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From Chamard Charles, MD
2018 was a landmark year for the legal cannabis industry, as the national market for growing weeds grew rapidly, and five more states legalized it, reflecting widespread public support.
This year Vermont and Michigan became the ninth and tenth states that legalized recreational marijuana, which is also legal in the District of Columbia. And voters in Missouri, Oklahoma and Utah overwhelmingly approved the voting measures that make medical marijuana legal. This means that 33 states, as well as the District of Columbia, currently endorse the illicit drug for medical use, which raises the question of whether the United States will follow Canada’s example of legalizing marijuana throughout the country.
In 2019, legalization for recreational use seems inevitable in New York and New Jersey.
A wave of legalization is happening, as recent polls show that nearly two thirds of Americans support it, doubling the figure in 2000. Investors also notice this, investing an estimated $ 10 billion in North America’s industry this year.
However, medical researchers continue to caution against its use, because little is known about its effects on health. Here is an overview of what we learned about marijuana and marijuana-based products in 2018.
Today's weed is stronger than yesterday's
Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the main psychoactive component of marijuana and is commonly used as a measure of potency. Over the past decade, the amount of THC in marijuana in the United States has grown steadily, and these changes were more dramatic in the presence of a legal market.
A study published in 2016 tested more than 38,000 samples of marijuana seized by the Anti-Drug Administration from 1995 to 2014. The average THC content in 1995 was about 4 percent. By 2014, it had risen to 12 percent.
One legal market is in the state of Washington. "The average efficiency of flower products sold in Washington's licensed markets is more than 20 percent, and the average efficiency of products based on extracts, such as steam handle oils, smears, and the like, is about 70 percent." said Jonathan Colkins, a drug policy researcher and professor at Carnegie Mellon University.
Using the pot affects the mental abilities of adolescents
“Our research has shown that cannabis causes cognitive impairment and retards cognitive development in adolescents,” said Patricia Conrod, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Montreal and a long-time researcher of marijuana and the brain.
A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that marijuana has a more devastating effect on adolescents' long-term cognitive abilities than alcohol. Even after the students reported stopping, their knowledge did not improve.
“It is important that we study the neuropsychological effects of cannabis, because it is directly related to how someone functions in life,” said Conrod.
This is not the first study to find that cannabis use can damage a teen's brain.
In a study published in JAMA Psychiatry in June, University of Pennsylvania scientists analyzed 69 studies involving young people who use cannabis. They found that young people who often used marijuana were more likely than non-users to have slightly lower marks on memory tests, learning new information, and high-level thinking, including problem solving and processing.
Chronic potty smoking can be addictive.
Studies have shown that chronic marijuana use affects the same brain structures that are associated with addiction.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse Control suggests that 30 percent of those who use marijuana may have some degree of “frustration of using marijuana”.
Disorders associated with the use of marijuana, often associated with addiction, in which a person feels withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drug. This happens when the brain adapts to large quantities of the drug, requiring more and more to create the desired euphoric effect. Symptoms of withdrawal include irritability, mood and problems with sleep, loss of appetite, craving, anxiety and physical discomfort, which reach a maximum during the first week after quitting and continue for up to two weeks.
CBD proves effective in epilepsy
In June, the Food and Drug Administration approved Epidiolex, a purified form of cannibidiol, a non-psychotic component of cannabis, for treating rare and severe forms of epilepsy in children — the first marijuana-based drug to help correct the condition. The drug does not contain THC, which attracts tourists.
The FDA acknowledged that this was a significant achievement in finding proven and safe medical uses for marijuana-based products.
“The hard-to-control seizures experienced by patients with Drave’s syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut’s syndrome have a profound effect on the quality of life of these patients,” said FDA doctor Billy Dunn.
“In addition to another important treatment option for Lennox-Gasto patients, this first-ever approval of a drug specifically designed for Drave patients will provide a significant and necessary improvement in the therapeutic approach to caring for people with this disease.”
Marijuana study horizon for 2019
Colkins believes that more research is needed to see how stronger and new pot strains affect the body.
Researchers also believe that medical marijuana may be a way to curb the use of opioids. In recent years, opioid overdose has increased dramatically and resulted in more than 500,000 deaths from 2000 to 2015 — more than the number of Americans killed in World War II.
Two recent studies show that this strategy deserves attention.
A study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine showed that in states that allow the use of cannabis for medical purposes, 2.1 million doses of opioids are prescribed daily in accordance with Medicare Part D, compared to those states that do not have laws on medical cannabis.
And Medicaid opioid prescriptions have also declined by almost 6 percent in states with medical cannabis legislation compared to states without such laws, according to research.