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Veterans With PTSD Who Use Legal Marijuana in Colorado Can Lose VA Medical Care and Benefits
Legislation to Add PTSD As Qualifying Condition for Medical Marijuana Rejected By Colorado Legislature
On Monday (4-28)...a bill failed to pass the Colorado House State, Veterans, and Military Affairs committee that would have added post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the list of ‘debilitating medical conditions’ that qualify for a medical marijuana recommendation. This timely bill (HB14-1364) would have addressed a major gap in access to medical marijuana in Colorado for veterans and all those suffering from PTSD. The bill sought to ensure that veterans won’t lose their VA benefits for following their physician’s recommendation to use medical marijuana.
On average a veteran commits suicide every hour in the United States – and medical marijuana has been proven to reduce suicide. But, Colorado veterans who use marijuana to manage their symptoms of PTSD risk losing their Veterans Administration (VA) benefits. VA policy permits veterans in compliance with their state medical marijuana law to continue to receive all their benefits and remain eligible for care in the VA medical system.
“It’s insane that in a state with legal marijuana veterans don’t have the same right as anyone else over 21 – especially considering how many lives are at stake,” said Art Way, senior Colorado policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance. “No veteran should have to risk benefits or feel stigmatized when they use medical marijuana.”
Iraq war Veteran Sean Azzariti of Denver, a Marine who testified in support of the legislation yesterday, said "It saved my life and I truly believe that every veteran should have that choice of medication."
Presently 10 medical marijuana states include PTSD as a qualifying condition for eligibility -- including 4 states that have added PTSD to their programs in the last 6 months alone. And a survey published last month in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs reports that people with PTSD in New Mexico’s medical marijuana program show a greater than 75% reduction in severity of their symptoms when patients were using cannabis compared to when they were not.
The Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in Bonn, with the help of American researchers such as Daniel I. Rees of the University of Colorado's Department of Economics, recently published their findings in a paper called High on Life? Medical Marijuana Laws and Suicide (PDF):
Our results suggest that the passage of a medical marijuana law is associated with an almost 5 percent reduction in the total suicide rate, an 11 percent reduction in the suicide rate of 20- through 29-year-old males, and a 9 percent reduction in the suicide rate of 30- through 39-year-old males.
...For veterans, who disproportionately suffer from PTSD, medical marijuana is not an option under the federal Veterans Affairs program. In fact, it used to be the case that any veteran using medical marijuana could lose their VA benefits. In 2010, the department released new guidance stating that veterans receiving medical marijuana under a state program would not lose their benefits. So long as PTSD is not a qualifying medical condition, Colorado veterans do not appear to have that protection, and will be particularly wary to discuss the treatment with a doctor.
“Twenty-two veterans a day are killing themselves,” said Sue Sisley, the University of Arizona psychiatry professor leading the PTSD study who specializes in treating veterans. “They’re not benefiting from conventional medicine. And while many are using marijuana to help them with this debilitating disorder, they want it to be legitimized. They want data. They want to know what doses to take. They want to be able to discuss this with their doctors.”
One vet's story: http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/legal-pot/out-options-veterans-ptsd-hit-pot-underground-n64026
“The first time I used it, I wanted to cry. Because it took away my anxiety. Because it did everything for me that the Oxycontin, benzodiazepines and anti-depressants the VA prescribed me for three years did not do,” said Edwards, 26, a resident of Davenport, Iowa. His symptoms -– an unrelenting “hyper-vigilance,” insomnia and nightmares -– emerged “the moment we walked off the plane” in 2008.
“I can function completely fine all day just by using cannabis. I’m back in school. My attendance is good. My grades are good. My relationships have healed,” added the former Marine. “It allowed me to get my life back.”
In a March 12 letter, federal health officials approved a long-delayed study to explore if pot relieves PTSD. But doctors employed by the VA are banned from prescribing medical marijuana – and from completing forms that allow veterans to enroll in medical-marijuana programs. While medical weed is legal in 20 states, only eight states recognize PTSD as a qualifying condition for which physicians can write cannabis prescriptions.
Posted by RainDog | Wed Apr 30, 2014, 09:30 AM (22 replies)
Around seven in ten Democrats and a majority of independents say that they support the law and that legalizing marijuana was good for the state, with more than six in ten Republicans disagreeing. Younger voters say they back the measure and that legalizing pot was good for Colorado, with older voters opposing the law and saying it was a bad move for the state.
"Colorado voters are generally good to go on grass, across the spectrum, from personal freedom to its taxpayer benefits to its positive impact on the criminal justice system," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll.
Those divisions match the national polls regarding marijuana, as well. Republicans and the elderly (who generally have less experience with marijuana now or in the past) are the only real oppositional blocks to legalization.
A Quinnipiac University poll, released April 28th, found that, three months into legal sale of marijuana in the state, the majority of residents have a positive view of legalization.
Voters overall have a positive view of the Colorado marijuana experiment:
Voters support the law legalizing marijuana 54 - 43 percent;
Nevertheless, two highly publicized deaths that have been linked to marijuana edibles have caused regulators to look at serving sizes for edibles to reduce the amount of THC in edibles or to make smaller serving sizes possible from one edible purchase (which may contain 10 servings of THC in one product - to limit THC to 10 mg. per edible or section of edible.
Posted by RainDog | Tue Apr 29, 2014, 08:44 PM (0 replies)
The study of almost 33,000 students compared trends in teenage marijuana use in Rhode Island and Massachusetts from 1997 to 2009, HealthDay reports. The researchers found between 26 and 34 percent of teenagers in both states used marijuana during that period, but there was no significant difference in marijuana use between the states in any year. They concluded Rhode Island’s law did not lead to increased marijuana use.
Posted by RainDog | Mon Apr 28, 2014, 12:59 AM (0 replies)
Medical cannabis is a contentious issue in the United States, with many fearing that introduction of state laws will increase use among the general population. The present study examined whether the introduction of such laws affects the level of cannabis use among arrestees and emergency department patients. Using the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring system, data from adult arrestees for the period 1995-2002 were examined in three cities in California (Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose), one city in Colorado (Denver), and one city in Oregon (Portland). Data were also analysed for juvenile arrestees in two of the California cities and Portland. Data on emergency department patients from the Drug Abuse Warning Network for the period 1994-2002 were examined in three metropolitan areas in California (Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco), one in Colorado (Denver), and one in Washington State (Seattle). The analysis followed an interrupted time-series design. No statistically significant pre-law versus post-law differences were found in any of the ADAM or DAWN sites. Thus, consistent with other studies of the liberalization of cannabis laws, medical cannabis laws do not appear to increase use of the drug. One reason for this might be that relatively few individuals are registered medical cannabis patients or caregivers. In addition, use of the drug by those already sick might "de-glamorise" it and thereby do little to encourage use among others.
Posted by RainDog | Mon Apr 28, 2014, 12:37 AM (1 replies)
To replicate a prior study that found greater adolescent marijuana use in states that have passed medical marijuana laws (MMLs), and extend this analysis by accounting for confounding by unmeasured state characteristics and measurement error.
We obtained state-level estimates of marijuana use from the 2002 through 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. We used 2-sample t-tests and random-effects regression to replicate previous results. We used difference-in-differences regression models to estimate the causal effect of MMLs on marijuana use, and simulations to account for measurement error.
We replicated previously published results showing higher marijuana use in states with MMLs. Difference-in-differences estimates suggested that passing MMLs decreased past-month use among adolescents by 0.53 percentage points (95% confidence interval , 0.03-1.02) and had no discernible effect on the perceived riskiness of monthly use. Models incorporating measurement error in the state estimates of marijuana use yielded little evidence that passing MMLs affects marijuana use.
Accounting for confounding by unmeasured state characteristics and measurement error had an important effect on estimates of the impact of MMLs on marijuana use. We find limited evidence of causal effects of MMLs on measures of reported marijuana use.
Posted by RainDog | Mon Apr 28, 2014, 12:35 AM (1 replies)
Medical marijuana laws (MMLs) have been suggested as a possible cause of increases in marijuana use among adolescents in the United States. We evaluated the effects of MMLs on adolescent marijuana use from 2003 through 2011.
We used data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey and a difference-in-differences design to evaluate the effects of passage of state MMLs on adolescent marijuana use. The states examined (Montana, Rhode Island, Michigan, and Delaware) had passed MMLs at different times over a period of 8 years, ensuring that contemporaneous history was not a design confound.
In 40 planned comparisons of adolescents exposed and not exposed to MMLs across states and over time, only 2 significant effects were found, an outcome expected according to chance alone. Further examination of the (nonsignificant) estimates revealed no discernible pattern suggesting an effect on either self-reported prevalence or frequency of marijuana use.
Our results suggest that, in the states assessed here, MMLs have not measurably affected adolescent marijuana use in the first few years after their enactment. Longer-term results, after MMLs are more fully implemented, might be different.
Posted by RainDog | Mon Apr 28, 2014, 12:32 AM (1 replies)
From the Journal of Adolescent Health, published online 15 April 2014
The state-level legalization of medical marijuana has raised concerns about increased accessibility and appeal of the drug to youth. The objective of this study was to assess the impact of medical marijuana legalization across the United States by comparing trends in adolescent marijuana use between states with and without legalization of medical marijuana.
The study utilized data from the Youth Risk Behavioral Surveillance Survey between 1991 and 2011. States with a medical marijuana law for which at least two cycles of Youth Risk Behavioral Surveillance data were available before and after the implementation of the law were selected for analysis. Each of these states was paired with a state in geographic proximity that had not implemented the law. Chi-squared analysis was used to compare characteristics between states with and without medical marijuana use policies. A difference-in-difference regression was performed to control for time-invariant factors relating to drug use in each state, isolating the policy effect, and then calculated the marginal probabilities of policy change on the binary dependent variable.
The estimation sample was 11,703,100 students. Across years and states, past-month marijuana use was common (20.9%, 95% confidence interval 20.3–21.4). There were no statistically significant differences in marijuana use before and after policy change for any state pairing. In the regression analysis, we did not find an overall increased probability of marijuana use related to the policy change (marginal probability .007, 95% confidence interval −.007, .02).
This study did not find increases in adolescent marijuana use related to legalization of medical marijuana.
Posted by RainDog | Mon Apr 28, 2014, 12:27 AM (4 replies)
(video from the Economic Policy Institute)
In a recent interview at the Economic Policy Institute, Nobel Prize-Winning economist and MIT professor Robert Solow riffed on the political effects of increasing inequality and concentration of wealth at the very top. "If that kind of concentration of wealth continues, then we get to be more and more an oligarchical country, a country that's run from the top," he said.
Piketty writes as if a tax on wealth might sometime soon have political viability in Europe, where there is already some experience with capital levies. I have no opinion about that. On this side of the Atlantic, there would seem to be no serious prospect of such an outcome. We are politically unable to preserve even an estate tax with real bite. If we could, that would be a reasonable place to start, not to mention a more steeply progressive income tax that did not favor income from capital as the current system does. But the built-in tendency for the top to outpace everyone else will not yield to minor patches.
And this is, perhaps, the most significant point. Piketty has identified the mechanism by which inequality accelerates over time (Solow calls it, simply, the “rich-get-richer dynamic"). But the consequences of that distribution are not merely economic but political: A concentration of wealth leads to a concentration of power, which in turn protects the concentration of power. That our political system is incapable of tempering Piketty's dynamic is not a bizarre coincidence but a direct result.
"Wouldn’t it be interesting," Solow asks in his TNR review, "if the United States were to become the land of the free, the home of the brave, and the last refuge of increasing inequality at the top (and perhaps also at the bottom)? Would that work for you?"
Posted by RainDog | Sat Apr 26, 2014, 02:14 AM (5 replies)
And this leads to less compassion (which Gladwell talks about when talking to the wealthy about wealth.) We cannot expect the .01&, much less the 1% to agree to wealth distribution through taxes (and, I would hope, a basic minimum income.) They will have to be forced to accept laws that benefit the 99% - unless they prefer a stable society more than ostentatious, obscene, really, in the face of suffering, wealth.
In order to figure out whether selfishness leads to wealth (rather than vice versa), Piff and his colleagues ran a study where they manipulated people’s class feelings. The researchers asked participants to spend a few minutes comparing themselves either to people better off or worse off than themselves financially. Afterwards, participants were shown a jar of candy and told that they could take home as much as they wanted. They were also told that the leftover candy would be given to children in a nearby laboratory. Those participants who had spent time thinking about how much better off they were compared to others ended up taking significantly more candy for themselves--leaving less behind for the children.
A related set of studies published by Keltner and his colleagues last year looked at how social class influences feelings of compassion towards people who are suffering. In one study, they found that less affluent individuals are more likely to report feeling compassion towards others on a regular basis. For example, they are more likely to agree with statements such as, “I often notice people who need help,” and “It’s important to take care of people who are vulnerable.” This was true even after controlling for other factors that we know affect compassionate feelings, such as gender, ethnicity, and spiritual beliefs.
In a second study, participants were asked to watch two videos while having their heart rate monitored. One video showed somebody explaining how to build a patio. The other showed children who were suffering from cancer. After watching the videos, participants indicated how much compassion they felt while watching either video. Social class was measured by asking participants questions about their family’s level of income and education. The results of the study showed that participants on the lower end of the spectrum, with less income and education, were more likely to report feeling compassion while watching the video of the cancer patients. In addition, their heart rates slowed down while watching the cancer video—a response that is associated with paying greater attention to the feelings and motivations of others.
These findings build upon previous research showing how upper class individuals are worse at recognizing the emotions of others and less likely to pay attention to people they are interacting with (e.g. by checking their cell phones or doodling).
Posted by RainDog | Fri Apr 25, 2014, 11:55 PM (3 replies)
Two-Thirds Favor Treatment, Not Jail, for Use of Heroin, Cocaine
Good news! Harm reduction approaches are winning the hearts and minds of Americans.
The public appears ready for a truce in the long-running war on drugs. A national survey by the Pew Research Center finds that 67% of Americans say that the government should focus more on providing treatment for those who use illegal drugs such as heroin and cocaine. Just 26% think the government’s focus should be on prosecuting users of such hard drugs.
...The survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Feb. 14-23 among 1,821 adults, finds that support for the legalization of marijuana use continues to increase. And fully 75% of the public –including majorities of those who favor and oppose the legal use of marijuana – think that the sale and use of marijuana will eventually be legal nationwide.
By wide margins, the public views marijuana as less harmful than alcohol, both to personal health and to society more generally. Moreover, just as most Americans prefer a less punitive approach to the use of drugs such as heroin and cocaine, an even larger majority (76% of the public) – including 69% of Republicans and 79% of Democrats – think that people convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana should not have to serve time in jail.
The Pew Research Center’s report on U.S. drug policy comes at a pivotal moment in the national debate over how best to deal with drug abuse. There is a new bipartisan effort in Congress to give federal judges more discretion in low-level drug cases and reduce mandatory sentences for some drug crimes. Separately, the United States Sentencing Commission is expected to vote soon on a proposal to lessen the federal sentence for drug dealers.
Interestingly, it's an even split who thinks drug use is a crisis or problem - BUT NOT WHERE THEY LIVE. It's those "others" who get stopped, frisked and jailed who are seen as the problem. (This, fwiw, may be an expression/result of what the ACLU termed the staggering racial bias in arrests.) Or it may reflect the bias among older members of the population whose views on marijuana are out of step with current understandings.
Posted by RainDog | Fri Apr 25, 2014, 04:46 PM (4 replies)