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Monday, July 10, 2017

National News for July 2017 - by Rachel Bunting

Marijuana: Keeping Users Thin, Fit, and Active
Oregon: A recent study conducted by researchers at Oregon Health and Science University has found that people who use marijuana five or more times a month tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI) than those who do not. Researchers presented their findings saying, “Heavy users of cannabis had lower mean BMI compared to that of never users, with a mean BMI being 26.7 kg/m in heavy users and 28.4 kg/m in never users.” The study also found that regular marijuana users tend to be more physically active than sporadic or non-users. While this study is new, it is not the first of its kind and the results are unsurprising. A study published in the Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics last year suggested the same conclusions regarding marijuana and BMI. A 2013 paper in the American Journal of Medicine claimed there was a correlation between marijuana use and smaller waist circumferences. While researchers have been unable to identify the reason for the correlation, they believe that those who regularly consume marijuana ‘may be able to more easily break down blood sugar, which may prevent weight gain.’

Legalization Correlating to Car Accidents?
Virginia: Two studies, with different conclusions, researching the correlation between car accidents and marijuana use were released last month. The first study was conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) which analyzed insurance claims filed between January 2012 and October 2016. The claims were separated into states with legalized marijuana and those without, then compared against one another.

     IIHS researchers found that ‘collision claim frequencies in the states that had legalized marijuana were about 3 percent higher than would have been anticipated without legalization’. Though that number seems small, researchers claim that it is significant. According to Matt Moore, Senior VP of the Highway Loss Data Institute, “The combined-state analysis shows that the first three states to legalize recreational marijuana have experienced more crashes.”

      This conclusion, however, differs from another study published in the American Journal of Public Health which claims that there has been no increase in vehicle collisions since legalization took effect. The study in AJPH analyzed federal data pertaining to car accidents between 2009 and 2015. Authors of the research determined, “We found no significant association between recreational marijuana legalization in Washington and Colorado and subsequent changes in motor vehicle crash fatality rates in the first 3 years after recreational marijuana legalization.”

     Though the studies show two different conclusions, they do not necessarily contradict each other. While the study by the IIHS looked at all motor vehicle accidents, the AJPH report focused on only fatal car crashes. The researchers also used different baselines for each study, with IIHS using states neighboring legalized states and AJPH using states with similar traffic characteristics. From the two studies, it could be possible to infer that while the number of fatal accidents did not increase due to legalization, the number of minor traffic accidents could have increased slightly since recreational marijuana became legal.

Medical Marijuana Applications Now Being Accepted
Arkansas: The Medical Marijuana Commission of Arkansas began accepting applications from potential growers and distributors in the last week of June, while the Health Department started accepting applications from potential patients. Officials believe there will be between 20,000 and 40,000 patients seeking to use the medication for a variety of health problems. To be eligible as a patient, applicants must have written certification from a physician demonstrating a significant doctor-patient relationship as well as an accepted diagnosis.

     Health conditions to qualify for the medical card include: intractable pain, cancer, glaucoma, a positive HIV/AIDS status, hepatitis C, Tourette's syndrome, Crohn's disease, post-traumatic stress disorder and severe nausea. There are some that feel intractable pain and nausea are too difficult to prove to be allowed on the list. Others, however, feel the medication cannot come soon enough and hope the use of marijuana will relieve their need for opioid pain killers. Applications in the state will be accepted through September 18th.

Viva Las Vegas
Nevada: The Nevada Department of Taxation began issuing recreational retail licenses the last week of June in preparation for sales to begin July 1st. Many of the approved retailers include medical marijuana dispensaries already in operation. The dispensaries, anticipating new clients, have been stocking up on products to ensure they will not run out for the patients that need the medication, while being able to sell to recreational users. Though there is a legal challenge to the law pending, the Department of Taxation plans on sales moving forward as planned.

Medication in Utah
Utah: After numerous failed attempts to get medical marijuana legalized in the state, the Utah Patients Coalition has announced plans to submit an initiative to put before the voters in 2018. The proposed initiative was given to the lieutenant governor’s office. If the wording is approved, the supporters must hold at least seven public hearings throughout the state as well as collecting 113,143 valid signatures from registered voters. Medical cannabis oil was legalized for those with severe epilepsy in 2014, but broader uses for the medication has been rejected repeatedly by the Legislature. The Lt. Governor’s office does not have a time limit for reviewing the proposed legislation, however if it is acceptable it will be ‘sent to the governor’s office of management and budget to create a fiscal estimate of the impact of the law.’ Several organizations plan to assist in gathering signatures, including the Utah Residents for Medical Cannabis, to make sure there are more than enough valid signatures to get the proposal on the ballot. After it makes the ballot, the initiative will need a majority vote to pass.


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