Idaho Prohibitionists Block Cannabis Ballot Initiative

Idaho Prohibitionists Block Cannabis Ballot Initiative

Original Post: Cannabis Now: Idaho Prohibitionists Block Cannabis Ballot Initiative

[Canniseur: Idaho republicans want to raise the percentage of voters it takes to put an initiative on the ballot. One state Senator says there’s no corollary between the medical cannabis initiative and his bill raising the percentage of signatures needed. Really?]

Idaho remains the final state in the U.S. devoid of any medical marijuana policy, and if conservatives in the state have their say, it’ll stay that way for the foreseeable future.

Idaho cannabis crusaders were looking to the 2020 election as an opportunity to finally open a crack in the state’s prohibitionist edifice, with a ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana and industrial hemp. But now, the state’s cowboy conservatives are trying to head ’em off at the pass — that is, at the statehouse in Boise.

Legislation just introduced by Republican State Sen. C. Scott Grow would boost the number of signatures needed to get an initiative on the ballot from 6 percent of voters in 18 of the state’s 35 legislative districts, to 10 percent of voters in 32 districts. The bill narrowly passed the Idaho Senate on March 22, and now moves on the lower House of Representatives.

Grow denies the move was made in response to any particular ballot effort, but the 2018 election saw approval of Proposition 2, which expands Medicaid in the state. This means the current cannabis campaign could result in a second such blow to the state’s conservative establishment.

‘Clear Tyranny’

The legislation would apply to all future ballot measures, even if the petition was filed before the bill was even introduced, as is the case with the medical marijuana effort. If the bill passes, it will retroactively raise the bar on signature-gatherers.

Idaho Cannabis Coalition spokesman Bill Esbensen told the Idaho Post Register the new law would be “clear tyranny.”

The Spokane, Washington-based weekly newspaper Inlander notes how Idaho is polarizing around the cannabis question. The state is considering legislation to legalize industrial hemp now that the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill has removed the federal stricture on it. The hemp bill passed the House on March 18, but the bill’s sponsor, Republican state representative Caroline Nilsson Troy, said she didn’t see any interest in marijuana this legislative session.

In contrast, when Idaho Moms for Marijuana kicked off 2019 with a New Year’s Day rally in front of the state capitol, activist Serra Frank told Boise’s KTVB: “The people of Idaho want it, the politicians might not, we don’t care what they say. We are the people, this is our Capitol building, we are going to make this happen.”

And when the initiative was filed with state authorities on March 8, Esbensen of the Idaho Cannabis Coalition expressed confidence. “This time we have some money behind us,” he told the Post Register. “People with voices, future stakeholders.”

But then, Grow pulled his fast one.

Regionally Out of Step

A sign of how far out of step prohibitionist Idaho is with its increasingly libertarian neighbors came in February, when a federal judge in Boise heard arguments from attorneys for a Colorado-based CBD supplier suing the state police to get back 7,000 pounds of hemp that was seized by Idaho troopers at the port of entry during an inspection.

As Boise’s IdahoNews 2 reports, Big Sky Scientific is demanding that the court order the shipment released and allow it to proceed on to the company’s plant in Aurora, Colo. The Idaho State Police are arguing that any substance containing any amount of THC s illegal under Idaho law, even if it is less than the 0.3 percent which is the threshold for industrial hemp under federal law.

Spokane’s Spokesman-Review notes Idaho’s regional isolation on the question. Nevada voted to legalize cannabis in 2016, and Utah just approved medical marijuana last November. This leaves Idaho “fully bordered by pot-friendlier states,” with the sole exception of Wyoming. But in the Gem State, possession of more than three ounces remains a felony.

It has been a long haul for the state’s cannabis advocates. Medical marijuana initiatives in 2012 and 2014 failed to win enough signatures. A poorly worded 2016 initiative was withdrawn from the ballot before signatures could be counted. Paulette Jordan, who would have been Idaho’s first Native American and first woman governor, called for reviewing the state marijuana laws in her 2018 campaign, and even broached full legalization. But she lost the race to Republican Brad Little.

Yet Idaho activists are by no means throwing in the towel. As the Inlander reports, the group Legalize Idaho is to host a meet-and-greet for cannabis advocates at 4:20 PM on April 6 at the Idaho Pizza Company in Boise. The Idaho Cannabis Coalition will also be out in force to collect signatures for the ballot effort at the fourth annual Boise Hempfest on April 20.

Idaho Prohibitionists Block Cannabis Ballot Initiative was posted on Cannabis Now.

Weed-Fueled Workers of the World, Unite! New Pot Employment Rights Bill Introduced to Congress

Weed-Fueled Workers of the World, Unite! New Pot Employment Rights Bill Introduced to Congress

Original Post: Cannabis Now: Weed-Fueled Workers of the World, Unite! New Pot Employment Rights Bill Introduced to Congress

[Canniseur: This seems like a no-brainer. If you’re taking medicine, you should not get in trouble from your employer for taking your meds. We hope this passes easily.]

New legislation introduced in the House of Representatives is being hailed by advocates as a critical step for workers’ rights in the age of cannabis normalization.

A bipartisan bill introduced on Capitol Hill this week aims to protect federal workers who use cannabis in conformity with the laws of their state. The Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act would prohibit cannabis drug-testing “from being used as the sole factor to deny or terminate federal employment for civilian positions at executive branch agencies if the individual is in compliance with the marijuana laws in their state of residence.”

A sponsor of the bill, Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL), was quick to frame the legislation in terms of rights for workers — especially the ailing and veterans. 

“For our veterans, cannabis has been shown to address chronic pain and PTSD, often replacing addictive and harmful opioids,” Crist said in a press release. “At the same time, the federal government is the largest employer of our veterans’ community. This conflict, between medical care and maintaining employment, needs to be resolved. For federal employees complying with state cannabis law, they shouldn’t have to choose between a proven treatment and their job.”

Co-sponsor Rep. Don Young (R-AK) said that he was optimistic that the bill would pass.

“I truly believe that in this Congress we will see real reform of our nation’s cannabis laws — reform based on a states’ right approach,” Young said in the same release. “This bill would protect federal workers, including veterans, from discrimination should they be participating in activities compliant with state-level cannabis laws on their personal time.”

He added: “The last thing we need is to drive talented workers away from these employment opportunities. As a co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, I remain committed to promoting this bill, as well as other legislation to protect individuals and reform our federal cannabis laws.”

The bill is a rewrite of similar legislation that failed to pass last year.

Critical Question for Federal Workers — and Vets

HR 1687, as the bill is designated, would bar federal agencies from discriminating against workers solely on the basis of their status as a cannabis user or due to testing positive for cannabis use on a workplace drug test. This is a concern for all federal workers who consume cannabis. 

In 1986, the Federal Drug-Free Workplace Program required that all civilian workers at executive branch agencies be prohibited from using substances that are illegal under federal law as a condition of employment. Medical marijuana (not necessarily including actual herbaceous cannabis) is currently legal in 31 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam. When CBD-only states are included, the number reaches 46. Yet cannabis, of course, remains illegal under federal law. So federal workers can be denied employment or terminated due to testing positive for cannabis metabolites — even if their use is in compliance with state law.

A September 2017 study by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management found that military veterans make up approximately one-third of the federal workforce. And a January 2018 study published by the National Institutes of Health found that veterans use medical marijuana at double the rate of the general public. A November 2017 poll by the American Legion found that one in five veterans use cannabis to alleviate a medical condition. 

NORML released a statement expressing how heartened the organization is by the legislation. “The discriminatory practice of pre-employment drug testing for cannabis disproportionately hurts the ability for veterans and medical patients to achieve economic security and a feeling of self-worth,” said NORML political director Justin Strekal. “The bipartisan nature of this effort and the bill’s sponsors underscore the absurdity of the status quo and we appreciate the leadership of congressmen Charlie Crist and Don Young.”

Liberalization of cannabis’s legal status at the state level has not negatively impacted workplace safety, NORML asserts. The organization cites a 2016 study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research finding that legalization of medical marijuana is associated with greater workforce participation and fewer workplace absences. 

In January 2017, the National Academies of Sciences issued a report on “The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids,” which found “insufficient evidence” to support an association between cannabis use and occupational accidents or injuries.

As evidence mounts for the efficacy of cannabis in treating PTSD, medical marijuana is fast being normalized in the veterans’ community. And in a sign of progress, the courts are increasingly siding with employees fired for use of cannabis under state medical marijuana programs. 

Weed-Fueled Workers of the World, Unite! New Pot Employment Rights Bill Introduced to Congress was posted on Cannabis Now.

Buying CBD Online? It’s Probably Hemp-Derived — And It’s Not Exactly Legal

Buying CBD Online? It’s Probably Hemp-Derived — And It’s Not Exactly Legal

Original Post: Cannabis Now: Buying CBD Online? It’s Probably Hemp-Derived — And It’s Not Exactly Legal

[Canniseur: When you buy CBD oil online, make sure you read the certified test results. You need to know you are purchasing legitimate CBD supplements. If the website doesn’t tout testing and quality, you don’t want to purchase from them.]

The conventional wisdom is that CBD is now legal, pursuant to the federal Farm Bill enacted late last year. However, as always, the devil is in the details. Here’s what consumers need to know about hemp-derived CBD and buying CBD online.

The cannabinoid known as cannabidiol, or CBD, is all the rage among the health faddists nowadays, and it clearly does appear to have legitimate medical applications, even amid much-unsubstantiated hype about its salubrious properties. Part of this hype stems from the fact that CBD is unburdened of the stigma that attaches to its “high”-inducing sibling, THC. But part of this hype also comes from the fact that, in 2015, the federal government gave a green light to industrial hemp pilot programs in states around the nation. Because the government defined hemp as the cannabis sativa plant with less than 0.3 percent THC, companies started selling CBD from hemp, though they still were hampered with legal ambiguities around the compound’s legality.

When President Donald Trump signed the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill into law in late December, it was supposed to clear up the situation — and, in some respects, it did.

But confusion is still widespread about CBD. On one hand, there’s widespread messaging that CBD is simply “legal” now, while on the other hand, we are also getting misleading headlines like that in Rolling Stone on March 5, saying, “Why Isn’t CBD Legal Yet?”

In fact, there are two key questions to keep in mind when it comes to CBD.

First Question: Hemp-Derived CBD or Marijuana-Derived CBD? 

While the 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the Controlled Substances List, the actual text of the law does not mention the CBD cannabinoid by name. However, it says that “any… cannabinoids” taken from the hemp plant — excluding THC — are removed from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. This implicitly covers CBD.

Countless companies are using the fact that hemp-derived CBD has been removed from the Controlled Substances List to sell it nationwide. This means that if you’re purchasing CBD online, it’s almost certainly hemp-derived CBD. However, this hemp-derived CBD also likely hasn’t been tested and might not even contain CBD at all. There are currently no federal regulations for ensuring this CBD is labeled properly or safe for human consumption.

It also means that the CBD available for purchase online frequently is lacking the full range of cannabinoids and terpenes available from the marijuana plant, which are frequently present in the marijuana-derived CBD extracts sold in dispensaries. This phenomenon is called the “entourage effect,” and there is growing evidence that much of the news about CBD’s effectiveness is enhanced in the presence of THC.

There is also a catch to the statement that “CBD is legal.” Because THC and the THC-laden buds of the cannabis plant remain illegal, CBD’s legality is contingent on whether it is derived from such flowers or not. Although chemically identical, CBD derived from cannabis plants with less than 0.3 percent THC is not a scheduled substance, while CBD derived from high-THC strains is still illegal.

This speaks to the stigma that continues to surround THC and its much-maligned “high,” which persists as a kind of cultural hangover from the days of Reefer Madness, even amid the recent progress toward normalization of cannabis. It also speaks the distinction between “marijuana” and “hemp,” which is often derided as a semantic question (as if clear language were not critical to communication).

Adding to the confusion, many states have decided to create their own rules around CBD from hemp vs. CBD from marijuana. For example, in its state regulations last year, California essentially did the opposite of what the federal Farm Bill would do just a few months later: made CBD permissible only when derived from the high-THC strains covered in the state’s legal cannabis program. This places California’s regulations squarely at odds with federal law on the question.

This also means that if you’re a Californian purchasing hemp-derived CBD online, you’re circumventing state laws that require you to buy CBD in a dispensary after it has gone through all of the testing required of marijuana-derived CBD.

Second Question: CBD-Infused or CBD Isolate?

The 1971 Controlled Substances Act, which was tweaked by the Farm Bill to allow for industrial hemp, is not the only law that has something to say on the matter of CBD. The 1938 Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act gives the Food & Drug Administration responsibility for regulating food ingredients and additives, as well as those in drugs and cosmetics. The FDA has not approved any cannabinoids for such uses, which means that any such uses of CBD (even if it’s hemp-derived) are still illegal.

Upon passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, the FDA issued a statement that poured cold water on the euphoria. It emphasized “what the law didn’t change”: the FDA’s regulatory powers over food, drug and cosmetic ingredients under the FD&C Act. The statement did leave open a window of hope, saying that the FD&CA “allows the FDA to continue enforcing the law to protect patients and the public while also providing potential regulatory pathways for products containing cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds.”

It is the absence of FDA approval that has led health authorities in New York City and some other jurisdictions around the country to unleash a crackdown on CBD-infused edibles last month. This prompted a group of Capitol Hill lawmakers to send an urgent letter to the FDA demanding clarity on CBD’s status. But the matter was still unresolved when FDA chief Scott Gottlieb unexpectedly announced his resignation earlier this month.

The FDA’s Marijuana Questions and Answers page continues to state that CBD as a food additive or dietary supplement is not legal. It doesn’t discuss whether or not CBD isolate is considered legal; however, even a pure extract or “isolate” is usually suspended in a “carrier” substance such as hemp or coconut oil to help preserve potency and deliver the desired concentration per dose. Even if pure CBD was not sold as a food additive or dietary supplement, it still has not generally been approved by the FDA as safe and no testing regulations have been established.

The one exception to the illegality of CBD as a drug ingredient is Epidiolex, the anti-seizure medication that was approved by the FDA last June. This essentially forced the Drug Enforcement Administration to re-examine CBD’s status as a controlled substance. In September, the DEA issued a hair-splitting decision that removed Epidiolex from Schedule I, but not CBD itself. Now that the Farm Bill has basically gone over the head of the DEA on the question of CBD’s status under the Controlled Substances Act, the FDA is the last barrier to its free use.

However, despite the fact that the FDA has not released the rules for how it is going to regulate CBD yet, the legal risks of purchasing CBD products are still slim. Even before passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, there was a vigorous mail-order and over-the-counter trade in hemp-derived CBD. Manufacturers made the argument that it was legal by provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill that allowed “research” in hemp-derived cannabinoids. The federal government did not accept this argument when the matter went before the courts in litigation brought by the Hemp Industries Association — but neither did it move against the industry.

Following passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, the industry’s argument has been formally honored by the law. But a degree of confusion persists even now. And, even amid all the CBD hype, consumers should be aware of it. It’s worth knowing that if you’re buying CBD online, it’s most likely CBD from hemp — and that it is not regulated for safety by any government body.

Buying CBD Online? It’s Probably Hemp-Derived — And It’s Not Exactly Legal was posted on Cannabis Now.

Arizona Asks: Is Hashish Medical Marijuana?

Arizona Asks: Is Hashish Medical Marijuana?

Original Post: Cannabis Now: Arizona Asks: Is Hashish Medical Marijuana?

[Editor’s Note: Of course the Supremes in Arizona won’t overturn. He’s black. Enough said. This man had legally obtained pot and still got arrested!]

The Arizona Supreme Court is set to rule on whether cannabis extracts, including those used to make the edible products now sold to patients at licensed dispensaries, are legal under the state’s medical marijuana program.

The question arises in the case of Rodney Jones, a Yavapai County resident who asserts that his 2013 conviction and two-and-a-half-year prison term were in violation of state law. Jones, an African American man who has already served nearly a year on the charge, is an approved patient under terms of the voter-approved 2010 Arizona Medical Marijuana Act — permitted to obtain up to two-and-a-half ounces of cannabis every two weeks. As coverage in the Arizona Capital Times explains, he was arrested at a hotel for possession of a jar containing just 0.05 ounces of hashish that he had bought at a dispensary.

In a divided ruling last year, the state’s Court of Appeals upheld his conviction. The majority found that the 2010 law allows patients to possess only forms of the plant itself (the flower being the relevant part, of course) — not the resin, or anything derived from it. Hashish, or hash, is a cannabis extract made from the resinous trichome glands on cannabis flowers.

But attorney Robert Mandel, in asking the high court to review the conviction, pointed out that the state’s Department of Health Services has for years allowed and regulated the sale of products made from extracts. These include candy, confections and oils that can be administered to children who have been recommended medical marijuana for epilepsy or other ailments.

The high court is expected to weigh in on the matter in the coming weeks.

Ambiguity in Arizona’s Concentrates Law

Will Humble, who was state health director when voters approved the law, has even filed an affidavit with the Supreme Court saying that the rules he drafted, in cooperation with the attorney general’s office, always considered that the medical marijuana statute covered the use of cannabis extracts. And he rejected the contention by the Yavapai County Attorney’s office that hashish is legally distinct from other extracts currently used to make edibles.

In an unusual move, Arizona’s Attorney General Mark Brnovich is not actually trying to persuade the Supreme Court to uphold Jones’ conviction, but instead is calling on the justices to review the question and provide some guidance. Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk is asking the Supreme Court not to review the case.

To make it even more complicated, in upholding the conviction, the appellate court’s Judge Jon Thompson actually stated that the law allows patients to possess “all parts” of the cannabis plant, as well as any “mixture or preparation” thereof — except hashish. But Judge Kenton Jones, in a dissent, charged that his colleagues on the appellate bench were slicing it too thin by excluding hashish.

“Different forms or delivery methods of marijuana may be more or less appropriate, depending upon the patient’s age, condition, abilities, and desired dosage,” Jones wrote. “When considered in the context of medicinal use, there is no logical reason to limit how the therapeutic compounds found in marijuana are introduced into the body.”

Is Yavapai County Ignoring Precedent?

The Phoenix weekly New Times ran an exposé in October portraying Yavapai County authorities as exploiting the ambiguity in the law concerning extracts to score busts and convictions. One man, Robert Stapleton of Prescott, was even arrested for possession of CBD oil in 2017. Because he also had a handgun when he was stopped in his car (which would have been perfectly legal if he didn’t also possess “drugs”), he is facing felony charges.

Following a review of 90 court cases, the New Times found that “prosecutors encourage police in the central Arizona county to hold a strict line on cannabis extracts. These tactics have resulted in injustices against cannabis patients and CBD consumers, who otherwise likely would not have been prosecuted.”

Yet, in still another contradiction, in March 2014, a Maricopa County court ruled in favor of Zander Welton, then five years old, finding that his parents and physicians could resume treating his seizure disorder with a cannabis extract.

The ACLU of Arizona’s legal director Dan Pochoda hailed the decision. “The court recognized the clear language and intent of the voters to enable relief for seriously ill people through the use of marijuana plants and their extracts,” he said.

Legislative Remedy Pending

Rep. Tony Rivero, a Republican who represents parts of Yavapai County in the state legislature, is seeking a change state law to clarify the question. His bill, HB 2149, would remove the definition of “cannabis” from the state criminal code, and fold that language into the definition of “marijuana” — as it is referenced in the medical marijuana statute. The state narcotics statute, in contrast, makes reference to “cannabis.”

“[The new] definition conflicts with prior law that defines cannabis as criminal,” Rivero told the Arizona Capitol Times. “The Marijuana Act supersedes the criminal code and I don’t want it to be used as a tool to force patients who are fighting cancer and other diseases to have to smoke marijuana,” as opposed to using extracts or edibles.

The case obviously touches not only on the right of medical marijuana patients to use hashish, extracts and edibles, but also the semantic question of the distinction between “cannabis” and “marijuana.” This question is currently the source of much confusion in state regulations, as well as industry nomenclature around the country.

TELL US, do you think hashish should be considered medical marijuana?

The post Arizona Asks: Is Hashish Medical Marijuana? appeared first on Cannabis Now.

Arizona Asks: Is Hashish Medical Marijuana? was posted on Cannabis Now.

New Reports on Cannabis & Teenage Brains Overstate the Evidence

New Reports on Cannabis & Teenage Brains Overstate the Evidence

Original Post: Cannabis Now: New Reports on Cannabis & Teenage Brains Overstate the Evidence

[Editor’s Note: No one advocates for teenage/underage, use of cannabis. Still, it is imperative we continue research to discern the truth.]

Headlines erupted this week on the possible deleterious effects of cannabis on the developing brains of young teens. But the accounts are one-sided, and the political assumptions behind them flawed.

Over the past few weeks, most notably after the publication of Alex Berenson’s “Tell Your Children,” the media has been full of successive stories on the supposed mental health hazards of cannabis — seeming to signal a backlash to recent gains in normalizing the plant and overcoming the stigma.

Right on the heels of much-hyped but dubious claims linking cannabis use to psychosis and schizophrenia, the latest reports cite a study that may (or, if you read past the headlines, may not) indicate that use by adolescents can negatively impact brain development.

The study, published on Jan. 14 in the Journal of Neuroscience, looked at the brains of 46 teenagers from England, Ireland, France and Germany. It found that those who reported using cannabis just once or twice displayed increased volume on MRI images. Most affected were various “brain regions involved in emotion-related processing, learning and forming memories.”

“Even a Little…”

A typical report on the study’s claims comes from NBC News under the headline: “Even a little marijuana may change teen brain, study finds.” The kicker: “Researchers say even one or two joints cause changes in areas of the brain involved in emotion-related processing, learning and forming memories.”

The study’s lead author Hugh Garavan, a psychiatry professor at the University of Vermont School of Medicine, told NBC: “Most people would likely assume that one or two uses [joints] would have no impact, so we were curious to study this — and especially to investigate if first uses may actually produce brain changes that affect future behavior like subsequent use.”

But read a little further and it is conceded that the study did not say what the increased brain matter volume actually means.

In an admitted conjecture, Garavan linked the findings to the fact that, in kids of the studied age group, “cortical regions are going through a process of thinning.” He suggested that this is a “sculpting” process that makes the brain and its connections more efficient. “So, one possibility is that the cannabis use has disrupted this pruning process, resulting in larger volumes… in the cannabis users.”

And he added: “Another possibility is that the cannabis use has led to a growth in neurons and in the connections between them.” Which, despite the scary headline, would presumably not be a bad thing.

This is followed by a bunch of citations to other studies noting, for example, supposed cannabis impacts on memory and ignoring all the countervailing evidence.

The account then goes on to note that 10 states and the District of Columbia have now legalized, with more likely to follow, implying an irresponsible leap into the unknown.

Only then do we reach the caveats — including that findings about teenage brains are “preliminary.”

David Nutt, neuropsychopharmacology professor at Imperial College in London, is quoted in the NBC story saying enlargement of gray matter “doesn’t seem to have a major impact on brain functioning, so while this study alone is not able to prove small amounts of cannabis negatively affect the brains of adolescents, this area of research is important and certainly worthy of further study.”

What the Reports Don’t Say

For a more critical look at these claims, we turned to Mitch Earleywine, a psychology professor at SUNY Albany and the author of “Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence,” published by the University of Oxford Press in 2002.

“Careful examinations of brain research rarely make pithy headlines,” Earlywine told Cannabis Now. “The brain has thousands of parts. If we compare cannabis users to non-users on hundreds of them, we’re bound to find some difference by chance, much the way you’re bound to get five heads in a row if you flip a coin enough times.”

Earlywine said that previous research has suggested that cannabis users — especially those who start young and smoke every day — have deviant brain structure. “But one week, it’s the dorsal anterior of the cingulate cortex, then it’s the hippocampus, then the striatum, and this week it’s the orbitofrontal cortex,” he says. “At least two studies have now revealed increased connectivity in the brains of cannabis users, but we don’t hear much about that, do we?”

Earleywine portrayed a lack of transparency and rigor in studies such as the one now being touted, and challenged researchers to pre-register their studies on sites such as the one maintained by the Center for Open Science to make clear their hypotheses and methods in advance.

“If one of these groups wants to pre-register their hypotheses and specify the spot where they think the purported deficits are going to be before they start poking around looking in every single spot in the brain, I will believe the finding,” he said. “Until then, it’s just a bunch of monkeys with fancy machines taking pictures and looking at them every which way.”

A particular irony is that the now-touted findings come after years of mounting evidence of the capacity of cannabis to protect the brain, such as its efficacy in combating dementia. Scientists last year actually identified the mechanism by which cannabinoids slow the deterioration of neurons in the brain.

In a preliminary study issued by the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California, scientists grew nerve cells taken from a human brain to study factors that influence levels of a toxic protein linked to Alzheimer’s disease. The team exposed the neurons to cannabis — finding that it cleared away the protein, reduced inflammation and allowed the brain cells to survive.

As so many times before, the scary headlines give a very selective view of the overall picture. And in any case, even the most damning findings do not constitute a case for continued prohibition, in Earleywine’s view.

“Let’s assume that heavy cannabis use is bad, particularly for teens,” he said. “OK. How many people deserve to go to jail for that? Then how would we keep cannabis out of the hands of teens? Should we leave the task to the underground market the way we have since 1937, or try to get a handle on the problem with regulated sales?”

It’s worth noting that at the end of the day, nobody is advocating in favor of teenage marijuana use. But, all things considered, it’s certainly worth examining where listening to fearmongering gets us, and whether or not that’s the best place for us — and for teenagers — to go.

New Reports on Cannabis & Teenage Brains Overstate the Evidence was posted on Cannabis Now.

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