christopher ingraham

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Study: Marijuana Doesn't Affect Physical Health, Except For Gums

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Chronic marijuana use has about the same impact on health as not flossing, according to an extensive new study.

A research team led by Madeline H. Meier of Arizona State University tracked the cannabis habits of 1,037 New Zealanders all the way from birth to middle age, to see exactly what effects marijuana has on common measures of physical health, reports Christopher Ingraham at The Washington Post. Those measures included lung function, systemic inflammation, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, body weight, blood sugar, and dental health.

After controlling for other factors known to affect health -- especially tobacco use and socioeconomic status -- cannabis use had no negative effect on any measure of health, except for dental health. People who smoked more marijuana had a higher incidence of gum disease.

Even after controlling for dental hygiene, such as likelihood to brush and floss, the relationship between marijuana use and poor dental health persisted.

U.S.: Federal Numbers Show Marijuana Smuggling Plummets After States Legalize

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Federal marijuana trafficking offenses are on a steep decline nationwide as more states legalize recreational cannabis.

According to the latest drug trafficking statistics from the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC), such offenses have fallen sharply since 2012, the year that Colorado and Washington residents decided at the ballot box to legalize weed, reports Christopher Ingraham at The Washington Post.

The decline continues through 2015, the most recent year for which numbers are available.

"The number of marijuana traffickers rose slightly over time until a sharp decline in fiscal year 2013 and the number continues to decrease," according to the report. This, mind you, while trafficking in other drugs -- particularly meth and heroin -- appears to be on the rise.

The USSC's numbers show that at the federal level, marijuana trafficking is becoming less of a problem. Legalization could be reducing demand for black market sales, state prosecutors could have changed how they charge defendants, or there could be another explanation altogether. The data doesn't provide enough details to draw a conclusion, according to researchers.

U.S.: Senate Hearing Reminds Americans That 'Good People Don't Smoke Marijuana'

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Tuesday's hearing of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control was light on actual facts and fully of heavy-handed rhetoric. At one point -- and I'm unfortunately serious in reporting this -- Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) said "this drug is dangerous, you cannot play with it, it is not funny, it's not something to laugh about ... good people don't smoke marijuana."

This seems to be a new low even for the dim-witted Sessions, who says stuff his constituents back in the Heart of Dixie really should be embarrassed about -- in 2014, he said providing healthcare to veterans is an "entitlement" we "can't afford" -- but who knows; they keep electing his dumb ass.

The hearing, hosted by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dianne Feinstein (D-California) was ostensibly held to investigate whether the Department of Justice has been enforcing federal marijuana laws harshly enough. What these yahoos did was bring forth a parade of anti-marijuana witnesses, not bothering to counter their testimony with anyone who actually knew what they were talking about.

U.S.: Support For Marijuana Legalization Hits All Time High Of 61%

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A new survey released on Friday by the Associated Press and the University of Chicago shows record support for marijuana legalization in the United States, at 61 percent.

The survey asks, "Do you think the use of marijuana should be made legal, or not?", which is the same wording as previous Gallup surveys, which had shown a previous high of 58 percent support for legalization last October, reports Christopher Ingraham at The Washington Post.

The AP asked a follow-up question which showed that 24 percent of legalization supporters said cannabis should be made available "only with a medical prescription." Another 43 percent wanted to restrict purchase amounts. One-third of legalization supporters said there should be "no restrictions" on purchase amounts.

"This is yet another demonstration of just how ready Americans are for the end of marijuana prohibition," said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority. "The growing level of support for legalization that we see in poll after poll is exactly why we're not in a situation -- for the first time in history -- where every major presidential candidate on both parties has pledged to let states set their own marijuana laws without federal interference."

While cannabis legalization is very popular among Democrats (70 percent) and independents (65 percent), just 47 percent of Republicans support it.

Study: Smoking Marijuana Does Not Make You Anxious Or Depressed

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Using marijuana as an adult is not associated with mood and anxiety disorders, including depression and bipolar disorder, according to a new study published on Thursday.

The research, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, challenges some previous studies which claimed an association between marijuana use and both depression and anxiety, reports Christopher Ingraham at The Washington Post.

Scientists examined the records of nearly 35,000 American adults who participated in the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. They looked at the prevalence of cannabis use among study participants in 2001 and 2002, then checked on their rates of mental health problems three years later, in 2004 and 2005.

After controlling for confounding factors such as socioeconomic differences, family history, environment, and past and present psychiatric disorders, researchers found that "cannabis use was not associated with increased risk for developing mood or anxiety disorders."

Lead author Mark Olfson of Columbia University and his colleagues think that some prior evidence of supposed links between marijuana and psychiatric disorders could be due more to confounding factors than any actual connection.

U.S.: Obama Says Marijuana Reform Is Not On His Agenda For 2016

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

It seems that cannabis activists who had hoped for a big shift in federal marijuana policies from the Obama Administration in its last year are likely to be disappointed.

White House press secretary John Earnest on Friday said any progress on cannabis law reform would have to come from Congress, reports Christopher Ingraham at The Washington Post. President Obama had, a day earlier, said marijuana reform isn't on his list of end-of-term priorities, according to Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee).

Cohen said he'd asked the President whether he wanted to reschedule marijuana; the federal government considers cannabis a Schedule I substance, the most dangerous category, under the Uniform Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I drugs are considered to have a "high potential for abuse and potentially severe psychological and/or physical dependence."

Many lawmakers want to move pot to Schedule II, which would acknowledge the plant's medicinal potential, but would also effectively hand over control of it to Big Pharma, since prescriptions would be required.

Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders wants to DE-schedule marijuana, which means removing it from the federal list of controlled substances altogether.

U.S.: Some Members Of Congress Ready To Call It Quits On Marijuana Eradication

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Drug Enforcement Administration is continuing its losing streak. Last week, 12 House members led by Democrat Ted Lieu of California wrote to House leadership asking for a provision in an upcoming spending bill that would strip half the funds from the DEA's Cannabis Eradication Program and instead spend that money on programs that "play a far more useful role in promoting the safety and economic prosperity of the American people": domestic violence prevention and overall spending reduction.

The DEA pisses away about $18 million a year in coordination with state and local authorities to pull up marijuana plants being grown both indoors and outdoors. The ineffectual program has been plagued with scandal, controversy, and ridicule. In the mid-2000s, it was revealed that most of the "marijuana" plants pulled up in the program were actually ditchweed, feral hemp plants that contain almost no THC, reports Christopher Ingraham at The Washington Post.

U.S.: Evidence Shows Legalizing Marijuana Unlikely To Turn Kids Into Potheads

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Supporters of the War On Drugs often claim that loosening restrictions on marijuana use -- such as decriminalization, allowing medicinal use, legalizing it completely, or even discussing legalization -- will "send the wrong message" to young people and lead to increased teen drug use. But the evidence has repeatedly shown this notion to be inaccurate.

According to two new studies published in the past month, teen marijuana use has fallen since 1996, during which time 34 states have passed some sort of medical marijuana bill, reports Christopher Ingraham at The Washington Post.

"Despite considerable changes in state marijuana policies over the past 15 years, marijuana use among high school students has largely declined," concludes one of the papers, published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence. That study looks at cannabis use among all high school students in the U.S., as measured every two years by the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

U.S.: Department of Justice Admits Lying To Congress About Medical Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The U.S. Justice Department warned Congress last year that a medical marijuana provision included in an appropriations bill could "limit or possibly eliminate the Department's ability to enforce federal law in recreational marijuana cases as well." But it turns out that was wrong, according to a just-revealed DOJ memo.

The "informal talking points" obtained by Marijuana Majority's Tom Angell were "intended to discourage passage" of the provision, which passed and was signed into law, reports Christopher Ingraham at The Washington Post.

The memo was written by the chief of the Justice Department's appellate section and dated February 27, 2015. In it, the DOJ says the provision does not place "any limitations on our ability to investigate and prosecute crimes involving recreational marijuana."

The memo's talking points were repeated by a number of House members who opposed the medical marijuana provision.

Andy Harris (R-Maryland), one of the worst enemies of medicinal cannabis in the entire House, claimed "the amendment as written would tie the DEA's hands beyond medical marijuana." Rep. John Fleming (R-Louisiana) claimed that the provision would "take away the ability of the Department of Justice to protect our young people ... it would just make it difficult, if not impossible, for the DEA and the Department of Justice to enforce the law."

U.S.: Medical Marijuana Helping To Overcome Painkiller Abuse, Reduce Deaths

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

States with medical marijuana have seen the number of admissions to drug rehab facilities for pain medication and opioid overdoses decrease by 15 percent and 16 percent respectively, according to a new paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research. "Our findings suggest that providing broader access to medical marijuana may have the potential benefit of reducing abuse of highly addictive painkillers," the researchers concluded.

Other studies have examined the relationship between legal cannabis use and opioid overdose rates, but this is the first study to track addiction to opioids, as well, reports Katherine Ellen Foley at Quartz.

The paper builds on previous work showing that "states with medical marijuana laws on the books saw 24.8 percent fewer deaths from painkiller overdoses compared to states that didn't have such laws," reports Christopher Ingraham at The Washington Post. But the new paper's findings are even more compelling -- it uses more data, and the authors drew on a broader range of statistical methods to test the validity of their data.

Virginia: School Suspends 11-Year-Old For A Year For Leaf That Wasn't Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

An 11-year-old sixth grader in Virginia has been suspended from school for 364 days after being caught with a leaf that wasn't even marijuana.

It happened last September to the son of Bedford County residents Bruce and Linda Bays, reports Dan Casey at The Roanoke Times. Their son was enrolled in the gifted-and-talented program at Bedford Middle School.

Months after the fact, the couple learned that the leaf wasn't marijuana. A prosecutor dropped the juvenile court charge because the "pot leaf" had field tested negative -- three times.

The boy finally got to return to a different school, separate from his friends and peers, on Monday, under "strict probation," but the events of the past six months have wreaked havoc on the formerly happy-go-lucky boy's psyche, according to his parents. They say he's withdrawn socially and is now under the care of a pediatric psychiatrist for panic attacks and depression.

The terms of his suspension letter state that he'll be searched for drugs a the beginning and end of every school day until his probation is over, reports Christopher Ingraham at The Washington Post.

Utah: DEA Warns Rabbits May Stay High All The Time If Medical Marijuana Is Passed

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

With even the Mormon-dominated state of Utah now considering a bill that would allow patients with certain debilitating conditions to be treated with edible forms of cannabis, it's clear that change is coming everywhere, regardless of political stripe.

But last week, that didn't stop an agent of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration from testifying to a Utah Senate panel that if the bill passes, the state's rabbits and other wildlife may "cultivate a taste" for marijuana and stay high all the time, reports Christopher Ingraham at The Washington Post .

"I deal in facts," claimed DEA Special Agent Matt Fairbanks, who's been working in Utah for a decade, as he warned the Senate of bhang-bombed bunnies. "I deal in science," said Fairbanks, who's a proud member of the "marijuana eradication" team in the state.

Fairbanks bragged about all the time he's spent pulling up back-country pot grows in the Utah mountains. He said that at some illegal marijuana grow sites, he saw "rabbits that had cultivated a taste for the marijuana."

"One of them refused to leave us, and we took all the marijuana around him, but his natural instincts to run were somehow gone," Fairbanks claimed of one stoned bunny.

Apparently the spectre of high hares wasn't scary enough to keep the Senate panel from approving the bill; it was sent to the full Utah Senate, where it will be debated this week.

Study: Marijuana Use -- Even Heavy Use -- Doesn't Lower IQ

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A new study from the University College of London of 2,612 children in the United Kingdom examined children's IQ scores at age 8 and again at age 15, and found "no relationship between cannabis use and lower IQ at age 15. Even heavy cannabis use had no associated with reduced IQ scores.

But alcohol was a different story. "In particular alcohol use was found to be strongly associated with IQ decline," the study's author's wrote, reports Christopher Ingraham at The Washington Post. "No other factors were found to be predictive of IQ change."

"This is a potentially important public health message -- the belief that cannabis is particularly harmful may detract focus from and awareness of other potentially harmful behaviors," noted the study's lead author, Claire Mokrysz.

"The current focus on the alleged harms of cannabis may be obscuring the fact that its use is often correlated with that of even more freely available drugs and possibly lifestyle factors," agreed reviewer Guy Goodwin of Oxford University. "These may be as or more important than cannabis itself."

A 2012 Duke University study of just 38 subjects had made world headlines when it claimed to find a link between heavy marijuana use and IQ decline among teens. Columbia University's Carl Hart noted the very small sample of heavy users in the study led him to question how relevant were the results.

U.S.: Share of Arrests For Marijuana Possession Tripled Since 1991

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

With thousands of incarcerated nonviolent drug offenders symbolizing the futility of the "War On Drugs," even some of the most ardent supporters of the punitive approach are starting to view the issue of marijuana use through a public health perspective, rather than from a criminal justice point of view.

That shift is evident at the infamous White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, the dreaded ONDCP, which for decades has been the command center of the federal War On Drugs, reports Christopher Ingraham at The Washington Post. The ONDCP now uses words like "balance" as key components of federal drug control strategy.

"Drug addiction is not a moral failing but rather a disease of the brain that can be prevented and treated," the ONDCP website reads. "Drug policy is a public health issue, not just a criminal justice issue."

But unfortunately, law enforcement agencies haven't gotten the message. While the number of arrests for all offenses has declined nationwide since 1991, the share of those arrests related to simple cannabis possession has more than tripled over the same period.

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