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Marijuana Won’t Cure The Coronavirus

No substantial scientific evidence currently exists that proves marijuana will reverse the effects of the coronavirus.
Scammers and hoaxes thrive in great times of uncertainty and unrest, like the ones Americans now experience daily due to the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus. A recent claim peddled by snake oil salesmen include the opinion that smoking marijuana will cure, or at least curb, COVID-19 should you become infected.

The chatter around cannabis as a potential cure-all has grown loud enough that NORML (the National Organization for the Reformation of Marijuana Laws) is now telling consumers to beware.
“If something sounds too good to be true, it likely is,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said in a statement. “During these difficult times, we encourage people to be skeptical of any unsubstantiated claims, particularly those circulating online, surrounding the use of cannabis or any other uncorroborated treatment for COVID-19.”
The Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission wrote a letter this month warning several companies to stop selling fraudulent coronavirus products, or else they’d be held accountable. That included Herbal Amy, an Idaho company that sells herbal tinctures and CBD products. The company advertised a “Coronavirus Protocol” package that included CBD as a key agent, and since changed the description.

Beware of email mass marketers as well, infiltrating your inbox with just the fix you need, no matter how legitimate it appears on the surface. According to Forbes, one company is sending text messages to numerous phone numbers with promises that CBD oil will reverse the coronavirus’s ill effects. Included in the message is a link to what appears like a FOX News article promoting the product’s effectiveness. The only problem — the article is completely fake.
A local Drug Enforcement Agency official recently came out against such marijuana-related coronavirus claims as well. Like NORML’s previous recommendations, the DEA agent said sharing joints, bongs, or pipes is “not smart” right now.
“I’m not encouraging any drug use at all, but you really need to be thinking about this because this is a secondary affect,” assistant special agent Dante Sorianello told FOX San Antonio.
COVID-19 causes adverse respiratory illness in those with the disease, with symptoms like shortness of breath and dry coughing. Those who are at greater risk of contracting the disease—such as those above the age of 65 and or anyone with pre-existing condition—should limit or avoid exposure to combustible smoke. According to cannabis intelligence firm Headset Analytics, consumers are responding to the crisis by purchasing more edibles and tinctures than ever.

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Marijuana businesses can remain open during stay at home order, but must scale back

Even with a stay at home order from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, marijuana businesses will be able to continue operating, although operations will have to be scaled back.
Marijuana retail shops, both medical and recreational, will have to stop sales inside their stores and only do curbside or home delivery.
Owners of other categories of marijuana businesses — growers, processors and testing facilities — “must designate only as many employees as necessary to show up to work to cover supplies and provide services and to maintain the value of inventory in general,” according to the Marijuana Regulatory Agency.

More: Where to buy recreational marijuana in The US
More: Coronavirus slows, but does not stop, marijuana sales around The United States
Medical marijuana dispensaries began selling to medical cardholders in October 2018, one month before Michigan voters approved a proposal to legalize weed for adult recreational use. Sales of legal weed to anyone 21 or older began on Dec. 1. So far, $31.9 million in recreational pot has been sold in Michigan.
There are 237 medical marijuana dispensaries and 75 recreational shops that have been licensed by the state. More than 50 of the recreational shops are open for business.

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Nebraska Medical Marijuana Campaign Suspended Due To Coronavirus

suspending signature gathering for a campaign to legalize medical marijuana in the state, citing concerns about the novel coronavirus.
This is just the latest example of how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting drug policy reform efforts across the country, with advocates ending traditional campaign activities and some requesting emergency action to allow for alternative means to put measures on state ballots this year.
That said, Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana said they remain confident that the initiative will prevail nonetheless.
“Thank you to all Nebraskans who have given their support so far to our effort to get voter approval of legalized medical cannabis on the ballot this fall,” the group said in a Facebook post. “Your signatures, along with overwhelming citizen support for the measure, is going to help make it a reality and bring relief to individuals and communities throughout our entire state.”

However, the campaign is pressing pause for now, they said.
“Out of an abundance of caution and following the wider recommendations from public health officials, we are going to pause our volunteer and paid signature-gathering efforts within local community gathering places until the state indicates it is responsible to continue,” the post states. “We look forward to the opportunity to get back out there to help Nebraskans create meaningful change for each other, and we wish you and your loved ones health and peace of mind right now.”
The proposed constitutional amendment would allow physicians to recommend cannabis to patients suffering from debilitating medical conditions. Patients would be allowed to possess, purchase and “discreetly” cultivate marijuana for personal use.
Activists must collect about 130,000 signatures y July 8 in order to qualify for the November ballot. It’s not clear how far into the process the campaign is, nor how long it will be until they will continue in-person signature gathering.
But the Nebraska campaign—which also recently announced it is receiving assistance from a property tax reduction coalition—is far from the only reform effort that’s being set back by the coronavirus outbreak.
Two campaigns in California—one to amend the state’s marijuana program and another to legalize psilocybin mushrooms—are suspending conventional activities and asking the government to allow for digital signature collection to allow them to qualify for the November ballot. In Washington, D.C., a campaign to decriminalize psychedelics similarly implored lawmakers to enact emergency legislation to allow signatures to be collected online.
The virus is also dashing hopes among advocates in New York. While the governor has insisted the cannabis legalization be accomplished through the budget, a key sponsor of a reform bill said on Wednesday that it’s unlikely lawmakers will reach an agreement by an April deadline as the legislature works to respond to the outbreak.


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Stop Passing That Joint, Top Marijuana Reform Group Says Amid Coronavirus

As the new coronavirus continues to spread through the U.S., one of the country’s leading advocacy groups for marijuana legalization is warning consumers to stop passing joints and to beware of online misinformation, including “any claims cannabis or CBD can help cure or protect against this virus.”
“As long as cultures have consumed cannabis, the practice of sharing a joint among friends has been a common social practice,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri wrote in a message posted Monday to the group’s blog. “But given what we know about COVID-19 and its transmission, it would be mindful during this time to halt this behavior.”

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is transmitted through person-to-person contact and particles that remain in the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That makes it risky to pass joints, glassware, vape pens or other devices used to consume marijuana—or even to be too close to someone who coughs after smoking or vaping.
“We all know a large part of what binds us together as cannabis consumers is community and sharing,” Altieri wrote in the NORML post. “However, while we are living through the current pandemic we should all be more mindful of our day-to-day consumption practices, and how the choices we make impact not only ourselves, but also those we care about.”
For cleaning, NORML said on Twitter that isopropyl alcohol of at least 90 percent strength “is an effective and affordable way to clear any germs or pathogens off your pieces.”
NORML is also advising patients and consumers that they may want to limit smoking and vaping, as COVID-19 can cause severe, sometimes fatal, respiratory distress.
And amid unfounded claims that cannabinoids such as CBD can treat or cure coronavirus infections, NORML warned consumers to beware of such information as well as “potential scammers promoting similar claims.”
The organization also advised patients and consumers to be careful where their marijuana comes from:
“Cannabis from the unregulated market may potentially possess molds, pesticides, or other unwanted adulterants that could hamper one’s immune system. Whenever possible, try to obtain a lab-tested, regulated product – though we fully understand that most people in our country still live in a state that enforces prohibition and this is not a realistic option. This advice is especially pertinent for portable vaping devices, as unregulated products have been known to contain vitamin E and other dangerous additives that can harm the lungs.”
For now, most medical and adult-use marijuana jurisdictions in the U.S. have allowed licensed stores to remain open. Many have declared legal cannabis retailers “essential” businesses, noting the need among some patients for a consistent supply of medicine and the public health risks of sending consumers flocking to the unregulated market. Some, including Michigan, have allowed stores to begin offering curbside pickups in order to encourage social distancing.
In a follow-up statement released on Wednesday, NORML’s Altieri said the group “commends the decision of various state governments and local jurisdictions during this pandemic to designate medical cannabis facilities as ‘essential’ to the community. This designation permits them to continue to provide important services to patients who rely on them.”
“There are several million state-licensed medical cannabis patients in America. Because many of these patients are among our more vulnerable populations, it is essential that they maintain uninterrupted, regulated access to lab-tested products during this time,” he said. “Policymakers must not push these patients to the illicit marketplace because unregulated products may contain contaminants, adulterants, molds, pesticides, or other components that could potentially endanger their health.”
Americans for Safe Access, a nonprofit group that supports access to medical marijuana, sent an open letter on Tuesday to governors across the country, urging them to keep stores open for medical patients and to adopt policies aimed at limiting customer interactions.
Policies in some areas have turned on a dime. San Francisco announced the closure of all storefront cannabis retailers as part of a shelter-in-place announcement, but hours later the city reversed that decision. For now, the local Department of Public Health said on Tuesday that the shops can remain open.

NORML on Wednesday also asked followers on Twitter to let the organization know if they were “arrested / prosecuted for simple marijuana possession during the COVID crisis.”

Meanwhile, coronavirus concerns and quarantines have forced drug policy reform activists to find new ways of organizing ballot campaigns that require in-person signature gathering. An effort to amend California cannabis law and a separate push to decriminalize some psychedelic drugs in Washington, D.C., have both asked officials within the past week to allow them to gather signatures online instead.
The public health response has also muddied New York’s path to legalization, supported by many legislators and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). Last week, lawmakers introduced revised legislation in an attempt to legalize adult-use marijuana. But while the governor has insisted that the policies be enacted through the budget ahead of an April deadline, some are skeptical about that prospect as state officials prioritize a COVID-19 response.
Whether or not legalization happens in New York this year, Cuomo said Monday that talks with nearby states about the need to coordinate marijuana policies have helped enable a better regional response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The best way is for me not only to have a uniform policy within the state of New York, but to the extent you can, cooperate with surrounding states so you all have a common set of practices,” Cuomo said. “I don’t want to close down bars in New York, but Connecticut leaves the bars open. Why? Because then many people will get in their car and they’ll drive to Connecticut to go to a bar, which is the last thing we want.”

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Medical Marijuana Group Urges Governors To Protect Patient Access Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

As state and local governments across the U.S. shutter businesses and prohibit gatherings in an attempt to limit the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, medical marijuana patients and advocates are urging policymakers not to close down cannabis dispensaries completely.
Such a move, they warn, would leave hundreds of thousands of patients stranded without access to medicine, and many would have no choice but to turn to the illicit market.
In an “emergency call to action” sent Monday to governors of legal medical marijuana states, Americans for Safe Access, a leading nonprofit medical cannabis advocacy group, asked the officials to take immediate steps to ensure that patients have access to products during a period of social distancing that has no clear end in sight.

The letter came the same day that San Francisco’s Department of Public Health ordered all dispensaries in the city closed, announcing that both storefront dispensaries and delivery services “are not considered an ‘essential business’” and will need to close as of Tuesday.

Other jurisdictions are taking more proactive approaches to meeting patient needs. In Pennsylvania, dispensaries are expected to remain open because they fall into the same classification as pharmacies. In Michigan and Illinois, officials have temporarily allowed curbside pickups at cannabis retail stores in order to allow medical patients and consumers access to marijuana while limiting the spread of the virus from person to person.

In its letter to governors, ASA recommends that policymakers take steps now to protect cannabis patients and ensure they have access to medical marijuana in coming months. It lists eight measures to put into place “immediately to ensure that patients do not have disrupted access to their medicine”:
Make sure that cannabis businesses that serve patients are considered “essential” businesses.
Instruct medical cannabis businesses on how they can make legal temporary changes to their business plans, including delivery and purchase limits, to accommodate patients and staff during the crisis.
Give tax relief to patients and businesses.
Allow cultivation and processing centers to stay open to ensure a steady supply of medicine in the future.
Extend the expiration dates of state-issued cannabis identification cards so that doctors and other health care providers can focus on COVID-19.
Permit authorized caregivers to serve additional patients during the crisis period.
Allow telehealth visits for new and renewing medical cannabis patients.
Allow dispensaries to deliver medical cannabis to qualifying patients and caregivers in vehicles parked in the dispensary parking lots.
ASA is also asking concerned citizens to write to their governors, insisting that patient access to cannabis be protected during the pandemic.
Medical marijuana patients “represent some of the states’ most vulnerable citizens,” ASA interim Director Debbie Churgai said in the letter. “We are calling on states to take precautions now to help ensure that patients have access today and that measures are taken to ensure that the supply chain is not interrupted.”

As officials scramble to determine which businesses can remain open during the outbreak, jurisdictions so far have taken a variety of approaches to marijuana availability, for both patients and adult non-medical consumers. In Massachusetts, medical dispensaries “have been advised they may consider the promotion and geographic expansion of delivery service,” the state Cannabis Control Commission said in a release last week, “and to remind patients of the ability to acquire up to a 60-day medical grade marijuana supply.
Dispensaries are to remain open in Puerto Rico, too, where the Department of Health announced on Monday that the medical cannabis industry will be excluded from the governor’s recent mandatory shutdown order there.
Parts of Colorado are also allowing dispensaries to stay open. Summit County, for example, will allow cannabis retailers to remain open, along with liquor stores, gas stations, banks, grocery stores and pharmacies.
And in the Netherlands, the country’s iconic coffeeshops are staying open, but they’re no longer social destinations. For the foreseeable future, only to-go sales are allowed.

In other areas such as Washington State, individual businesses have adopted policies designed to limit interaction between visitors and avoid spreading coronavirus. Lines have begun to grow on sidewalks as stores restrict the number of people inside at one time. To help speed transactions, businesses are asking customers to place orders in advance through online menus.
Complicating the social-distancing effort is the fact that delivery services remain illegal in the state for both medical and adult-use marijuana, forcing patients and customers to show up in person. Home cultivation is allowed only for state-licensed medical patients.
Other cannabis-related efforts have seen obstacles as COVID-19 spreads through the country.
In California, organizers behind a proposed ballot initiative to expand cannabis access (including filmmaker Kevin Smith and actor Jason Mewes of “Jay and Silent Bob” fame) have asked officials to let them seek signatures online rather than in person.
In Washington, D.C., organizers also want to be able to collect signatures online for a measure that would decriminalize certain psychedelics. And throughout the country, uncertainty and fears of prolonged quarantines have led patients and consumers to flock to retail outlets.

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Legalizing Marijuana Increases Housing Prices, Study Finds

So much for “there goes the neighborhood.” A new analysis suggests that states that legalize marijuana actually see a boost in housing prices, with the effect most pronounced once nearby retail outlets open for business.
Economists at the University of Oklahoma attempted to tease out the impact of adult-use cannabis legalization by examining listings on Zillow.com and tracking them against legalization in Colorado and Washington State. Their findings suggest legalization “has beneficial spillover effects at both the state and local levels,” casting doubt on the parade of horribles sometimes warned of by law enforcement and other critics.
“Concerns about the potential effect on crime rates and the difficulty in policing impaired driving have been cited as reasons to slow-walk the path to full recreational legalization,” the study’s authors write. “This research contributes to the discussion, providing evidence that recreational marijuana legalization (RML) has large positive spillover effects on the local housing market.”

Specifically, neighborhoods in Colorado and Washington saw a 7 percent price increase as marijuana retailers there opened shop, the study, which was published online this week by SSRN, found. “Considered together, this research suggests that there are second order benefits associated with marijuana legalization that policy makers and voters should be aware of when deciding the drug’s legal status.”
“Once recreational marijuana becomes available to buy easily at a dispensary and tax revenue is generated, there is significant home price appreciation.”
It’s not the first time researchers have looked into the effects of legalization on nearby home values. In 2018, researchers at Colorado State University found that home prices within a half mile of a retail cannabis store went up by 7.7 percent. A 2017 study, “Contact High: The External Effects of Retail Marijuana Establishments on House Prices,” found an 8 percent increase in the value single family residences that were “close to a retail conversion,” or store opening, compared to homes that were farther away. A 2016 analysis had similar findings, concluding that “legalization leads to an average 6% increase in housing values, indicating that the capitalized benefits outweigh the costs.”
The new study takes the past findings and pulls them into sharper focus. It concludes that legalization tends to impact the values of more-expensive homes differently than less-expensive ones, though homes of all price levels saw increases. The study also identifies variables that may work to lift residential property values in states that legalize, such as increased tax revenue to fund schools.
“Marijuana’s liberalization provides a novel source of tax revenue which states have used to fund capital expenditures, especially in education and it acts as an amenity via the dispensaries that distribute it,” the paper says. “The creation of a new legal market has direct implications for the local economy, as it establishes new dispensary jobs and reduces arrest rates. All of these factors have well-established impacts on housing markets.”
One of the analyses performed by the researchers found that prices among more expensive homes increased immediately following a successful ballot drive to legalize marijuana. Meanwhile, homes in less-expensive areas didn’t see much of a price increase until cannabis stores actually began to open.
As they describe it, the economists found “positive effects in the top of the distribution following the success of the ballot measure legalizing recreational marijuana, but no effect in the lower half.”
“The greatest impact occurs once it becomes legal to sell marijuana, with large positive effects across the price distribution, especially in the middle three deciles,” they write. “Heterogeneous responses to a policy shock have not been well-researched in the housing literature, making the findings here one of our major contributions.”
Legalization itself led to “positive effects upwards of ten percent in the top half of the price distribution,” the study says, “and between five and fifteen percent across the distribution after the state enacts the ballot initiative and the first legal sales take place.”
Why the lopsided effect? The economists say a number of mechanisms could be at work, with a big one being access to liquidity among the rich: “The wealthiest households can more rapidly move to (legal) states if they believe there to be some positive spillovers from legalization.”
The researchers attempted to address some confounding variables in their analysis, such as by assessing house prices by square foot rather than taking each property as a whole. “Geographic heterogeneity in our sample suggests that simply using house price as the dependent variable could bias the results since treatment homes are in high-price states,” the authors write. “By using house price per square foot as the dependent variable, we can ensure that this potential source of bias is accounted for.”
They also took particular note of when stores actually opened. “If the primary mechanism in our cross-state models is the economic development effect,” the study says, “then it is possible that the impact is only felt once the first dispensaries open and a large volume of marijuana sales take place, thereby generating tax revenue.”
“[W]hen a dispensary opens nearby, homes closest to it appreciate in price the most. This is consistent with our interpretation that new dispensaries act as amenities in the local housing market.”
One big question the researchers still can’t answer: Will it last? “Without the benefit of foresight,” they write, “our research is not able to determine whether the positive effect will persist.”
Other big unknowns remain, such as whether the effect was due to more people immigrating to the state after legalization, which would mean states that legalize later could see a diminished effect.
But for now, the effect is robust. And from what the researchers can tell, people don’t just seem to want the benefits of legal marijuana. They also want marijuana stores themselves to be near their homes. When the economists modeled home prices by distance to the nearest outlet, the data “show price appreciations for homes as the distance to the nearest dispensary decreases.”
“This demonstrates that [it is] not simply the benefits of increased tax revenue, but also the existence of the dispensaries themselves, that is driving the price increases,” the researchers found. “The dispensaries act as commercial amenities that the public puts a premium on being nearby.”

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Alabama Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Bill

After hours of tense debate, the Alabama Senate voted on Wednesday to pass a bill to legalize medical marijuana in the state.
Lawmakers voted 22-11 in support of the legislation, which would allow qualifying patients to purchase certain medical marijuana products from state-licensed dispensaries. Cannabis intended for smoking or vaping would be prohibited under the proposal, meaning only preparations such as tablets, topicals and certain infused edibles would be available.
“I think in this day and time, with the opioid crisis, we need to try alternative medicines that will help people,” said Sen. David Sessions (R), who voted to pass the bill.
With the Senate’s approval on Wednesday, the proposal now heads to the House, where its prospects are unclear. Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R) has been noncommittal, telling reporters last month that he was in “wait and see mode.”
The state’s attorney general, meanwhile, has urged lawmakers to oppose any move to legalize.
The bill, SB 165, would establish a state Medical Cannabis Commission to register patients and oversee licensing businesses.
Under the measure, patients suffering from specified conditions would qualify for the program. Those include anxiety, cancer, epilepsy and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Patients would be able to purchase up to a 70-day supply at a time, and there would be a cap of 32 dispensaries allowed in the state.
Products would be tested for potency and contaminants, and sales from licensed dispensaries would be subject to a nine percent tax. Part of those funds would go toward creating a new Consortium for Medical Cannabis Research, which would provide grants to study the plant.
Medical marijuana would be tracked from seed to sale under the measure, which also contains a number of restrictions on advertising. Workers at cannabis facilities would be subject to background checks.
“Today’s landslide vote in the Alabama Senate shows lawmakers in even the most conservative states in the nation are starting to recognize that allowing medical cannabis is good politics and good policy. Voters of every political background overwhelmingly support allowing medical cannabis,” Karen O’Keefe, state policies director for the Marijuana Policy Project, told Marijuana Moment. “That said, with polls showing upwards of 90 percent of Americans supporting allowing medical marijuana, it’s alarming that 27 states continue to criminalize patients for choosing a safer alternative to opioids.”
The bulk of opposition during Senate debate on Wednesday came from Sen. Arthur Orr (R). Orr, who admitted at times that he was unfamiliar with certain aspects of the bill as well as underlying research around medical marijuana generally, questioned virtually every element of the bill and its amendments.
At one point he demanded that Sen. Tim Melson (R), SB 165’s sponsor, produce medical literature in support of the legalization proposal. But Orr indicated that even such evidence wouldn’t change his mind: “What happened in the world of opioids, I don’t know that I really trust the medical community as a broad group,” he said.
Orr also attacked a successful amendment by Sen. Bobby Singleton (D) that would work to ensure diversity in the state’s new medical marijuana industry. When Orr complained that he wasn’t privy to what was in the proposal, Singleton replied: “You just told me you really didn’t get involved in it and didn’t look at it.”
In response to badgering from Orr, who described the relatively modest medical marijuana proposal as taking a “pedal to the metal” approach, Melton replied: “I’m beginning to wonder how long you left your training wheels on.”
The Senate also approved a raft of additional amendments to the bill during Wednesday’s debate. The most notable of the changes imposes a 75-milligram daily limit on THC intake, where previously the bill had no limit. (Orr proposed a lower, 50-mg limit, as well as a separate measure limiting cannabis products to 10 percent THC, but those amendments failed.) Another will prevent regulators from expanding the current list of qualifying conditions, instead requiring sign-off from lawmakers. Other approved changes will expand the number of available business licenses and restrict those licenses to in-state actors.
A measure to add menopause or premenstrual syndrome as qualifying medical conditions for cannabis was also approved after a brief delay in the chamber to consider other legislation.
Following the spurt of amendments, Orr threatened to kill the bill by speaking until midnight, especially if none of his amendments were accepted. He then introduced another proposal to remove some of the qualifying conditions but told members they were free to leave for the hour he was allotted to speak before coming back to vote. In effect, he was making good on his threat and engaging in somewhat of a filibuster to delay the legislation. That measure was defeated.
Another Orr amendment, which was approved, limits medical cannabis products for minors to 3 percent THC.
Those changes came in addition to other amendments added during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last month. One amendment approved by the panel shields doctors from legal liability for recommending marijuana, which remains illegal under federal law. Another clarifies that workers who cause accidents while under the influence of cannabis don’t qualify for workers’ compensation.
While Melson and supporters pushed back some of the restrictive changes proposed on the floor, they embraced others as likely to help build political support for the bill.
The Senate approved a separate medical marijuana bill last year, but it was ultimately gutted in the House. As enacted, the legislation did not include provisions to legalize cannabis but instead set up a study commission to look into the issue and develop recommendations.
In December, the newly created study commission came back with its report, which recommended medical marijuana be legalized.
“Although some medical study results are inconclusive and some results are mixed,” the report found, “there is strong scientific evidence that both hemp and marijuana contain compounds that provide significant relief for symptoms of certain specified medical conditions.”
Melson, the sponsor of both SB 165 and last year’s legalization bill, says the new measure is an updated and more politically feasible version of last year’s legislation that incorporates the study group’s recommendations.

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Mississippi Medical Marijuana Measure At Risk After House Approves Alternate Ballot Question

A ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana in Mississippi suffered a blow on Tuesday after the House passed a resolution to include an alternative measure on the November ballot that could result in a less robust program for patients who need cannabis.
Reform advocates grew concerned after lawmakers introduced a series of alternative resolutions in recent weeks. If more than one legalization measure appears on the ballot, there’s also a significant risk that the vote will be split and none will be approved.
More than 200,000 signatures were collected to put Initiative 65 before voters. The alternative is regarded as more restrictive and prone to legislative interpretation, and advocates suspect the primary reason for its introduction was to kill the original, more far-reaching initiative by confusing voters.
The House approved the alternate version it in a 72-49 vote. It now heads to the Senate, where it’s also expected to advance.

According to advocates, House Speaker Philip Gunn (R) took a personal interest in ensuring that the chamber approved the alternative, pressuring members to fall in line.
“[T]he House showed this morning that they couldn’t care less about the people who are suffering from debilitating medical conditions in our state and who could be helped with medical marijuana,” Mississippians for Compassionate Care, the campaign behind the ballot initiative, said in a statement.
“If approved by the Senate, the legislative alternative will be listed alongside our initiative (Ballot Initiative 65) in a way that will prevent a fair up-or-down vote on medical marijuana by confusing voters,” the group said. “The Speaker is opposed to medical marijuana and is opposed to a fair vote on the initiative signed by more than 228,000 Mississippians. He used every bit of his power to muscle through the alternative and pressure House representatives to vote with him, even if they supported the people’s right to a fair vote in November.”
But the speaker wasn’t the only force behind the push to defeat the initiative by putting a second measure on the ballot. The owner of an Arkansas cannabis cultivation business hired Mississippi-based lobbyists to oppose Initiative 65.
Advocates alleged that the owner was hoping to get legalization legislation approved that’s more amenable to his business interests. A lawyer for the individual confirmed to Marijuana Moment that he intends to enter the medical marijuana space after the state enacts reform and hoped to see a merit-based program with licensing caps.

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Legalizing Medical Marijuana Makes People Have More Sex, Study Shows

Legalizing medical marijuana appears to encourage people to have more sex, according to a recent study.
“We find that [medical marijuana laws] cause an increase in sexual activity,” researchers from the University of Connecticut and Georgia State University concluded.
That’s not the only related effect, however, as the study also determined that there’s a decrease in the use of contraceptives and an increase in the number of births following the enactment of medical cannabis policies.
To determine how such laws influence how often people have sex, the team of researchers analyzed a large data set that included “detailed questions about sexual activity and substance use” in young people between 1997 and 2011. The survey asked respondents explicitly about past-month marijuana use and sex frequency.
The analysis found a 4.3 percent increase in the “likelihood of having sex once or more in the past month” after a medical cannabis law was enacted and “an increase in sex beginning directly after the law change.”
“The primary change in sexual behavior we observe is increased engagement in sexual activity.”
Additionally, the effect of medical marijuana laws on births translates to a 2 percent increase, or 684 more births per quarter, “for all women of childbearing range.”
“These results provide evidence that marijuana use has a considerable, unintended, and positive effect on birthrates,” the authors wrote in the paper, which was published late last month in the Journal of Health Economics.
When it comes to contraceptives, the researchers highlight that the sensory effects of cannabis “may change attitudes toward sexual risks by making users less concerned about the consequences of intercourse, resulting in decreased contraceptive use.”
Such behavioral changes could explain why birthrates increase when people have access to medical cannabis, despite what the study authors described as physiological effects associated with marijuana use that could decrease fertility.
“Our findings on births suggest that behavioral factors can counteract the physiological changes from marijuana use that tend to decrease fertility,” they wrote.
“We find that passage of [medical marijuana laws] result in both increased engagement in sexual activity and decreases in contraceptive use conditional on being sexually active,” the study concludes. “Jointly, both mechanisms suggest that behavioral responses may be due to increased attention to the immediate hedonic effects of sexual contact, increased willingness to engage in sex, as well as delayed discounting and ignoring the future costs associated with sex.”
While this study aims to describe behavioral changes in sexual activity after a medical marijuana law is in place, recent research also points to cannabis’s ability to intensify sexual pleasure and increase sex drive for both men and women.

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Vaping vs. smoking

every discussion of the health risks of vaping should begin with a comparison to cigarette smoking. This is important for two reasons. First, vapes are designed to be reduced-harm alternatives to smoking cigarettes. Second, it’s important to weigh vaping versus smoking because the vast majority of vapers are smokers or ex-smokers.
When it comes to science though, not enough studies employ a direct comparison between vaping and smoking. That’s a missed opportunity. It’s understood that smoking is bad for you with many health risks, but is vaping bad for you? How can does vaping affect your health? Separate from understanding the absolute safety of vaping, it’s imperative to know if vaping is much safer than smoking.
Public Health England has been unequivocal in its findings: vaping is at least 95 percent safer than smoking. They understand that studying the dangers of vaping alone is only half of the subject, since vaping exists primarily as an alternative to smoking. Since there aren’t many studies that employ a direct comparison, the available information on vaping must be measured against the available information on cigarette smoking, rather than in isolation.

Is vaping bad for your lungs?
Smoking cigarettes causes well-known harm to the lungs. Long-term inhalation of burning tobacco can lead to lung and esophageal cancer, and to a variety of deadly lung conditions like emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). But what about vaping?
Cigarette smoke attacks the lungs in several ways. It contains thousands of chemicals, more than 70 of which are known carcinogens. It also contains particulate matter — fine bits of burned tobacco and paper — that is deposited deep in the lungs, where they can be buried in the tissue. Vaping doesn’t produce known carcinogens in quantities large enough to be considered real risks, and it doesn’t contain solid particles like smoke.
In fact, the things that are most dangerous in burning tobacco are largely absent from vaping. Since there is no combustion in vaping, there is no tar or carbon monoxide — two other major dangers of smoking. Vaping uses heat from a coil to turn e-liquid into an inhalable aerosol. It looks like smoke, but isn’t. That said, vaping is not without some potential risks to lung health.
There is some concern over the ingredients in e-liquid: propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, and flavorings. There is no serious human research on the effects of inhaling PG or VG daily for an extended period of time, although extensive animal studies of PG inhalation haven’t raised any red flags. PG has been found to cause minor irritation of the airways, but this isn’t concerning in itself.
Are flavors bad for your lungs?
E-liquid flavorings are a possible source of danger that hasn’t been well-studied. Most flavorings are a mixture of many chemical compounds, and it’s likely that some are worse for lung health than others. Until recently, these flavorings were used strictly in products that were eaten, not inhaled. So toxicology studies have focused on showing that the flavorings are safe for consumption. This is an area where the science on vaping needs to catch up.

A recurring headline has been about diketones like diacetyl being found in some e-liquid. This group of flavoring chemicals is believed to be responsible for a deadly disease called popcorn lung when it is inhaled in large quantities (like in the case of workers in popcorn manufacturing facilities). Diketones are not present in all e-liquid, but a 2014 study by Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos concluded that diacetyl and acetyl propionyl are “avoidable risks.” Following that, many manufacturers reformulated their products and eliminated them. Others began publishing testing showing the levels of the diketones in their products.
Diketones are present in cigarettes too, at 100-750 times the level of any e-liquid. Yet, even though smoking ravages the lungs in other ways, it isn’t associated with popcorn lung. Considering the much larger quantities of diketones in cigarette smoke, the comparatively small amounts in vapes are not likely to be a threat. That’s not to say diketones are safe for inhalation, but the safer choice between vaping and smoking is clear, considering the amounts present.
Is vaping bad for your oral health?
Smoking causes and contributes to a variety of oral health problems. Of course, it’s well-known that smokers are at high risk for mouth, throat and esophageal cancers. But cigarettes can also cause dental and periodontal disease, including gingival (gum) disorders. And cigarette smoke can alter the bacteria in the mouth (microbiome), making existing periodontal problems worse.
There isn’t much information available about medical side effects of vaping on oral health. A recent literature review in the Journal of Oral Pathology & Medicine summarized the state of the science, noting the “paucity of evidence.” However, the authors summarized a few interesting findings.
The authors describe a small study that suggests vapers may have increased prevalence of nicotine stomatitis (which is, oddly, not caused by nicotine), a condition caused by heat that creates lesions in the mouth. This is a minor condition that typically resolves itself when the source of heat (typically a pipe) is eliminated.
A small pilot study examined the oral microbiome of 10 vapers, 10 smokers, and 10 non-vapers/smokers. The authors found that the bacterial profile of vapers was similar to the non-vaping/smoking control group, but that the smoking group’s oral bacteria profile was very different. The researchers concluded that vapor doesn’t alter the microbiome. Again, the study was very small, so broad conclusions can’t be made. The review covers some other small studies, but questions their relevance based on their small size and lack of proper controls.
Finally, there is the issue of exploding vapes causing damage to the mouths of vapers. While it’s true that a very small number of vapers have had catastrophic accidents that caused severe facial and oral lacerations and broken teeth, this is more a matter of vape battery safety than anything else. Using modern regulated devices and quality batteries, there is virtually no chance that an atomizer will be launched from a mod into the user’s teeth.

Can vaping cause cancer?
Cancers form when toxins damage or mutate a cell’s DNA and cause it to grow out of control. A tumor can remain local, or the cancer can spread, and even move from one organ to another. Most people are familiar with cigarette smoking as a cause of lung cancer. Lung cancer kills more Americans than any other kind of cancer, and most (but not all) lung cancer victims are smokers.
Smoking can cause many other kinds of cancer too, because cancers can form not just in areas that have contact with the smoke, but also from smoke byproducts in the bloodstream and organs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking can cause cancer almost anywhere in the body.
Carcinogens have been found in vapes, but at levels that suggest the cancer risk is very low. According to a 2017 study in the journal Tobacco Control, the cancer risk of vaping is on a par with the risk of using pharmaceutical products like nicotine patches — less than one percent the cancer risk of smoking. The only byproducts of vaping that posed a real risk were carbonyls produced by overheating the vape device (as explained in the formaldehyde section of this article).
Other researchers have come to similar conclusions. A 2016 study published in the journal Mutation Research tested both e-cig vapor and cigarette smoke for their ability to cause cell mutations in bacteria. The smoke caused mutations, and was also toxic to the bacteria, while the vapor was not mutagenic or toxic.
Nicotine itself — either in cigarettes or vapes, or other nicotine products — has not been shown to cause cancer. Long-term studies of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and Swedish snus users show no provable link between nicotine and cancer.
The 2016 Royal College of Physicians report on e-cigarettes says that “robust evidence on the safety of long-term nicotine use in humans from the 5-year Lung Health Study, in which participants were actively encouraged to use NRT for several months and many continued to consume NRT for a much longer period, demonstrates no association between sustained NRT use and the occurrence of cancer (lung, gastrointestinal or any cancer) or cardiovascular disease.”
Is there formaldehyde in vapes?
What is formaldehyde? The EPA states that “formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable gas at room temperature and has a strong odor. Exposure to formaldehyde may cause adverse health effects.”
Portland State University researchers reported in 2015 that vapor products produced high levels of formaldehyde — even more than cigarettes. What they didn’t explain was that their experiments used unrealistically high voltages and smoking machines to produce vapor that would have been unbearable for anyone to inhale.
In fact, you can do a similar experiment by putting bread in a toaster and leaving it until the toaster emits smoke and the bread turns black with carbon. Is the result carcinogenic? Yes it is, but since no one could possibly eat it, the danger is moot. Is black toast what you think of when you think of toast? Likewise, the toxic aldehydes produced by a burning wick and atomizer are no real danger because they’re impossible to repeatedly inhale.
In a 2017 study, cardiologist Konstantinos Farsalinos replicated the Portland State experiment and showed that the vapor produced by deliberately overheating was unpalatable to human users. “The high levels of formaldehyde emissions that were reported in a previous study were caused by unrealistic use conditions that create the unpleasant taste of dry puffs to e-cigarette users and are thus avoided,” wrote the author.
In 2018, Farsalinos and Gene Gillman produced a systematic review that analyzed the evidence from 32 studies on the carbonyl compounds like formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, and acrolein that have been found in vapor. The authors found that nearly all of the high levels of carbonyls like formaldehyde produced during the studies were created by poor methodology leading to “dry puff conditions.” They proposed standards for future research that defined proper parameters for vaping experiments, including a standardized puffing regime, using current-generation atomizers and realistic power settings, and proper PG/VG ratios for the equipment tested.
The authors also explained that we inhale 1 mg of formaldehyde every day, just in our own homes. The average vaper, using 5 mg of e-liquid a day in a modern atomizer, only increases their formaldehyde intake by 0.083 mg. That’s less than a 9 percent increase above the normal exposure level, which is probably not significant.
The bottom line
Cigarettes wreak havoc on the body, damaging the smoker practically from head to toe. The harms have been proven beyond doubt. But there is no evidence pointing to similar health effects from vaping — or any health problems, for that matter — unless you count possible nicotine dependence. But nicotine isn’t directly responsible for any of the terrible results of smoking. Vaping remains a far better choice when compared to smoking.