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Monday, March 7, 2016

National News for March 2016 - by Rachel Bunting

Mormons Weigh in on Medical Bill
A proposed bill that would allow the medical use of edible marijuana, may have been dealt a major blow this month when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came out against it. Leaders of the church have said they “are worried about the unintended consequences of the measure,” according to ABC News. They are not, however, opposed to another bill which would allow access to marijuana-infused oil. While the church would not elaborate on their worries, Sen. Mark Madsen, who proposed the medible bill, believes that “if they’re going to put their thumb on the scale politically and force everyone to a standard, then I think they owe something of an explanation to the people.” Since a majority of Utah lawmakers belong to the church, the stance of the religious organization can have a big impact on their decisions. Both proposals have been approved by committee and should be argued in the Utah Senate later this month.

Familiar Name Applies to Open Dispensary
In 2000 Hawaii became the first state to legalize a medical marijuana program, but with a recently adopted “dispensary bill” it will now be able to set up shops to cater to those in need. One big name popping out of the 66 applications applying for one of the eight initial licenses is marijuana advocate and enthusiast Woody Harrelson. Harrelson, known best for his role on “Cheers”, applied using his company name “Simple Organic Living, LLC” in Honolulu County. Each owner awarded a license will be able to operate up to two production centers and two retail locations. Another big name applying is Henk Rogers, founder of The Tetris Company, which holds the rights to the Tetris trademark. Chosen applicants will be given their license by April 15th, and will be allowed to open shop after July 15th.

Medicine for Minors
A proposal that would allow minors to use medical marijuana is back before legislators this year, but with new support from The Connecticut Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. A similar proposal failed last year and was strongly opposed by the chapter. The new bill, however, is a scaled-back version which would allow access to non-smokeable medication for minors with one of six specified conditions. There are still members of the chapter that would like to see more research, especially the effects on brain development and dosage, before allowing children to consume the medication. The pediatricians supporting the proposal say they were swayed after hearing testimony from pediatric neurologists and parents of children with severe disorders who see the medication as a last hope. If the bill is passed children with severe epilepsy, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, uncontrolled seizure disorders, an irreversible spinal cord injury, or a terminal illness that requires end-of-life care will be permitted to use medical marijuana as a means of treatment. Minors would need permission from their parent, their primary care provider, and a specialized physician. 

Signatures in Springfield
Advocates for medical marijuana in Springfield, Missouri began collecting signatures this month to get their medical marijuana proposal on the November ballot. New Approach Missouri, the organization created to support the initiative, has hired a private company as well as volunteers to collect the 158,000 signatures needed. While the petition is the only medical one circulating, it is not the only petition circling the state. Another petition going around seeks to legalize marijuana “for personal, medical, and commercial purposes.” The petition was submitted by pro-marijuana advocate Nicholas Raines. When asked about the group, Raines told The Springfield News-Leader, “We are turning marijuana back into food.” Many believe a bill will not pass through the General Assembly this year, but that won’t stop advocates from continuing to push the issue. 

More Medicine in Massachusetts
As two new dispensaries prep to open this month, Massachusetts state health authorities are changing the amount of medical marijuana patients are able to purchase. The Public Health Department has more than doubled the amount allowed to patients after determining laboratories can ensure the safety of the medicine. Before the change regulators were worried laboratories could not accurately screen for high levels of heavy metals and would only allow patients to receive 4.23 ounces every two months. This restriction was to avoid worst case-scenarios involving toxic accumulation of contaminants. However after an outcry from the medical community, the regulators found a way to deal with the problem. Aside from inspecting laboratories to make sure their methods are thorough, which they have done, they will now require labeling which will indicate appropriate dosages. According to the Boston Globe the Health Department sent out a letter to dispensary owners stating, “By adopting this approach, we are ensuring that the standards . . . have been developed through a rigorous process with a high level of public assurance that they have been developed using a broadly representative body of science.” Patients are now able to purchase up to 10oz of medicine every two months.

An Inconvenient Medication
New York:
After an emergency access bill was passed in New York, many patients thought they would be able to obtain the medication they needed quickly and easily. This hasn’t been the case for many, however, who require specific strains to help ease their symptoms. One of those hoping to get expedited medication is a young boy named Tommy, who suffers from uncontrollable seizures. The county that Tommy lives in has two dispensaries, neither of which carry the oil with certain levels of CBD and THC that Tommy needs. After talking to the dispensaries, Tommy’s parents learned that they would be able to get that type of oil from a dispensary near them, but only after waiting around 4 weeks for it to grow, then wait for it to be harvested, processed, and inspected by the state. Unfortunately they couldn’t wait that long to get their son treatment. They were able to find a dispensary that carried Tommy’s treatment but it is four hours from their home. In order to get the correct medication for their son, which is already about $750 monthly, they have to use their gas as well as renting a hotel room because of the distance. While the emergency access bill did allow patients to actually be able to get the medication they needed more quickly, it hasn’t made it any easier for patients to have access to the specific strain they need. 

Top Reasons for Medical Use
A digital healthcare resource, HelloMD, wanted to gain insight into patients in California to create a comprehensive profile of cannabis use, preferences, and reasons. The researchers surveyed 1,400 patients and found that 66% of those used marijuana as the primary method of treatment for their ailment. The most reported health issue to justify marijuana use was anxiety, followed by generalized pain, stress, back pain, insomnia, and depression respectively. The company also reported that 84% of those surveyed claimed “marijuana effectively treats their targeted disorder” and that 18% (nearly 1 out of every 5 people) use cannabis as an alternative to alcohol. While it seems like a low number, that 18% is significant considering studies have shown alcohol to be considerably more addictive and dangerous than marijuana. The study also discovered a slight difference in cannabis use between men and women as well. Finding that men generally prefer to smoke or vape their medication, while women tend to favor tinctures and topical creams. Women also appear to choose delivery services as opposed to visiting dispensaries and are more likely to recommend medical marijuana to friends and family. The CEO of HelloMD hopes the study will help to “inform regulators and lawmakers as they focus on the issue”.

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