Sessions Admits There ‘May Well Be Some Benefits From Medical Marijuana’

Sessions Admits There ‘May Well Be Some Benefits From Medical Marijuana’

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions acknowledged before a key Senate panel on Wednesday that “there may well be some benefits from medical marijuana” and that it is “perfectly appropriate to study” cannabis.

But Sessions was also quick to dismiss a mounting body of evidence that legal marijuana access is associated with reduced opioid issues.

Acknowledging that he has seen some research indicating lower overdose deaths in states that allow cannabis in some form and that “science is very important,” the attorney general said he doesn’t “believe that will be sustained in the long run.”

Sessions also indicated that the federal government would soon take steps to license more entities to legally grow marijuana for research.

“We are moving forward and we will add fairly soon, I believe, the paperwork and reviews will be completed and we will add additional suppliers of marijuana under the controlled circumstances,” he said during an appearance before the Senate Appropriations Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee.

In 2016, the Drug Enforcement Administration enacted a new policy intended to license more research cultivators, and he agency has reportedly since received at least 25 applications to participate in the new program. But it has not yet acted on any of them and, according to the Washington Post, that is because top Justice Department officials have stepped in to prevent DEA from approving any proposals.

In his answers, Sessions indicated that he thought opening up research could put the U.S. at risk of violating international drug treaties.

The “treaty requires certain controls in that process,” he said, adding that in his view, the “previous proposal violated that treaty.”

Sessions was responding to a line of questioning from U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), who said that “we’re all evolving on this issue, some quicker than others.”

There are “good civil rights reasons for decriminalizing and pursing a federalist approach around this,” the senator added.

Sessions did not offer a specific timeline for releasing a revised research cultivation approval process.

And despite acknowledging cannabis’s medical potential, he said he takes issue with the way it is currently consumed.

“Medical marijuana, as one physician told me, ‘whoever heard of taking a medicine when you have no idea how much medicine you’re taking and ingesting it in the fashion that it is, which is in itself unhealthy?’” Sessions said.

Advocates welcomed Session’s admission that marijuana can help patients, but said that the Justice Department needed to act on allowing research as well as make broader policy changes sooner rather than later.

“Over two million registered medical marijuana patients throughout the legal markets can attest to the attorney general’s newfound revelation,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal told Marijuana Moment in an interview. “What we need is better research on consumer grade marijuana and lawful protections for legal markets, not further deliberation from the DoJ.”

Later in the Senate hearing, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) cited a resolution approved by Alaska state lawmakers urging the federal government to respect local marijuana laws. She also attempted to elicit a commitment from the attorney general not to oppose congressional efforts to reform federal cannabis laws.

“I can’t make a commitment about what position we would take at this time, until we know what’s exactly involved,” he replied.

Sessions said, however, that “our priorities are fentanyl, heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine. People are dying by massive amounts as a result of those drugs. We have very few, almost zero, virtually zero small marijuana cases. But if they are a big deal and illegally acting, and violating federal law, our agents may work that case.”

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Sessions Admits There ‘May Well Be Some Benefits From Medical Marijuana’

Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Save Lives, Study Finds

Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Save Lives, Study Finds

States where people can legally access marijuana through dispensaries see dramatically reduced opioid overdose death rates, new federally funded research shows.

“In short, our findings that legally protected and operating medical marijuana dispensaries reduce opioid-related harms suggests that some individuals may be substituting towards marijuana, reducing the quantity of opioids they consume or forgoing initiation of opiates altogether,” the study concludes. “Marijuana is a far less addictive substance than opioids and the potential for overdosing is nearly zero.”

While previous research has shown that medical marijuana laws are associated with lower opioid overdose rates, the new analysis distinguished between states where medical cannabis is simply legal and states that actually allow streamlined patient access to marijuana through active dispensaries.

“Because legal protection of retail dispensaries does not mean dispensaries are operational, we construct our policy measure to identify the state/year in which dispensaries are both legally protected and open for business,” researchers from the RAND Corporation, the National Bureau of Economic Research and the University of California, Irvine wrote. “Dispensaries – retail outlets that sell marijuana to qualified patients – contribute to the decline in opioid overdose death rates.”

To be more specific:

“Using data from just the early period of these laws 1999–2010, dispensaries reduce opioid mortality rates by about 40%, above and beyond the reduction from marijuana laws alone. The total effect is estimated to be even larger. When we consider the full time period (1999–2013), the estimates imply that dispensaries reduce opioid mortality rates by about 20% while the main effect of having a law is relatively small in magnitude, implying declines of about 5%, and not statistically distinguishable from zero. Importantly, together – a marijuana law with a legal, operational dispensary provision – the estimates imply a statistically significant (at the 5% level) decline in overdose death rates of about 25%.”

“It is clear that operational dispensaries are critical,” the study, published online over the weekend by the Journal of Health Economics, concluded. “This evidence is consistent with the need for a clear and legal supply chain for medical marijuana policy to have an effect.”

Going a step further, the study, which was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, found that examining data from after 2010, “a period when states began opening more tightly regulated medical marijuana retail systems,” apparently in response to federal enforcement guidance, weakens the effect.

“The effect of medical marijuana policies on opioid related harm diminishes over time, particularly after 2010, which might be due to the regulatory tightening of medical marijuana dispensaries, the major marijuana policy feature behind the reduced harm in the earlier period,” the data suggests.

Nonetheless, the researchers concluded that “our results suggest a potential overlooked positive effect of medical marijuana laws that support meaningful retail sales.”

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Save Lives, Study Finds

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