One of the challenges of the campaign to legalize cannabis across the country is the lack of benchmark data that compares social-health issues before and after states legalize pot. Now the University of Colorado hopes to fill in some of those gaps with a long-term study on groups of test subjects with very similar makeups: twins.
The $5.5 million study, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, will monitor 2,500 sets of twins aged 23 to 29 in Colorado and Minnesota over a five-year span to see how using alcohol, cannabis and other substances during adolescence and beyond affects their psychological health and social functioning. According to an announcement from CU, researchers have already been following the participants for fifteen to twenty years in a collaborative effort with the University of Minnesota.
Through phone and Internet surveys, the team will compare Colorado participants’ behavior from before and after January 2014, when retail cannabis sales began in this state. Half of the twins studied live in Minnesota, where the only legal form of legal marijuana is extracted oil for medical patients suffering from a handful of conditions. Aiming to reflect consumer trends instead of traditional study methods, researchers will look into how participants are consuming and how potent the products are.
“By including twins living in Minnesota, the researchers can control for factors – aside from legalization – that might influence outcomes regardless of what state one lives in. In addition to looking at how frequently subjects are using marijuana, the researchers will also look at the methods by which people are using it (edibles, dabbing, smoking, etc.) and how potent — in terms of THC levels — it is,” the study announcement reads.
The human brain is still developing into the mid-twenties, and that development is likely affected by cannabis use, according to neuroscientists from Harvard Medical School. As more potent strains and concentrates become available commercially, CU psychiatry officials want to be ahead of the issue.
“Increasing numbers of states are legalizing recreational marijuana, but we know almost nothing about the health and social consequences of this dramatic and rapid shift in public policy,” John Hewitt, director of the Institute for Behavioral Genetics at CU Boulder and a co-principal investigator of the study, said in the announcement. “There is clear need for solid scientific evidence, and the experiment now unfolding in Colorado provides a rare opportunity to accumulate such evidence.”
Researchers will ask participants about any legal or psychological challenges they’re dealing with, as well as whether they’re fulfilling career goals and the state of their family relationships. By looking at both identical and fraternal twins, the study hopes to discover any genetic and environmental factors that “may play a role in making some people more vulnerable than others to any negative impacts of legalization.”
Although the results should speak for themselves, it sounds like Hewitt and his team have formed a hypothesis. “Some people will be fine. Some people may benefit. But for a subset of people, we suspect there will be adverse consequences,” he says.
Boy! It’s tempting to predict in advance how THIS study will turn out, but in the absence of prior twin-studies on cannabis, it’s good to generate some data even if it only validates our pre-suppositions. Hard data is difficult to argue with!
In another story;
Colorado Medical Marijuana Regulators Want Your Feedback
The Colorado Department of Health and Environment is preparing to implement changes to the state’s medical marijuana rules in 2018, and there’s still time to let the department know what you think of those modifications. Some of the proposed changes are minor, fixing grammatical errors or slightly increasing an application fee, while others are designed to alide the rules with legislation passed in 2017.
The state is accepting feedback from stakeholders on each of the four changes — but what, exactly, is a stakeholder? According to the CDPHE, a stakeholder is (but is not limited to) a:
- medical marijuana patient (past or current)
- parent or legal representative of a minor medical marijuana patient
- legal representative of an adult medical marijuana patient
- Eemployee at marijuana dispensary, cultivation, or infused products facility
- physician office staff member
- member of a marijuana advocacy group
The full text of the current rules expected to change, as well how the changes will affect them, are in this public CDPHE document. A quick summary:
Changes to align with Senate Bill 17-017
This change would incorporate post traumatic stress disorder into the list of disabling medical conditions that qualify for medical marijuana. Some parts of the current medical marijuana code have a different standard for individuals with a disabling medical condition.
Changes to align with House Bill 16-1373
This change would recognize that a caregiver shall not possess medical marijuana at school-sponsored events, The modification stems from a bill connected to Jack Splitt, a young medical marijuana patient who battled to medicate at school and recently passed away. This adjustment is part of an overall bill that requires Colorado school districts to adopt medical marijuana policies.
Increase application processing fee by $10
A proposed $10 increase to application fees would bring the total fee to $25 starting in May 2018. The fee was reduced from $35 to $15 in 2014, but current budget estimates project a $10 increase is needed to cover “direct and indirect costs to sustain the Medical Marijuana Registry Program, including critical services such as customer and technical support.”
These changes include fixing typos, formatting discrepancies and removing language that is no longer applicable to the medical marijuana code, such as requirements to mail-in patient or caregiver information now that patients will soon be able to make Medical Marijuana Registry updates online.
Online responses are anonymous and will be accepted until Thursday, November 30; mail-in feedback will also be accepted until Saturday, December 30. The changes are expected to take place on January 17, 2018. Visit the CDPHE survey to learn more.
One hopes this request for comment will be more than symbolic!