February 27, 2019 at 3:00 am PST | by Staff reports
Cannabis Culture

Ralph Northam, gay news, Washington Blade

Lawmakers have sent two bills to Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk expanding access to medical cannabis. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Va. lawmakers pass bills expanding medical cannabis access

RICHMOND, Va. — Legislation is heading to the Governor’s desk to expand patients’ access to medical cannabis products.

Senate Bill 1557 expands the pool of health professionals who can approve cannabis therapy to include nurse practitioners and physician assistants. It also permits qualifying patients access to a broader spectrum of products containing both plant-derived CBD and THC. Lawmakers in both chambers unanimously passed the bill.

Senate Bill 1719 facilitates greater patient access to cannabis products by permitting “registered agents” or caregivers to pick up or receive deliveries. The measure also passed unanimously in both chambers.

Under the state’s access law, medical professionals may recommend plant-derived cannabis extracts to those patients for whom they believe will benefit from them.

Wis. guv calls for overhaul of marijuana laws

MADISON, Wis. — Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has publicly announced his support for amending the state’s marijuana laws in a manner that would permit its medical access and decriminalize its recreational use.

Speaking last week at a press conference outlining the state’s budget, the governor said that Wisconsin should join the other 33 states that regulate medical cannabis access. He also called for decriminalizing marijuana possession offenses (involving up to 25 grams) and expunging past marijuana-related convictions. The governor opined that police often make marijuana arrests in a racially disproportionate manner. Historically, African Americans are arrested for marijuana possession crimes in Wisconsin at approximately six-times the rates of whites.

Under existing state law, the possession of marijuana is classified as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to six-months in jail, a $1,000 fine, and a criminal record.

Cannabis not associated with changes in morphology

Cannabis exposure is not associated with significant changes in brain morphology in either older or younger subjects, according to a pair of newly published studies. Commenting on the two studies, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “These findings dispute the long-standing ‘stoner-stupid’ stereotype and should help to assuage fears that cannabis’ acute effects on neurocognitive behavior may persist long after drug ingestion, or that cannabis exposure is associated with any sort of significant changes in brain morphology.” In the first study, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine compared brain scans of occasional (one to two times per week) and frequent (more than three times per week) marijuana consumers versus nonusers. Subjects were between 14 and 22 years of age. Investigators reported: “There were no significant differences by cannabis group in global or regional brain volumes, cortical thickness, or gray matter density, and no significant group by age interactions were found. Follow-up analyses indicated that values of structural neuroimaging measures by cannabis group were similar across regions, and any differences among groups were likely of a small magnitude.” They concluded, “In sum, structural brain metrics were largely similar among adolescent and young adult cannabis users and non-users.” The findings appear in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology. In the second study, researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder compared magnetic resonance imaging scans in 28 cannabis users over the age of 60 versus matched controls. Cannabis consumers, on average, had used marijuana weekly for 24 years. Authors reported that long-term cannabis exposure “does not have a widespread impact on overall cortical volumes while controlling for age, despite over two decades of regular cannabis use on average. This is in contrast to the large, widespread effects of alcohol on cortical volumes) that might be expected to negatively impact cognitive performance.” Researchers also reported “no significant differences between groups” with regard to cognitive performance. They concluded: “The current study was able to explore cannabis use in a novel older adult population that has seen recent dramatic increases in cannabis use while controlling for likely confounding variables (e.g., alcohol use). The participants in this study were generally healthy and highly educated, and it is in this context that cannabis use showed limited effects on brain structural measures or cognitive performance.” The findings appear in the journal Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging. The studies’ conclusions are similar to those of prior trials similarly finding no significant long-term changes in brain structure attributable to cannabis exposure.   Cannabis Culture news in the Blade is provided in partnership with NORML. For more information, go to NORML.org or contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at paul@norml.org.
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