Say what you want about 2016, no one can doubt it has been an interesting year. From Donald Trump to Brexit, people around the world have certainly had a lot on their minds. One major issue that many citizens were thinking about this year was cannabis and whether or not to legalize it. Whether due to a growing legalization trend, or to the continued research on the benefits of cannabis, many people were swayed to say yes to the plant. Overall, 2016 has been an excellent year for cannabis. To recap, we’ve put together a month-by-month replay of cannabis victories (and losses) around the world.
Two long years after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Compassionate Care Act – which allows patients to use non-smokable and non-edible marijuana products to ease symptoms – New York dispensaries finally open their doors.
In a landmark move, Australia votes to legalize medicinal marijuana. The law, which makes changes to the Narcotics Drug Act, allows the government to issue grow licenses and permits, and makes it possible for patients to buy marijuana grown in the country.
Interestingly, Australia finds itself in a similar conundrum with the United States in regards to legality. While medical cannabis is now legal, the drug is still considered a Schedule 9 prohibited substance in Australia, meaning that it is illegal except for the purpose of research. However, in February, there were already plans within the country’s Department of Health to downgrade cannabis to Schedule 8 controlled drugs. Doctors with Schedule 8 licenses can prescribe patients controlled drugs, including cocaine?? It’s a crazy world.
One more vice was added to the list of Las Vegas’s strip: a marijuana dispensary. This comes a full 16 years after marijuana was legalized for medicinal purposes in Nevada. However, due to legal complications, dispensaries have been absent in Las Vegas until March of this year. The dispensary allows anyone carrying a license from any legalized state to purchase marijuana.
Pennsylvania’s Governor Tom Wolf signs into law the medical marijuana program, making Pennsylvania the 24th state to legalize medical marijuana! The law allows doctors to write marijuana prescriptions to patients and protects both parties from civil and criminal penalties.
After four years of litigation, the Federal government drops its case against the Harborside Health Center – the largest dispensary in the world. As part of the Obama Administration’s wider crackdown on dispensaries across California, a number of dispensaries closed down under the threat of federal prosecution.
The gray area that cannabis law resides in is a nerve-wracking prospect for many in the cannabis industry. There is always a threat that, even if the state law is abided, the feds can still come in and shut down operations. Thus, this win is a major message to future attempts at forfeiture.
May was also a big month for United Patients Group. On May 21st and 22nd, UPG hosted the second annual CME-accredited conference, “Medical Cannabis: The Science. The Truth.” The conference featured numerous activists and experts in the cannabis industry with the goal of focusing on the science behind the hype. The conference also broke new ground, offering a full day of accredited courses for healthcare professionals, caregivers and patients.
A breakthrough study is released on the health effects of long-term marijuana use. The result? Even after years of heavy use, marijuana has relatively little effect on the physical health of the body.
The study followed 1,037 New Zealanders from birth to age 38 and looked at whether or not there were severe health risks related to marijuana use from ages 18 to 38. Turns out the biggest negative effect long-term marijuana use had on the body was on the teeth. The study revealed that at age 38, marijuana users had worse periodontal health than those who did not use marijuana.
However, there were also some positives to long-term marijuana use. The study discovered that long-term cannabis users tended to display a lower BMI, smaller waist circumference, and better HDL cholesterol.
Florida opens its first medical cannabis dispensary. This was a big win in the push for Florida to gain access to medical marijuana. In 2014, a bill was introduced to legalize medical marijuana, but failed. However, in that same year, Florida allowed the use of medical marijuana in cases involving epilepsy, seizures, and other medical conditions. Through the hard work of pro-cannabis lobbyists, the first medical cannabis dispensary was opened two years later.
On the other side of the globe, Italy begins discussions on dramatically changing the cannabis laws in the country, including legalizing 15 grams of cannabis for recreational use at home, and 5 grams of cannabis use outside the home.
Canada allows patients to grow their own medical marijuana. By registering with Health Canada, and filling out an application with information such as the location where the cannabis will be produced and stored, patients may grow a limited amount of cannabis for their own medical use. The law also allows patients to designate someone to grow it for them in cases where the patient is too ill to grow it themselves.
While Canada had some good news in August, the US experienced a major disappointment. In August the DEA decided to keep cannabis a schedule I drug which designates cannabis as having “no medical use whatsoever.” Despite the piles of research on the medical benefits of cannabis, the DEA’s ruling stated that “there is no evidence that there is a consensus among qualified experts that marijuana is safe and effective for use in treating a specific, recognized disorder.”
A study finds that cannabis legalization is linked to reduced rates of opioid-related automobile deaths. The study looked at drivers between the ages of 21 and 40 in 18 states and concluded that those who resided in states that allowed medical marijuana use were about half as likely to test positive for opioids compared to similar drivers in states that did not permit medical marijuana.
September also saw the announcement of GW Pharmaceuticals’ Phase 3 trial on Epidiolex, a pure plant-derived cannabidiol pharmaceutical meant to treat various forms of epilepsy. In the study, patients saw a 42% reduction in monthly seizures when taking 20 mg of Epidiolex, versus a 17% reduction in patients who were given a placebo. This marks the third successful trial of Epidiolex as GW Pharmaceuticals attempts to pass FDA regulations, and further proves the efficacy of cannabis in epilepsy.
United Patients Group collaborates with Utah medical cannabis advocates and helps to found The Utah Association for Responsible Cannabis Legislation and announces “Medical Cannabis: The Science. The Truth.” A conference aimed to provide information, education, and awareness for lawmakers, healthcare providers, public safety officials and more. This marks a step forward for the state in expanding medical marijuana services to patients who reside there.
United Patients Group and Green Health Consultants also sponsored the Nurses Medical Cannabis Workshop: A Clinical Focus. The two-day event featured educational presentations by influential cannabis experts Alice O’Leary Randall, LPN, CT, and Eloise Theisen, RN, MSN, AGPCNP-BC, as well as hands-on workshops on the clinical uses of cannabis. Nurses who attended received six contact hours per session.
November was a big month for cannabis. The general election saw four states – Massachusetts, Nevada, California, and Maine, legalize recreational marijuana. Four other states – Florida, North Dakota, Arkansas, and Montana voted to legalize medical marijuana. The only state that had medical marijuana on the ballot that did not pass was Arizona. This is a big win, as it marks the first time that the US has seen more than half the states with decriminalized cannabis.
This same month, the American Nurses Association (ANA) reiterated its stance on downgrading the classification of cannabis from a Schedule I substance. They affirm that cannabis is medically beneficial and should see an easing of restrictions so further studies can be done to treat patients.
Massachusetts’ new recreational cannabis went into effect this month. This month, residents of the state were able to buy a limited amount of marijuana or grow the plant in their homes for the first time.
Also this month, New York announced that medical personnel will be allowed to administer medical marijuana in hospitals. Starting in February, New York hospitals will be permitted to create their own policies regarding medical marijuana on hospital grounds.
2016 – United Patients Group is Grateful: A Message from Our Founders
This past year has brought so many advances and positive changes to the medical cannabis industry. Corinne and I, along with our UPG team would like to thank you for another year of dedication, kindness and support. Your support is important to us as we spread the gift of education and guidance to those seeking a life of healing.
May the new year bring renewed hope and prosperity to you and those you love!
With great compassion and gratitude,
John and Corinne Malanca