

 --Taylor Allan

 

September 23, 2018 in Drug Policy, Federal Regulation, Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 21, 2018

tudies suggest that marijuana users have better sex more often

Tcrstock-couple-smokeAccording to an article on Forbes.com, two studies reveal that Marijuana consumption is correlated with increased sexual frequency and an enhanced sexual experience.

The first study had a stated goal of “elucidat[ing] whether a relation between marijuana use and sexual frequency exists using a nationally representative sample of reproductive-age men and women.”

To get a representative sample for the study, researchers Dr. Michael Eisenberg and Dr. Andrew Sun of Stanford University studied the responses of 8,176 women and 22,943 men nationwide via a Center for Disease Control questionnaire. The study demonstrates that “marijuana is independently associated with increased sexual frequency.” The study further finds that daily smokers across all demographic groups report having 20% more sexual encounters than those who do no smoke marijuana.

 A second study sought to  “determine if marijuana use before sex affects the sexual experience, by how much, and which domains of sexual function are affected.” The study polled 289 adult women who reported using marijuana prior to intercourse. Among the 289 women, “65% [reported] it enhanced their sexual experience, 23% said it did not matter one way or the other, 9% had no significant feedback and 3% said it sabotaged their sexual experience.”

 The two studies offer scientific backing to a common claim from the marijuana community of the drug’s effects on sexual experiences. For researchers like Dr. Eisenberg, the study results demonstrate that “doing more research in this area is important.”

--Ashleigh Williams (Morgan)

September 21, 2018 in News, Recreational Marijuana, Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

College in Canada now offering marijuana program

With the legalization of recreational use marijuana around the corner, Niagara College in southern Ontario is now offering a one-year certificate in commercial cannabis production. CBC News interviewed Professor Bill MacDonald, head of this new marijuana program, who outlines what students should expect:Weed college

Some of the classes take place in a facility MacDonald says is nicknamed "the cannabunker": a series of shipping containers linked together to form a high-tech, high-security production lab for growing marijuana.

Students will get intensive hands-on training in growing pot with classes that focus on topics like plant nutrition, climate control, pest control and plant selection.

There are also courses about the regulations governing cannabis in Canada. The program ends with a field placement for students at a cannabis producer in the region.

The CBC article goes on to describe the growing need for more workers in marijuana industry:

In the Niagara region of Ontario alone, there are currently more than 1.8 million square feet (nearly 550,000 square metres) of greenhouse space dedicated to producing marijuana. As that number grows, more and more skilled greenhouse workers will be needed.

"Every week, it's a new head count," says Michael Ravensdale, the vice president of quality and production at CannTrust, a local medical marijuana producer. "The last update I had, we had over 200 people in Niagara. We think we will be about 350 by the end of the year and that's just the second phase of expansion."

CannTrust has a perpetual harvest facility in Niagara, meaning plants are always in bloom and workers are always busy. The company has jobs in cultivation, processing, manufacturing, quality control and other areas, including product development and research. Ravensdale says the pot economy is evolving at a rapid pace.

CBC stated that the program only accepted 24 of their over 300 applicants, but with the rising need for skilled workers, this program is likely to expand.

--Wyatt Hinson

September 21, 2018 in Business, Legal Education, News, Recreational Marijuana, Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

U.S. House Committee Approves the Medical Cannabis Research Act

image from goo.glA U.S. House committee approved a bill last week that would require the Department of Justice to issue licenses to marijuana growers for research purposes. Cannabis Business Times reports that while the bill has not yet been scheduled for a vote before the full House, the committee action is nonetheless a significant step in the legislative process.

The Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2018 would open the door to a more robust federal licensing process that would allow medical-grade cannabis to be grown for state-funded research. Since 1968 and up to the present day, only the University of Mississippi has held such a license.

If the bill were to pass, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions would be required to license two research facilities for cannabis cultivation within one year. For each year after that, he (or the successive attorneys general) would be required to license an additional three research facilities. 

While there have been a slew of cannabis-related bills written on Capitol Hill, Thursday's approval of the Medical Cannabis Research Act by the House Judiciary Committee places the bill ahead of most others.  Here's a video of the hearing:

 

-- Jason Carr

September 21, 2018 in Legislation, News, Politics, Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Federally Approved Marijuana Research Lacking Despite Apparent Support from Attorney General Sessions

Sessions

Despite apparent support of federally approved medical marijuana research from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Wall Street Journal reports that none of the  26 applications for approval to grow marijuana for research has moved towards approval in the two years since the Justice Department began accepting the applications.   

Currently the only federally approved marijuana grow operation for research lies with the University of Mississippi which has been conducting research on marijuana since 1968.

According to the Journal, both Democrats and Republicans have penned letters urging Sessions to begin moving the applications through approval, but to no avail.  The Justice Department's failure to take any action on the 26 applications, it reports, has left both applicants and those hoping to benefit from research on the drug in a realm of uncertainty.  "'The federal government allows for multiple entities to produce controlled substances for scientific research all the time. Why should marijuana be any different?' said George Hodgin, a former Navy SEAL who started his own business, Biopharmaceutical Research Company, to conduct such research."

For now, researchers will have to wait patiently while the politics are sorted out. 

--Andrew Goodwyn

September 11, 2018 in Drug Policy, Federal Regulation, Law Enforcement, Medical Marijuana, News, Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Hit Reset: Can CBD Counteract Symptoms of Psychosis?

AaaA recent brain imaging study suggests that a single dose of cannabidiol (CBD) can reduce symptoms of psychosis by “resetting” activity in three brain areas that have been linked to the onset of psychosis.  The study, in the JAMA Psychiatry journal, is Effect of Cannabidiol on Medial Temporal, Midbrain, and Striatal Dysfunction in People at Clinical High Risk of Psychosis.

Forbes has a good overview of the study, and also includes insight from the study's lead author, Dr. Sagnik Bhattacharyya.

Psychosis is an abnormal condition of the mind that results in difficulties determining what is real and what is not.  It can be manifested as seeing, hearing or believing things that are not real and experiencing hallucinations. Currently, there is no known precise cause of psychosis, but mental illness, trauma, substance abuse, exhaustion, and extreme stress can act as triggers.  According to Forbes, The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that at least 100,000 people in the United States experience their first onset of psychosis every year. 

Dr. Bhattacharyya describes the study: 

This was a small study of 33 participants who were experiencing psychotic symptoms. A smaller group of healthy participants served as a control group. Half the psychosis group was given one 600 mg oral dose of CBD (a dose that was "previously effective in established psychosis" according to the study), the other half received an identical placebo capsule. The control group didn't receive any drug. Then all of the participants completed a memory task designed to engage three brain areas that have been linked to the onset of psychosis (specifically the striatum, medial temporal cortex, and midbrain) while their brains were examined with an fMRI scanner.

"There is an urgent need for a safe treatment for young people at risk of psychosis," added Dr. Bhattacharyya. "One of the main advantages of cannabidiol is that it is safe and seems to be very well tolerated, making it in some ways an ideal treatment.”

 Already in the works, he says, is a large-scale human trial, which, if replicated successfully, will serve as a determinant of whether CBD's use is a viable treatment for brain-based diseases.

-- Gianna Redeemer

September 11, 2018 in Medical Marijuana, Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 10, 2018

Possible Safe Harbor for U.S. Military Veterans Who Need Medical Cannabis

AaaA bill filed in Congress would allow veterans to get medical marijuana from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.  While a growing number of military veterans use medical marijuana for the treatment of PTSD, chronic pain, and other mental and physical war wounds, however, federal law prohibits VA doctors from prescribing it.  That might change.

Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) recently filed the Medical Marijuana for Veterans Safe Harbor Act that would legalize medical marijuana for veterans and empower physicians in the VA to issue medical marijuana recommendations in accordance with the laws of "the State in which the use, possession, or transport occurs." Despite the fact that state laws that legalize the use of medical marijuana are preempted by federal laws which prohibit such use, this bill effectively harmonizes federal law governing the VA with state law in states where medical marijuana is legal.

According to Tom Angell of Forbes, who reports on the story, Senators Nelson and Schatz are addressing long-term goals such as cannabis research and reduction of opioid use among veterans. The bill allocates $15 million for research on "the effects of medical marijuana on veterans in pain" and "the relationship between treatment programs involving medical marijuana that are approved by States, the access of veterans to such programs, and a reduction in opioid abuse."

Some form of medical marijuana is permitted in 31 states and this legislation would grant veterans the same access to legitimately prescribed medication as other patients in those 31 states would have. Justin Strekal, political director for NORML, says that "Historically, veteran and military communities have long been at the forefront of American social change, catalyzing widespread acceptance of evolving cultural norms and perceptions surrounding racial, gender, and sexual equality. The therapeutic use of cannabis by veterans follows this trend and members of Congress should follow their lead and pass the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act."

--Kindal Wetuski

September 10, 2018 in Drug Policy, Federal Regulation, Legislation, Medical Marijuana, Politics, Research, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Smartphone app lets users know they are too high to drive

AaaA Massachusetts psychology professor has come up with an app he says can inform users when they are too impaired to drive.  Dr. Michael Milburn of UMass-Boston has come up with the DRUID ("Driving Under the Influence of Drugs") cellphone app which users, he says, can use to see if they can drive.  The Georgia Straight reports how the app works:

The five-minute test is accessible from a phone or tablet and requires users to complete four tasks to determine a level of impairment.

The app has three modes: “practice”, “baseline”, and “test”. Although the software mimics a simple, but tough, video game, users can’t technically fail the levels, but do need to set a baseline sober score, first. Users are encouraged to play around with the practice mode a few times before taking a stab at a sober score, which is calculated from the most recent ten scores achieved on baseline mode.

Once a sober score has been calculated, users can whip out their phone post-blaze and test their stoned results against their standard baseline.

Sound simple enough? Not quite. Druid measures every move, from the shake and wobble of the device during a balancing level to the user’s ability to follow complicated instructions—all of which are meant to emulate the demands of operating a motor vehicle.

Until the driver scores within approximately five percent of their sober baseline, the app urges users to find another mode of transportation.

Also note that this app will cost you a few dollars and its test scores do not establish a legal defense to driving impaired.

--Wyatt Hinson

September 9, 2018 in Business, News, Recreational Marijuana, Research, Travel | Permalink | Comments (2)

Saturday, September 8, 2018

US marijuana industry’s economic impact could hit $80 billion by 2022

Mjbizdaily-logoThe U.S cannabis industry could pump nearly $80 billion on an annual basis into the nation’s economy by 2022, according to the newly released Marijuana Business Factbook.  

MJB is selling the Factbook, but it's probably a great purchase for those interested in the industry.  The data is particularly valuable to marijuana businesses looking to show the benefits of legalization to legislators and policymakers.

That’s because it can help them understand the importance of the cannabis industry to the larger U.S. economy – and how much more important it will become.  Some of the interesting parts:

Estimates published in the newly released  show the total economic impact of legal marijuana sales increasing from $20 billion-$23 billion in 2017 to $63 billion-$77 billion by 2022 – a 223% increase.

By comparison, the $77 billion figure is similar to the 2017 gross domestic product of New Hampshire, which stands at $81 billion, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The estimates reflect the marijuana industry’s rapid transition out of the black market and into a mainstream economic juggernaut, generating thousands of new jobs, providing business opportunities and creating significant ripple effects across the country.

Based on sales of medical and recreational marijuana at the retail level – including flower, infused products and concentrates – the estimates use an economic multiplier of 3.5 to quantify the industry’s overall contribution to the economy, showing how revenue generated by cannabis businesses permeates through communities, cities, states and the nation.

In other words, for every $1 consumers/patients spend at dispensaries and rec stores, an additional $2.50 of economic value will be injected into the economy – much of it at the local level.

The book goes on to note some of the ways that marijuana businesses affect the economy:

  • Tourists visit rec states to purchase and consume cannabis, while marijuana business professionals travel for meetings, conferences and market research – infusing tourism dollars into a state.
  • The creation of cultivation sites, dispensaries/rec shops and infused product companies spurs real estate and construction activity. Many grows, for instance, occupy warehouse space that was previously vacant, while a fair share of retailers took over and renovated dilapidated storefronts.
  • Marijuana businesses collectively pay hundreds of millions of dollars in state and local taxes, which fund projects including roads and rural hospitals and government programs such as education.

 -Fernando Lira Gomez

September 8, 2018 in Business, Drug Policy, Medical Marijuana, Recreational Marijuana, Research | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, September 7, 2018

Baby boomers getting high

AaaOlder Americans are using more marijuana, according to a new study from the NYU School of Medicine and the Center for Drug Use and HIV/HCV Research.  "Marijuana use is becoming more prevalent among middle-aged and older adults," researchers found, "with 9 percent of adults aged 50-64 and nearly 3 percent of adults 65 and older reporting marijuana use in the past year."

In the study, researchers analyzed responses from 17,608 adults aged 50 and older from the 2015-2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Participants were asked about their marijuana use, including when they first used it and whether they used it in the past year. 

While typical marijuana users are young adults, baby boomers are unique because they have had more experience with recreational drug use than any other generation. Furthermore, as attitudes shift and access to marijuana improves, "baby boomers--many of whom have prior experience smoking marijuana--are increasingly using it," said the study's lead author, Dr. Benjamin Han.

"This doesn't mean [baby boomers] have been smoking marijuana for all these years, but most current users are by no means new initiates," said researcher Dr. Joseph Palamar, the study's senior author.

However, baby boomers may be taking advantage of new medical marijuana laws to treat the ailments of old age. In fact, according to an article in the Washington Post, the survey used as the basis of the study did not differentiate between medical and recreational use of marijuana. Thus, it is unclear whether baby boomers are turning to marijuana for medical or recreational reasons.

--Emily Bowlin

September 7, 2018 in Research | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

How much tax should states put on marijuana?

AaaState tax regimes vary greatly on a number of traditional "sin" products like alcohol and tobacco.  Washington, for example, levies more than $35 a gallon on alcohol, versus less than $2 in West Virginia.  As for cigarettes, New York slaps each pack with $4.35 against $.30 for Virginia.  Given that states try to balance raising money (higher taxes) with keeping residents happy (lower taxes) and discouraging use (higher taxes), this is not surprising.

Now that the adult-use marijuana movement has come, states are facing similar questions.  How much tax should they put on marijuana products?  Two business scholars, Brett Hollenbeck (UCLA) and Kosuke Uetake (Yale), have a new paper, Taxation and Market Power in the Legal Marijuana Industry, which takes a look at these issues.  Here's the abstract:

In 2012 the state of Washington created a legal framework for production and retail sales of marijuana. Eight other states have subsequently followed. These states hope to generate tax revenue for their state budgets while limiting harms associated with marijuana consumption. We use a unique dataset containing all transactions in the history of the industry in Washington to evaluate the effectiveness of different tax and regulatory policies under consideration by policymakers and study the role of imperfect competition in determining these results. We document that overall demand is relatively inelastic, that restrictions on entry result in retailers with significant market power, and that cost shocks are more than fully passed through from retailers to consumers. We combine these empirical estimates to calculate the relationship between revenue and the tax rate, the dead-weight loss of taxation and the share of the tax burden that falls on consumers and producers, each of which are significantly effect by imperfect competition. We find that despite having the nation's highest tax rate, Washington still has significant scope to increase revenues by raising the tax rate on retail marijuana sales. That is, they are still on the upward sloping portion of the laffer curve. The amount of revenue generated by a given tax increase is also significantly larger due to retailer market power than it would be under perfect competition. We also find significant social costs of taxation, roughly 2 dollars are lost to consumers and producers for every dollar of tax revenue generated.

--Frank Snyder

September 5, 2018 in Research, Taxation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 31, 2018

Nursing Mothers Beware?

AaaA study in California finds THC and cannabidiol in nursing mothers' breast milk a week after marijuana use.  Fox News reports that researchers at the University of California, San Diego analyzed the breast milk of 50 nursing mothers who were also using marijuana.

Lab testing of the breast milk found trace amounts of THC in 34 of the 54 samples even 6 days after they were provided. Additionally, researchers also found non-psychoactive cannabidiol in five samples. The researchers conclude that "it is reasonable to speculate" that exposing children to THC or cannabidiol "could influence normal brain development," especially when infants are in the early stages of their brain development. The complete study can be found here

With the continued legalization and decriminalization of marijuana across the United States, "its use is increasing along with the 'false impression' that it is safe", the Academy of Pediatrics reports. Although pediatricians generally encourage breastfeeding due to its health benefits for infants, most pediatricians are stuck between a rock and a hard place when confronted with nursing mothers who also use marijuana. Dr. Seth Ammerman, a Stanford University pediatrics professor, echoed that dilemma, stating "we still support women breastfeeding even if using marijuana but would encourage them to cut down and quit."

With such a small sample size and no specific studies conclusively showing the health effects of THC or cannabidiol on infants, the Academy of Pediatricians admits that more research is needed before a final conclusion is reached. However, both the researchers and the Academy of Pediatricians are unanimous in their belief that the best course of action for nursing mothers who use marijuana is education and caution. Pediatricians should "educate patients about the potential risks and benefits," Ammerman said, to ensure "a healthy outcome for themselves and their baby."

--Colin Heinrich 

 

August 31, 2018 in Medical Marijuana, News, Research | Permalink | Comments (2)

Cannabis-based Pet Products Popular in Canada Despite Limited Research and Testing

AaaVeterinarians in Canada are wary of "anecdotal evidence" indicating that cannabis-based pet products are effective in treating anxiety, seizures, and arthritis pain in dogs and cats. The Calgary Herald reports that interest in cannabidiol products for pets is growing among Canadian pet owners even though no formal ads for the products are allowed on sites like Google or Facebook. Still, word of mouth among pet owners has proved powerful--pet supply stores like PAWSitively Natural Pet Food & Supplies have recently seen demand for cannabidiol pet products spike after customers reported that their pets have been able to go off hardcore painkillers. 


Dr. Alastair Cribb, the founding dean of the University of Calgary's faculty of veterinary medicine, is not so sure: 

Cribb is skeptical about these sorts of testimonials, saying there are just too many questions surrounding the use of cannabidiol in pets. He says the recommended dose is vague (PETtanicals recommends 0.01 millilitres per pound the animal weighs), there is little known about how cannabidiol interacts with other drugs and the conditions is it said to be effective in combatting—particularly anxiety and osteoarthritis — “tend to wax and wane, so how do you know when the CBD is effective?”

However, there may soon be answers to some of these questions surrounding cannabidiol pet products--University of Calgary's third-year veterinary students will take on a year-long research project on the subject during the 2019-2020 academic year. For now though, pet owners may want to err on the side of caution in giving their pets cannabis-based products that have not yet been properly tested. 

--Taylor Allan

August 31, 2018 in Business, Medical Marijuana, News, Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 27, 2018

Marijuana Use for Morning Sickness: A Potentially Dangerous Trend on the Rise?

Pregnant MJ UseA study out of California reveals that pregnant women suffering from mild-to-severe nausea and morning sickness were two-to-four times more likely to use marijuana during pregnancy than other women.

The Huffington Post reports that Kaiser Permanente researchers compiled studied surveys and medical records of over 200,000 pregnant women in Northern California and found that despite national guidelines recommending that "women stop marijuana use during pregnancy due to concerns that the drug may impair fetal neurodevelopment and contribute to low birth weight," there is growing evidence that "some pregnant women may use marijuana to self-medicate morning sickness." The complete Kaiser Permanente study results are available here

Given the potential negative effects that marijuana can have on a developing fetus, medical professionals should be aware of the potential for self-medication and diligently counsel pregnant women on these potential effects and alternative treatment plans. It will be interesting to see if research on this topic grows as legalization for recreational use of marijuana becomes more popular in individual states. 

 --Ashley Goldman

August 27, 2018 in Medical Marijuana, Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Prenatal Pot: Marijuana Use for Pregnant Women Raises Concerns

Prenatal PotIncreasing use of marijuana during pregnancy has set doctors and researchers on alert according to a recent article in Annals of Internal Medicine.  The study is behind a paywall, but here's a piece of the abstract:

 The adverse effects of prenatal marijuana use remain unclear, yet more pregnant women are using marijuana in the United States than ever before. Self-reported marijuana use during pregnancy increased from 2.4% in 2002 to 3.9% in 2014, and 18% of pregnant women who used marijuana in the past year met criteria for a marijuana use disorder. Data from a large, diverse sample of pregnant women and adolescents in California found an increase in the adjusted prevalence of marijuana use, from 4% in 2009 to 7% in 2016, on the basis of self-report and urine toxicology tests. Overall, 22% of adolescents and 19% of young adults had screening results positive for prenatal marijuana use in 2016. Approximately twice as many users were identified by toxicology tests than self-report, suggesting that prenatal use has been underestimated in self-reported surveys.

--Frank Snyder

August 26, 2018 in Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 24, 2018

Cannabis legalization and healthcare costs: Public policy options

Policy QuestionWith the Great White North bracing for greatly increased cannabis availability,  Canada's Policy Options magazine has a thoughtful new article on how to minimize the potential health risks, Pulling levers to mitigate health costs of cannabis.  The authors are Rebecca Jesseman and Matthew Young from the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction.  From the article:

Legalization of cannabis in Canada has potential benefits — lower criminal justice costs, new government and private revenue sources — but we must also recognize the public health costs of cannabis use. It’s vital to ensure that governments at all levels use the available policy levers to reduce these costs.

A very helpful graph notes the various "levers" that policy-makers can use to help change consumer behaviors.  The authors continue:

Canada has the chance to provide international leadership for a public health approach to cannabis. Realizing that opportunity means applying the available policy levers based on the evidence we currently have and calibrating them according to the evidence we gather after legalization. It means prioritizing public health over revenue generation something we have not done well with alcohol. It means providing Canadians the information they need to make responsible, educated decisions about cannabis use by scaling up prevention and education initiatives and promoting guidelines for lower-risk cannabis use. It means equipping our health system to support those who encounter problems with use by addressing existing gaps in tools and information for primary care providers. It means improving and increasing specialized services for youth, Indigenous people and those who live in rural or remote communities. Protecting public health also involves protecting public safety, which includes improving education and enforcement capacity to reduce cannabis-impaired driving.

Cannabis has been the most commonly used illegal drug in Canada and internationally for many years. Legalization provides an opportunity to reduce the many costs of a criminal justice approach. It also comes with the risk of increasing public health costs if we fail to make good use of the policy levers available at all levels of government by investing in effective prevention, education and treatment programs. Many countries are looking to Canada to inform their own decisions about cannabis regulation. We have an opportunity to demonstrate that legalization does not have to lead to commercialization. What’s more, it can be an opportunity to reduce public health costs by opening the door to a better understanding of the risks and benefits of use, and to honest dialogue with youth and other consumers about reducing those risks.

--Frank Snyder

August 24, 2018 in Drug Policy, International Regulation, Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Researchers Urge Caution on MMJ Claims

AaaThere are people who appear to believe that cannabis is the miracle cure for just about everything.  But while there are undoubted medical benefits, some medical researchers are cautioning people who may believe in some claims that haven't been verified.   Canada's CBC, in a piece entitled Many cannabis health claims aren't backed by science, provides a nice rundown.  A sample:

"I think right now there's a lot more hype than evidence and there's a lot more enthusiasm for its widespread application than there are good trials to support such expansive use," says Jason Busse, co-director of the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research at McMaster University in Hamilton.

Pediatricians need more information on medical marijuana for kids, study says

"Some of the things that I've heard that are a little bit more worrisome are on websites from companies producing these products, making claims for almost anything and everything," Busse says.

"There's a lot of hyperbole out there right now and I think there's a real risk that patients, who are desperate because of the limited options they have for their condition, are embracing very enthusiastically some of these claims."

So what are the legitimate, science-based benefits of the cannabis plant, whose purported therapeutic properties have been extolled for millennia?

There's strong evidence that certain cannabinoid components in marijuana can help alleviate nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy, reduce muscle spasticity in people with multiple sclerosis, and help people with AIDS-related anorexia regain lost weight.

Those cannabinoids — most notably tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), marijuana's main psychoactive ingredient, and cannabidiol (CBD) — also have been shown to reduce pain in some people. Preliminary evidence suggests cannabis may help replace or reduce the dosage of opioids prescribed for pain control.

. . .

[S]tudies have shown cannabis may be effective in easing chronic neuropathic pain — the burning/stabbing discomfort caused by nerve damage — including that experienced by some diabetics.

"There hasn't been a lot of work on chronic inflammatory pain, chronic migraines, fibromyalgia and so on," says Ware, who recently went on temporary leave from McGill to become chief medical officer at Canopy Growth Corp., an Ontario-based licensed cannabis producer.

"It doesn't mean that they don't work for some of the conditions, it's just simply that we haven't looked yet."

Arthritis, both rheumatoid and osteo, is one disease where cannabis is creating a lot of buzz, in large part because a growing number of patients swear by it for easing stiff, swollen and painful joints.

"We know there's a lot of anecdotal evidence coming from patients who use medical cannabis to help manage symptoms of their arthritis, but of course we have to put some sort of scientific beef behind that," said researcher Jason McDougall, a professor of pharmacology and anesthesia at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

It's important to note that the reason we don't have evidence is the fact that government authorities have blocked cannabis research for decades.  It's not that research has not found valid applications but that researchers have only recently been allowed to look for them.

--Frank Snyder

August 18, 2018 in Medical Marijuana, Research | Permalink | Comments (0)