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NORML News of the Week 9/22/2011

This Week from NORML

  • Study: Crohn’s Patients Who Use Cannabis Report Fewer Surgeries, Are Less Likely To Use Prescription Drugs
  • Netherlands: Cannabis Coffee-Shops Appear To Minimally Impact Dutch Use Patterns
  • Forced Closure Of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries Associated With Localized Increases In Crime

Recent Action Alerts

  • Tell Your Representatives to Co-Sponsor HR 2306: The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011 Details
  • Massachusetts Legislature Considers Medical Marijuana Measure Details
  • Bill To Decriminalize Marijuana Possession Introduced In New Jersey Details


Study: Crohn’s Patients Who Use Cannabis Report Fewer Surgeries, Are Less Likely To Use Prescription Drugs
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“All patients stated that consuming cannabis had a positive effect on their disease activity”

Tel Aviv, Israel: Cannabis use is associated with a reduction in Crohn’s disease (CD) activity and disease-related surgeries, according to the results of a retrospective observational study published in the August issue of the Journal of the Israeli Medical Association.

Investigators at the Meir Medical Center, Institute of Gastroenterology and Hepatology assessed ‘disease activity, use of medication, need for surgery, and hospitalization’ before and after cannabis use in 30 patients with CD.

Authors reported, “All patients stated that consuming cannabis had a positive effect on their disease activity” and documented “significant improvement” in 21 subjects.

Specifically, researchers found that subjects who consumed cannabis “significantly reduced” their need for other medications. Participants in the trial also reported requiring fewer surgeries following their use of cannabis.

“Fifteen of the patients had 19 surgeries during an average period of nine years before cannabis use, but only two required surgery during an average period of three years of cannabis use,” authors reported.

They concluded: “The results indicate that cannabis may have a positive effect on disease activity, as reflected by a reduction in disease activity index and in the need for other drugs and surgery. Prospective placebo-controlled studies are warranted to fully evaluate the efficacy and side effects of cannabis in CD.”

Researchers at the Meir Medical Center are presently evaluating the safety and efficacy of inhaled cannabis for patients with CD and Ulcerative Colitis in a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.

Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis are inflammatory bowel diseases. According to survey data published earlier this year in the European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, an estimated one-third of patients with colitis and one-half of subjects with CD acknowledge having used cannabis to mitigate their disease symptoms.

For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org. Full text of the study, “Treatment of Crohn’s disease with cannabis: an observational study,” appears in the Journal of the Israeli Medical Association. The study also appears online here: http://www.ima.org.il/imaj/ar11aug-01.pdf.


Netherlands: Cannabis Coffee-Shops Appear To Minimally Impact Dutch Use Patterns
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Berkeley, CA: The proliferation of Dutch ‘coffee-shops,’ which allow for the sale of limited quantities of marijuana to patrons age 18 or older, appears to have had little impact on Dutch cannabis use patterns, according to an analysis published online in the scientific journal Addiction.

University of California at Berkeley researcher Robert MacCoun compared some 40 years of Dutch data on cannabis “prevalence, … patterns of use, treatment, sanctioning, process, and purity” with comparable data from Europe and the United States.

MacCoun concluded: “Dutch citizens use cannabis at more modest rates than some of their [European] neighbors, and they do not appear to be particularly likely to escalate their use relative to their counterparts in Europe and in the United States. Moreover, there are indications that rather than increasing ‘the gateway’ to hard drugs use, separating soft and hard drug markets possibly reduced the gateway.”

Among those ages 15 to 16, only 6.5 percent of Dutch teens acknowledge having used an illicit drug other than cannabis versus 19 percent of American teens. In addition, American adolescents are far more likely than their Dutch peers (72 percent to 46 percent) to say that cannabis is “fairly or very easy to obtain.”

An estimated 700 retail cannabis outlets presently operate in the Netherlands, employing some 3000-4,000 workers.

For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org. Full text of the study, “What can we learn from the Dutch cannabis coffeeshop system,” appears online in Addiction.


Forced Closure Of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries Associated With Localized Increases In Crime
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Santa Monica, CA: The closing of medical marijuana dispensaries are associated with an increase in the incidents of criminal activity in those locations, according to an assessment of crime statistics published this week by the RAND Corporation.

Researchers analyzed Los Angeles crime data for the ten days prior to and the ten days following June 7, 2010, when the city ordered the closure of more than 70 percent of the city’s 638 medical marijuana dispensaries. Authors limited their analysis to ten days because court challenges prompted some closed dispensaries to reopen.

“Studying crime both before and after a large number of dispensaries were shut down in Los Angeles, researchers found that incidents such as break-ins rose in the neighborhoods of closed dispensaries relative to dispensaries allowed to remain open, at least in the short term,” the RAND Corporation summarized in a press release. “In the blocks with the closed dispensaries, the study observed crime up to 60 percent greater than comparable blocks with open dispensaries, but the effects were not apparent across a wider area.”

Said the study’s lead author: “If medical marijuana dispensaries are causing crime, then there should be a drop in crime when they close. Individual dispensaries may attract crime or create a neighborhood nuisance, but we found no evidence that medical marijuana dispensaries in general cause crime to rise.”

Previous analyses of crime statistics in Denver, Los Angeles, and Colorado Springs also found no data supportive of the notion that the locations of dispensaries are associated with elevated incidences of criminal activity.

For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500 or Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org. Full text of the RAND Corporation study, “Regulating medical marijuana dispensaries: An overview with preliminary evidence of their impact on crime,” is available online at: http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/technical_reports/2011/RAND_TR987.pdf.


NORML and the NORML Foundation: 1600 K Street NW, Mezzanine Level, Washington DC, 20006-2832
Tel: (202) 483-5500 • Fax: (202) 483-0057 • Email: norml@norml.org



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Top 5 mental conditions treated with Marijuana

Top 5 mental conditions treated with Marijuana

1. Insomnia

Those suffering from insomnia should consider ingesting medical marijuana. A cookie or brownie can be taken before bed with a glass of milk, and should ensure good sleep throughout the night. Users should be aware that the effects of medical marijuana will not be felt for up to an hour. Medical marijuana is a desirablealternativetoaddictivedrugs such as Xanax, and is not habit forming. Many users report feeling clear-minded and relaxed, sleeping through the night, and having more pleasant dreams.

2. Migraines

Migraines can also be treated with medical marijuana, sometimes better than actual migraine medication. When consumed or smoked, retrogradeinhibitionwillhelptoslowtherateofneurotransmittersinthebrain. This is wonderful news for people who suffer from migraines–all too often, these horrific headaches are due to an overload of neural stimulation. Retrograde inhibition also relieves the pain and other symptoms which attend a full-blown migraine, including nausea and sensitivity to lights. Additionally, migraine medication has been flagged for dangerous side effects, including increased blood pressure. Migraine medication can also be rather debilitating to take, as it makes the user feel very tired and only want to sleep. Medical marijuana can make some users feel slightly sleepy but the doze can be adjusted so that the migraine sufferer will still experience relief from pain, nausea, and hyper-sensitivity, while not becoming as drowsy as they would with the alternative.

3. Anxiety

Mild anxiety is sometimes a side-effect for users, but some people experience mood-elevating effects, as well as a relaxing experience, allowing anxiety sufferers to have a normal life. Medical marijuana can also cause a desirable “slowing” down of thought processes, which can help to break up some of the upsetting cyclical thought patterns which plague anxiety sufferers.

4. Depression

Those who use marijuana once or more weekly have long reported fewer episodes of depression than the rest of the populace, but medical marijuana can also be smoked or ingested to elevate the mood and relieve those who specifically suffer from depression. As in anxiety sufferers, the lasting effects of medical marijuana help to break characteristic unproductive or negative thought cycles which so often spiral out of control for the sufferer until they hit “rock bottom.” Marijuana is not a miracle cure for depression or anxiety — it would not be healthy to mask the root problem instead of treating it — however, it can help one to live a happier, more fulfilling life while the patient works with a therapist to treat the root of their symptoms.

5. Bipolar Disorder

The friends and family of those with Bipolar Disorder will welcome this news as much as the sufferer — medical marijuana cansignificantlycalmthemoodswings exhibited by those with Bipolar Disorder. Cannabis works as a mood stabilizer for sufferers. Lithium, which has traditionally been diagnosed for sufferers, takes several weeks to begin working and also causes damage to the heart, kidneys, and thyroid gland. Often sufferers do not like to take their lithium, as it reins their emotions in to an unpleasant, deadening degree, an unpleasant effect not experienced by those who use marijuana instead. The marijuana smokers report feeling a pleasant effect long after the “high” itself has dissipated — this is the mood stabilizing effect of the drug.

In conclusion, medical marijuana should be of note to all those who are suffering from mental disorders, particularly the above mentioned five. Medical marijuana provides us with a safe, natural alternative to dangerous, habit-forming drugs. Many medicines traditionally prescribed by doctors actually damage the body and mind with long term use. Additionally, most people suffering from one health condition or another take more than one medication, and all too often these medications interfere with each other, exacerbating health problems, especially when the patient’s physicians are not in good contact with one another. Of course, when considering any sort of medication, be it marijuana or otherwise, you should be sure to consult with your physician first.

Marijuana deserves a second look for its medical applications. When used in conjunction with a good psychology program, medical marijuana is a natural, more affordable, and safer way to treat many mental health conditions.

Please post your comments on whether using medical marijuana and or seeing a psychologist is the best way to treat Insomnia, Migraines, Anxiety, Depression and Bipolar Disorder.



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Montana Appeals Decision Blocking Med Marijuana Restrictions

By Steve Elliott ~alapoet~

Wednesday, August 10, 2011, at 1:20 pm

Photo: Billings Gazette
Flowering cannabis plants at Montannabis, Inc., Billings, Montana, March 16, 2011.

​Montana on Tuesday appealed to the Montana Supreme Court a judge’s ruling which blocked tight new restrictions on medical marijuana on the state, and will argue there’s no constitutional right to sell cannabis for a profit. The new restrictions have been described by some patient advocates as a de facto repeal of Montana’s medical marijuana law, passed by 62 percent of the state’s voters in 2000.

The Montana Justice Department will ask the state’s high court to overturn portions of Helena District Judge James Reynolds’ decision from June 30, which suspended enforcement of several provisions of the tough new law passed the the Republican-dominated 2011 Legislature to crack down on the state’s growing medical marijuana industry, reports Mike Dennison at the Billings Gazette.

Conservatives in the Legislature claimed the law as needed due to the growing number of medical marijuana patients and businesses in Montana during the past two years. The number of patients in Montana ballooned from a few thousand to more than 30,000 earlier this year.
The new law made it illegal for suppliers of marijuana to charge patients for the product, limited each provider to three patients, and made it much more difficult for patients to get a doctor’s authorization to use cannabis medicinally.
The Montana Cannabis Industry Association is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit filed this spring challenging the law’s constitutionality before it had taken effect.
district judge james reynolds (flip).jpg
Photo: Eliza Wiley/Helena Independent Record
District Court Judge Jim Reynolds on June 30 blocked implementation of key parts of a new restrictive medical marijuana law passed by the conservative Republican-controlled Legislature.
​ Judge Reynolds blocked the ban on charging for marijuana and the limit on patients per provider, saying the Legislature had made it too difficult for people “to obtain this legally authorized product” and had interfered with Montanans’ “fundamental right of seeking their health in a lawful manner.”
The state is “concerned” about the implications of Judge Reynolds’s ruling that seemed to say the Montana Constitution “protects the right to sell marijuana for a profit,” said Jim Molloy, the assistant attorney general leading the defense of the tough new law.
“We believe it’s necessary to have the Supreme Court determine the proper constitutional standards to be applied before the case moves forward to a new trial,” Molloy said on Tuesday.
Judge Reynolds’s ruling in June did not throw out the entire law. It only blocked certain provisions from taking effect until he could hold a trial on the law’s constitutionality.
Any such trial will now be delayed until the Montana Supreme Court rules on the appeal — which probably won’t happen until next year.
Meanwhile, Reynolds’s ruling that blocks portions of the law remains in effect while the Supreme Court considers the appeals.
Tuesday’s appeal notice by the state did not specify what parts of the Reynolds ruling the state will challenge, or on what grounds. The state’s first written arguments in the appeal likely won’t be filed until October.
A Bozeman-based attorney representing the Montana Cannabis Industry Association said on Tuesday that he’ll ask the state Supreme Court to overturn portions of Judge Reynolds’s ruling that upheld portions of the law that the industry and patients say are unconstitutional.
“In general, we (were) pretty pleased with (Reynolds’s) ruling, but as long as the state is going to appeal, we might as well tee up these other issues,” said attorney Jim Goetz.
The other issues include the law’s blanket ban on medical marijuana for anyone on probation, and tighter definitions of a physician’s “standard of care” when authorizing patients for medical marijuana, according to Goetz.
“We have a situation with the Legislature saying, on the one hand, you can have access to medical marijuana for qualifying patients, but on the other hand, they provide no reasonable access to it, with the severe restrictions on sale,” Goetz said.
“That’s nonsense, and that’s what Judge Reynolds found unconstitutional, and I think the Supreme Court will, too,” Goetz said.
Since the law took effect on July 1, the number of Montanans with medical marijuana authorizations has dropped from about 30,000 on June 30 to 27,335 on July 31.
The medical marijuana industry and supporters have also mounted a petition drive to suspend the new law and put it to a public vote in November 2012. They have until September 30 to gather more than 24,000 signatures needed to place the measure on the ballot.

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The Controlled Substances Act and Rescheduling Marijuana

By:Jon Gettman  HighTimes

Marijuana is regulated under federal law by way of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). This, however, is a complicated proposition.

First, it may seem odd to many to discover that marijuana is actually regulated under current federal law.

 Second, while these federal regulations are exceedingly strict they have not prevented various states from implementing their own regulations, which are sometimes contradictory.
In more simple terms, the medical use of marijuana is prohibited under federal law but permitted under many state laws. Non-medical use of marijuana is prohibited under federal law but tolerated, by way of mild sanctions and/or sentencing policies, in almost every state.

The CSA categorizes controlled substances into five schedules, each with specific provisions regulating a substance’s manufacture and distribution, and effectively its use. Schedule I drugs are the most tightly controlled and are only available for research purposes. The other four schedules are distinguished by various levels of what the law refers to as “potential for abuse” and “dependence liability.” Cocaine, for example, has a much greater abuse potential than Valium; consequently Cocaine is a Schedule II drug and Valium is a Schedule IV drug.

Unlike Cocaine and Valium, Schedule I drugs have no accepted medical use in the United States and they have the highest potential for abuse compared to other scheduled substances.

Marijuana is a Schedule I drug. This too is a complicated proposition. Marijuana clearly has an accepted medical use in the United States, one recognized by the American Medical Association and 16 states, for example. Marijuana also clearly has a much lower potential for abuse then other Schedule I drugs, such as Heroin, or even Schedule II drugs like Cocaine.

When Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act in 1970 they recognized that marijuana did not meet the criteria for a Schedule I or II drug. But they also weren’t quite sure what to do about it. The National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse was created to study the issue, and the Nixon Administration asked Congress to place marijuana in Schedule I until this Commission could meet, study the matter, and make some recommendations. Eventually this Commission recommended that marijuana be decriminalized throughout the United States, and many states responded.

Over the last 40 years most states have opted out of federal marijuana prohibition in one fashion or another. Some states no longer arrest people for possession of small amounts of marijuana, and issue citations or summons instead, punishing the infraction with a fine. Other states have conditional discharge policies, granting probation and expunging the individual’s record after a period of good behavior. Most other states, while retaining significant sentences in statute, in practice sentence most first time offenders to probation.

When it comes to the medical use of marijuana, 16 states now permit such use under state law and some even permit cultivation, distribution, and sale for medical use. These state medical marijuana laws provide legal and reliable access for patients with serious medical conditions but also, in many cases, generate significant tax revenue for state governments.

There have been three attempts to change the scheduling of marijuana under federal law. NORML launched the first attempt in 1972, and in what became an epic legal process this groundbreaking effort was finally rejected in federal court in 1994. This author, with the support of HIGH TIMES, launched a second attempt in 1995, arguing that marijuana did not have the abuse potential to qualify for Schedule I status. This effort ran into a roadblock in federal court in 2001; because the plaintiff was not personally affected by the government’s refusal to reschedule marijuana the action did not qualify for intervention by the federal courts. In response, this author, again with the support of HIGH TIMES, organized a coalition of advocacy groups and patients, The Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis (CRC), and filed a new rescheduling petition in 2002.

Efforts to change the status of a substance regulated by the CSA must pass through the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The process, while lengthy, is fairly straightforward. Petitioners compile scientific evidence to support their request and file it with DEA, which then sends it to the Department of Health and Human Services for review, which then sends back a review and their recommendation. The DEA then studies the issue further and publishes their decision. After the final DEA decision is published, members of the public can challenge the decision before an Administrative Law Judge or take the matter to federal court.

However, the DEA’s response to the current action is to do nothing. Having received the necessary report from HHS, which, unsurprisingly, was not favorable to rescheduling, the DEA has taken no further action. Indeed, they have taken no further action for years. Consequently, the CRC filed a suit in Federal Court on May 23 accusing the government of unreasonable delay and asking the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to compel the DEA to take formal and final action on this rescheduling petition.

The issue here is not whether the DEA decides to reschedule marijuana in response to the CRC petition; indeed they are likely to decide to retain marijuana in Schedule I. The issue here is making a formal decision that allows all interested parties due process. In other words, once the DEA takes final action all interested parties, whether the CRC, other advocacy groups, or even medical marijuana states, can challenge the federal prohibition of marijuana in the federal Courts. Judging from their refusal to act on the CRC petition, this is something the administration clearly wants to avoid.

Marijuana’s medical use is now accepted by 16 states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington) as well as the District of Columbia. Each has a stake in challenging marijuana’s status under the Controlled Substances Act.

 Relief sought from the Court of Appeals would enable states with medical marijuana laws to expedite efforts to change marijuana’s status under federal law and narrow the widening gap between state and federal law. For example, Washington Governor Chris Gregoire has expressed interest in having all the states that allow medical marijuana to ask the federal government to reclassify the drug. If the Court of Appeals grants the relief requested by the CRC, Washington and other medical marijuana states would have the opportunity to seek rescheduling now in expedited proceedings, rather than wait years for a new rescheduling action to ripen.

The members of the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis include the American Alliance for Medical Cannabis, Americans for Safe Access (ASA), California NORML, the Drug Policy Forum of Texas, HIGH TIMES, Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center (Cooperative), the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), New Mexicans for Compassionate Use, Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative, and Patients Out of Time.

Jon Gettman is a long time contributor to HIGH TIMES.  A former National Director of NORML, Jon has a Ph.D. in public policy and regional economic development and consults with attorneys, advocates, and non-profits on cannabis related research and public policy issues.  On October 8, 2002,  along with a coalition of organizations, he filed a new petition to have cannabis rescheduled under federal law.  This column will track that petition’s progress.


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