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CDC Urges Doctors to Stop Testing Patients for Marijuana

CDC Urges Doctors to Stop Testing Patients for Marijuana

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Shernide Delva

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not believe doctors should test  patients for marijuana. As a result, they have revised their screening guidelines to ensure that physicians only focus on the problem at hand.

Earlier this month, the CDC changed their policy because the marijuana tests presented unnecessary costs. They also are relatively unreliable. A report by the Pain News Network reported in the past that 21 percent of positive results are false and 21 percent of negative results are positive. The CDC found that testing for marijuana resulted in few health benefits and more potential legal consequences for the patient.

“Clinicians should not test for substances for which results would not affect patient management or for which implications for patient management are unclear,” says the updated CDC guideline for prescribing opioids. “For example, experts noted that there might be uncertainty about the clinical implications of a positive urine drug test for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).”

In the past, routine drug tests were done to chronic pain patients to monitor abusive behavior. However, the CDC has now made it clear that physicians should only drug test on chronic pain patients when it is necessary.

“Restricting confirmatory testing to situations and substances for which results can reasonably be expected to affect patient management can reduce costs of urine drug testing, given the substantial costs associated with confirmatory testing methods,” the CDC added.

A 2014 analysis published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that states with medical marijuana laws had a 24.8 lower annual opioid mortality rate compared to states without medical cannabis laws.  Research shows that many use marijuana as an alternative to opioid painkillers. Chronic pain patients may find they have to take less opioid or stop taking them all together. The Journal of Pain found that chronic pain patients who had access to legal cannabis had a significant decrease in opioid use, an increase in quality of life, and fewer side effects.

All of these studies suggest that marijuana could be a safe alternative to pain killers for some patients. Also, cannabis has no lethal overdose level, while opioid overdoses are killer close to 19 Americans each day.

With all that said, CDC spokesperson Ellen Komp, states that a positive test for THC may not be helpful information for a doctor and could pose legal ramifications for the patient. She continued in saying that testing for marijuana would not “inform patient care decisions” and has more adverse effects than good.

Just like any mind-altering substance, marijuana can be addictive; however for those with chronic pain, marijuana can be a safe alternative to opioid painkillers. Pain is a complex phenomenon made up of various physical, mental and social components. Pain is our body’s way of signaling that something is wro­­ng. However, when that pain does not go away despite treatments, that pain is known as chronic pain.

Chronic pain can have a range of causes and the reasons for chronic pain have been debated for years in the medical community. Pain medications known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are often the first approach to treating pain. They are non-addictive and relatively efficient. However, NSAIDs are not always strong enough, and that is when more powerful painkiller medications known as opioids are used. Unfortunately, these opioid pain medications have a tendency to form dependency in many people.

The use of marijuana for pain relief has a long history. However, recently cannabis has received increased attention after several clinical trials reveal the benefits marijuana had on managing pain for chronic pain sufferers.

Still, we are just at the beginning of understanding the benefits of using cannabis for pain management. Therefore, do you agree with the new CDC guidelines? Clearly, it could be a potential harm reduction strategy to reduce the amounts of overdoses occurring due to opioid painkillers. Only time will tell. Remember if you are struggling with any form of substance dependency that you are not alone.  If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

Palm Beach County Votes to Decriminalize Marijuana

Palm Beach County Votes to Decriminalize MarijuanaIn case you missed it, Palm Beach Country will now decriminalize marijuana. With a 4 to 1 vote made on Tuesday, Palm Beach is now following in the footsteps of West Palm Beach and Miami Beach in the effort to reduce marijuana arrests.

“We have to understand that we cannot legislate and lock up everybody for everything they do,” Commissioner Priscilla Taylor said at Tuesday’s commission meeting.

The new ordinance states that anyone with possession of 20 grams or less of marijuana will no longer be arrested. Instead, law enforcement will have the option to issue a $100 citation for the possession. Low on funds? Not a problem. Those who cannot pay the citation will have the option of working it off through community service hours.

Let’s Break This Down

Just to put it all into perspective, here is an overview on what the new ordinance means for residents in Palm Beach County:

  • How many grams? According to the ordinance, 20 grams or less of marijuana is eligible for a fine. If someone is found with more, they face harsher penalties.
  • What’s the punishment? If found possessing 20 grams or less of marijuana, officer would issue a $100 fine and a civil citation.
  • When does this go into effect? As soon as the law is filed with Florida Department of State, which estimated to be in about 10 days.
  • What if someone can’t pay? If you are unable to pay, you have the option of doing 10 hours of community service instead.
  • Does this mean marijuana is legal? No, marijuana is still a criminal offense in the state of Florida. Even if you are caught with less than 20 grams of pot in Palm Beach County, the officer has the choice of whether to issue a citation or a criminal arrest.
  • How many citations can I get? A person caught with a small possession of pot is allowed to receive a citation a maximum of two times.
  • Underage? The ordinance only applies to those that are 18 and older.

The Palm Beach ordinance passed with a 4 to 1 vote, and Commissioner Hal Valeche was the only one in opposition of the ordinance. Valeche said he believes marijuana is a gateway drug that leads to harder drugs. He is also worried about discrimination that can occur when it comes to an officer choosing to give a fine over a misdemeanor.

“You’ve gotta have pretty firm and hard guidelines as to how you chose which one to do,” Valeche says. “Otherwise I think you open yourself up to claims that you’re treating different individuals differently.”

Valeche could very well have a point. A 2013 report with the American Civil Liberties Union revealed that on average, black residents are close to four times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana than whites, despite the statistics that show marijuana use is equal among both races.

Looking at other states,  New York decriminalized the possession of less than 25 grams of marijuana way back in 1977. The law decriminalized pot provided it was not in “public view,” however this law was largely ignored for the better part of 38 years. Police officers found a loophole and forced suspects to empty their pockets, essentially taking the drugs into “public view.”

However, on Nov. 10, 2014, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton called a press conference and announced that the city would stop filing criminal charges for people carrying small amounts of pot. Since 2014, marijuana arrests have gone down significantly, however the city struggles with issues of discrimination in lower class neighborhoods compared to the higher class.

In Florida, those who advocate the ordinance say that younger people deserve a second chance. Between 2010 and 2014, more than more than 7,500 cases in the county involved possession of 20 grams of marijuana or less. In 90 percent of these cases, the person ended up in jail. This law will change that. Although marijuana reform continues to be a hard hitting topic increasing in support, many are concerned about the potential harm.

Addiction is a concern for many and if your substance abuse is becoming unmanageable, you should seek treatment, regardless of whether your drug of choice is legal or not. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

Author: Shernide Delva

Bernie Sanders Proposes Bill to End Federal Ban on Marijuana

Bernie Sanders Proposes Bill to End Federal Ban on Marijuana

Author: Shernide Delva

Marijuana reform continues to be a major topic in the presidential campaign and this week, Bernie Sanders went farther than any presidential candidate in supporting marijuana and the fight to end the War on Drugs.  Bernie Sanders became the first presidential candidate to propose a lift on the federal ban of marijuana. If passed, the bill would give states the right to legalize marijuana without having to go through the federal government.

The bill was introduced on Wednesday and is modeled after a previous bill proposed by Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) in 2013. It was reintroduced this year as the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act. The bill would remove marijuana from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s list as a Schedule 1 drug.

Drugs like heroin, Ecstasy and LSD are considered schedule 1 drugs and are considered to be the “most dangerous drugs.” Bernie Sanders said during his speech at George Mason University in Virginia that he believed considering a drug like marijuana to be as dangerous as heroin is “absurd.” Bernie Sanders believes that states should be allowed to regulate the sale of marijuana the same way drugs like tobacco and alcohol are regulated and should be able to do so “without the fear of prosecution.”

Legal Marijuana: A Cash-Only Industry

As of right now, states that profit from the legal marijuana industry are not able to use the nation’s banks to do business. Nearly all the banks refuse to take money from marijuana sales or refuse to offer basic checking or credit card services in fear that they’ll be shut down by the federal government. National banks will not do business with marijuana growers, retail shops, medical dispensaries, processors and even employees out of fear of prosecution. If this bill is passed, then this will no longer be a concern.

Until then, the legal marijuana industry is forced to deal with the risks of being a cash only business.  Because marijuana remains a federal Schedule I drug, it makes it illegal for financial institutions that depend on the Federal Reserve System’s money transfer to take any proceeds from marijuana sales.

If Bernie Sander’s bill passes, retailers will have less fears about being robbed and businesses will no longer have to show up at the Washington State Department of Revenue with “boxes and suitcases” stuffed with bills to pay their taxes.

Bernie Sanders believes the bill will be a huge step forward in the movement to grow the economy and restore fairness to the justice system. The bill comes a week after Sanders first proposed reclassifying marijuana as a less dangerous substance. He argued that marijuana reform is essential to reform America’s criminal justice system

“In the United States we have 2.2 million people in jail today, more than any other country. And we’re spending about $80 billion a year to lock people up. We need major changes in our criminal justice system – including changes in drug laws,” Sanders said “Too many Americans have seen their lives destroyed because they have criminal records as a result of marijuana use. That’s wrong. That has got to change.”

A Gallup poll released last month revealed that 58 percent of Americans are now in favor of legalizing marijuana use. Four states have legalized recreational marijuana: Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska. Under the Sanders plan, people in these four states would no longer be subject to federal prosecution for using marijuana if the bill is passed.

Marijuana Reform: The Overall Consensus

Changes to states laws regarding marijuana reform have garnered a controversial reaction. It remains a heavily debated topic of discussion. Presidential candidates have varied opinions on the matter and some are unable to make solid choices in regards to their plan of action. Just last week, Donald Trump changed his view on marijuana reform again after going back and forth on his views several times. Hilary Clinton has stated that she is only in support of marijuana for medical purposes.

Marijuana has been shown to have a variety of health benefits. For example, a recent study showed that marijuana can help treat addiction to stimulants. In addition, many health studies have shown that marijuana is effective in helping patients suffering from cancer and other illnesses.

Still, marijuana is not proven to be 100 percent safe. It can have detrimental effects on developing brains of adolescents and some studies show it can negatively impacts memory.  Additionally, just like any other drug, marijuana can be abused and some people even develop a psychological addiction to the substance.

Ultimately, it is up to voters in states that are considering reform to make the final decision. States like Florida and Ohio have come close. Now, Nevada is in midst of voting marijuana reform. Knowing the reasons for reform can make the choice much easier.

Marijuana reform has positive and negative outcomes, but it is ultimately up to voters in states that are considering reform to make the final decision. It is important to know both sides to the argument before deciding how you personally feel. Remember, any substance, legal or not, can be addictive and if you find yourself abusing a substance like marijuana, it is very important that you seek treatmentIf you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

Oregon Will Now Expunge Past Marijuana Records

Oregon Will Now Expunge Past Marijuana Records

Author: Shernide Delva

Oregon is one of the first states to address the concerns of marijuana legalization answering the debated question: what do you do with someone with a record for something that used to be a crime but now isn’t? With this new policy, anyone with any low-level felony or misdemeanor on their record that’s at least ten years old can wipe their record clean (as long as they have not re-offended).  As many as 50,000 people will benefit from this law passed in Oregon.

Oregon is known for its progressive marijuana legislation that spans over the past few decades. Back in 1973, Oregon was the first state in the country to decriminalize low-scale marijuana possession. Now legal experts and marijuana business people are saying that the state is leading the way in creating new laws that would allow people with past marijuana offenses to wipe their slates clean.

In 2016, Oregon will allow more serious felony pot convictions, like growing, to be eligible for record sealing. The law is not restricted to drug offenses. A second law will allow expungement for people who were under 21 at the time of a past conviction.

Citations for marijuana possessions can haunt a person for years preventing them from career opportunities, renting an apartment, loans, and grants. Oregon is one of three states in the United States that allow marijuana use on a recreational level and now this law will give those who were prosecuted for the now legal crime to be able to move on with their lives.

So far, no state has gone further than Oregon on this issue.  Even in states where recreational marijuana has been legalized, the idea of expunging past records still remain controversial. In states like Colorado, Alaska, Washington and the District of Colombia where recreational marijuana is legalized, similar laws are available yet are still unclear. Oregon’s law will be one of the first structured policy following marijuana reform.

Expungement for pot conviction is gaining attention since the legalization of marijuana has raised questions for those convicted in the past. Years after the arrests, citizens are left with a record that will haunt them for the rest of their life, for getting caught doing something that is legal in many states today.

The expunge center in Oregon elaborated on how significant this law is for those who need it most:

“It really doesn’t matter if you had been arrested on a petty charge. The stigma of having an arrest or conviction record against your name can make it difficult for you to find housing, seek employment opportunities and obtain grants for school…. Regardless of how much you have changed or how many dreams you might have, one single mistake of your past can affect your chances of having a good future.”

Even for those with more serious marijuana crimes who are unable to qualify for expungement or reduce their impact may be qualified to reduce the impact of past criminal convictions. They may be able to reduce the severity of their charges so they are granted access to certain rights.

The law comes very soon after Oregon legalized marijuana recreationally. Time will tell if other states will follow Oregon in also expunging records now the drug is continuously decriminalized and marijuana reform continues to stir debate around the country.

Whether or not you agree with marijuana reform, the fact of the matter is more and more states are legalizing the drug either recreationally, medically or both. The next logical step would be deciding best policy when it comes to addressing those who were criminalized for something legal today. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-777-9588  

Politicians Split Over Pot Policies

Politicians Split Over Pot Policies

Author: Justin Mckibben

American politicians are soon to face an unprecedented number of US cities and states putting to the voters tomorrow the decision on whether they should follow suit with marijuana legalization as in Colorado and Washington. With so many keeping a close eye on how things have started to shape up in these states, especially concerning the crime rate and economy, politicians are basing a lot of their campaign power off of pot policies and reforms.

Reform Strategies in the States

Some of the most notable legislations and initiatives being considered include:

  • Alaska and Oregon have measures on the ballot to fully legalize recreational sale and possession of cannabis.
  • Another surprising change on the way may be that Florida would be the first Southern state to legalize medical marijuana.
  • The US territory of Guam is aiming to pass a similar medical marijuana law,
  • Municipalities in New Mexico, Maine and Michigan are all voting to make various reforms to their pot laws.

Morgan Fox of the Marijuana Policy Project stated,

“Since 2012, weʼve started to see more and more support from different areas and demographics that weʼd been trying to get to work with us for years. I think a lot of state lawmakers have looked at the issue and began working on policy alternatives in their own states—and 2016 should see even more than this year.”

Pot Focused Power Shift

The coming midterm elections are expected to produce a Republican wavelet. The New York Times made one last analysis of the polls showing the Republican party, also known as GOP (Grand Old Party) winning the necessary six seats they would need to take control of the Senate even as the party increases its majority in the House.

Midterm voter turnouts are typically lower numbers, and the demographic often tilts to a significantly whiter, older and wealthier majority. There has been a strong hope among Democrats that the marijuana ballot initiatives might stimulate a more sufficient turnout among their typical supporters.

Democrats are counting on younger people, people of color and progressives to help push the Democratic candidates over the top, and they are expecting all the possible reforms for marijuana to bring those people to the polls.

The Florida gubernatorial race has been tight, and the medical marijuana initiative may encourage younger and more progressive voters to go to the polls, and they hope this will help to elect a Democratic governor.

Florida Gets Action on Amendment 2

Florida’s Amendment 2 has gone the distance against a heavily funded opposition that has built a strong armory of fear-mongering advertising. But it has one extra mountain to climb that most other states do not: a 60% approval rate because legalization requires a constitutional amendment.

In July when a poll showed that 88% of Florida voters approved of medical marijuana this seemed possible. However in recent weeks the Drug Free Florida Committee has pushed those controversial anti-2 TV ads around the clock in an attempt to persuade moderate and undecided citizens to vote against the initiative. A whopping 85% of the anit-2 group’s $5.8 million in funding has come from Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino magnet whose wife is an addiction specialist, and who is a major Republican bankroller.

Following this barrage of ads, a poll taken by the local media showed only 48% of likely voters approved of Amendment 2. Ben Pollara, executive director of United for Care, the main backers of 2 said,

“Theyʼve outspent us ten to one over the last two weeks. Weʼve bled about as much as we can bleed, but weʼre going to hold the fort”

But despite this early assumption, a more recent poll by a Democratic firm done last week found that “yes on 2” votes had climbed back up to 59%—just 1% shy of the requisite 60%.

Amendment 2 has been endorsed by Florida gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist, a former moderate Republican governor of the state who is now running as a Democrat. Other Democrats came out early in support of Amendment 2, and additional Democratic support comes from Sen. Bill Nelson, Rep. Alcee Hastings and Rep. Corrine Brown.

Republican Governor Rick Scott has opposed all efforts to reform drug laws, including those for marijuana for medicinal uses. But in June, he approved a bill providing select patients with a low-THC medical marijuana treatment, which is effective against only neuropathic pain and nausea. He remains opposed to Amendment 2.

Although rates of pot use are comparatively low in Florida—only 6.65% of the state’s citizens admitted to having gotten high in the last month, according to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration—the state has a high proportion of senior citizens, who often support marijuana use for medical as opposed to recreational purposes.

Next President May Need Pot for Power

Victories in the coming state reforms for marijuana could spark a domino effect for similar initiatives in other states. Some speculate there will be ballot initiatives in 2016 to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol in:

  • Nevada
  • Massachusetts
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Maine
  • Montana

Advocates are looking to hit the ground even harder, which is likely to bring the cause even more attention, support and financial backing—and raise the issue’s profile in the presidential campaigns, which begin to gear up directly following midterms.

Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, has already given signs of a shift. Apparently she softened her approach to pot, not only showing more enthusiastic approval for medical marijuana, but showing enthusiasm on the subject of Colorado and Washington stateʼs legalization in a recent CNN interview.

Politicians now trying to re-imagine the once-criminal enterprise of marijuana into a government regulated industry will be no easy task. There will probably be a lot of trials and tribulations to stumble through one way or the other. Regardless the history of marijuana reform will be changed tomorrow, and no one is watching the issue more closely than politicians on both sides, who must decide whether to stick with that side of the issue in 2016.

While politicians and citizens of several states wait in great anticipation, both sides of the Senate also keep a close eye on the coming midterms to see if they will usher in a new age of pot policies, and to see if the presidential election will be inspired by a weed heavy political climate.

What kind of affect does this have on the recovery community, and how many people will find themselves caught in the cross-fire of marijuana marketing? Will this new change in the way society views drugs and drug use be helpful toward combatting stigma and stereotype? If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

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