Tag: research (page 2 of 16)

Canadian Regulators Prepare to Legalize Cannabis for Adult Use

The Canadian Liberal Party, fronted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, swept into power last year on the promise of more sensible social laws that protect rather than antagonize. One of the key promises of that campaign was to shift the national approach to cannabis. While Canada has always been ahead of America on sensible drug policy, cannabis legalization would confirm Canada’s status as a bastion for responsible drug policies.

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In America, political promises are flimsy and evaporate at the first sign of friction. Trudeau’s party on the other hand has said from the beginning that the goal is to “legalize, regulate, and restrict access to marijuana.”

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A panel of regulators focusing on cannabis legalization recently submitted a report that calls for tighter controls on a regulated market in an effort to reduce illicit markets and the crime inherent with those operations. The nine member task force was composed by the Ministers of Justice, Public Safety, and Health earlier in June of 2016.

The report itself is incredibly detailed in the many possible ways to minimize the social harms of cannabis use while ensuring a regulated supply chain that enforces public safety and continued medical access.

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Among the recommendations presented by the panel were several components that have been present in all legalization attempts seen over the past five years:

  • Minimum age requirements to reduce youth exposure (18 currently recommended)
  • Specialty licensing for cannabis retailers with similar restrictions as alcohol and tobacco sellers
  • Marketing and advertising restrictions
  • Mandated product packaging that reflects risks and potency of the item
  • A safe supply chain with a “seed-to-sale” tracking program designed for traceability
  • Personal use cultivation opportunities (4 plants per household currently recommended)
  • Personal possession of cannabis in public (30 grams currently recommended)
  • Harsh penalties for the sale and distribution of unregulated cannabis
  • Taxation that promotes legal sales and funds education programs for youth and disaffected individuals
  • Workplace safety regulations and impaired driving provisions

Many of these recommendations are directly based on legalization attempts in the United States, most notably California which has similar population demographics and geographic dispersion constraints. Prime Minister Trudeau has accepted the report with open arms, and expects to introduce legislation in the first couple of months of 2017.

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As America enters an uncertain age with an unpredictable leader set to take the helm, Canada marks one of the focal points for cannabis legalization in North America.

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Substantial Drop in Colorado Teens Using Cannabis Since Legalization

Data from surveys will continue to be extremely important for cannabis as states begin to implement and adjust their medical and recreational laws. In our previous article, we discussed a recently published report from the American Journal of Public Health that showed a major decrease in traffic fatalities across states with medical cannabis laws.

Especially important was the finding that the most statistically significant reductions were among age groups 15 to 24, and 25 to 44. These adolescent and young adult populations are historically the most at risk for involvement in a fatal car accident. The general decrease in the traffic death rates takes a lot of wind from the sails of anti-cannabis groups, which often fall back on two arguing points: cannabis laws increase traffic deaths, and cannabis laws increase youth exposure, use, and abuse.

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The positive driving data is very encouraging, but the state-level data for Colorado from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health may change the way we debate about cannabis entirely.

Despite the cries from anti-cannabis groups, the first tangible data from a state with recreational laws shows something incredible – people ages 12 to 17 are using cannabis less and less, year after year.

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Comparisons of 2013/2014 and 2014/2015 population percentages show cannabis use among adolescents dropped from 20.81 to 18.35 percent.

Washington also experienced a decrease in youth abuse of cannabis, from 17.53 to 15.61 percent, but the reduction was not as statistically significant as the results from Colorado due to population constraints.

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Overall, in states that legalization cannabis, as well as the District of Columbia, cannabis use among individuals 12 to 17 has been declining year over year. This is great ammunition for pro-cannabis advocacy groups that have been involved in a social debate for the last few decades.

One of the biggest issues with these state reports on cannabis use among teens is that each state represents its own ecosystem, with local factors that influence the data in unique. Compare the decrease in use among teens in Colorado to a recent Arizona study, and you will see that the arguments around cannabis (and how they are perceived) are greatly dependent on the state itself.

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The Arizona Youth Survey reviewed answers from 57,000 students in high school, and concluded that the overall number of teens (8th through 12th grade) who used cannabis in the past 30 days rose only 0.6 percent from the 2014 report. Despite the insignificant increase, anti-cannabis activists began shouting the results from the rooftop.

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Cannabis Use in Arizona, 2012-2016, 8th, 10th, and 12th Graders (left to right)

Comparing Colorado to Arizona is difficult considering they have very different populations with a variety of social and economic issues. But it doesn’t take a data scientist to sense there is something more to the story when one state legalizes adult use of cannabis and youth abuse drops off a cliff, and another state with only medical laws sees a minor increase.

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Of course, more research is necessary, but pro-cannabis advocates finally will have data to back up their claims that cannabis can be a safe medicine and a responsible recreational substance.

And maybe declines in cannabis use among adolescents are simply the result of another social phenomenon: drugs aren’t so cool when your mom and dad have fun with them.

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Average Traffic Fatalities Decrease After States Pass Medical Cannabis Laws

Researchers from Columbia University have uncovered a positive trend among states with legally accessible cannabis. According to the data, states with medical cannabis laws have seen lower traffic fatality rates than states without legal medical cannabis.

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After reviewing traffic data from 1985 to 2014, the researchers concluded that traffic fatalities dropped an average of 11 percent after medical cannabis laws were passed.

The study, titled US Traffic Fatalities, 1985-2014, and Their Relationship to Medical Marijuana Laws was recently published in the American Journal of Public Health, which is a respectable and influential medical journal circulating among American physicians and regulators.

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These findings are majorly important for future debates on cannabis legalization, as those opposed to cannabis laws often claim that the greatest risks cannabis poses to public health are increased youth exposure and increased traffic fatalities.

One of the key results is that while only 7 of 19 states experienced statistically-significant reductions in traffic fatalities after adopting medical cannabis laws, there was a marked decrease specifically among those aged 15 to 44.

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Anti-cannabis groups are sure to point to the fact that other localized factors are involved in traffic death statistics. Still, the states that saw the biggest death rate reductions are amongthe states that are most adamant about their medical cannabis laws. These magnificent seven are Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington.

In total, these states had a combined population of 66.844 million in 2014, when the entire American population was listed as 318.9 million according to census data. So in other words, the study concluded that states with a combined 20 percent of the US population were experiencing significant decreases in traffic fatalities, all corresponding to the enactment of medical cannabis laws.

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Additionally, the researchers did not differentiate between states with robust cannabis accessibility versus states that had passed limited medical programs. The seven states listed above have arguably the most progressive cannabis laws in the nation. And to top it off, the two states that saw an increase in traffic mortality rates were Connecticut and Rhode Island, with a combined population of only 4.652 million people.

As good scientists will say, these results are only the beginning, and further research is necessary for American states to make actionable decisions in the future. However, the researchers from Columbia University (as well as the co-authors from UC Davis and Boston University) are extremely confident that their report will help influence policy decisions associated with medical cannabis, even if other local factors assisted with the overall decreases in traffic death rates.

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