What Scientific Studies Say About Marijuana: PART 4

Did you know that THC wasn’t even discovered until 1964? Until then, we had no idea what provided marijuana with its kick. Israeli researcher Dr. Raphael Mechoulam and his team were responsible for the finding, and it helped us understand more about the drug and how our bodies reacted to it — but very little to influence U.S. laws.

Surprisingly, it was Mechoulam’s research that helped other scientists discover the body’s endocannabinoid system in the ‘80s. Even today, plenty of research is devoted to really understanding the system, but we know it probably regulates many of the body’s processes, “including fertility, pregnancy, pre- and postnatal development, various activity of the immune system, appetite, pain-sensation, mood, and memory, and in mediating the pharmacological effects of cannabis.”

Would you find mention of marijuana on the wikipedia page for this system? Nope! But you will find a few references to cannabis and THC.

Basically, the endocannabinoid system is responsible for letting the body interact with — and react to — THC and similar chemical compounds. You’ve probably heard the word “homeostasis” uttered in high school biology, but you might not remember what it means. If your body temperature gets too high, you get a fever. If it gets too low, you get hypothermia. The zone in between is an example of homeostasis. Our bodies need a certain set of conditions to be just right to function efficiently. When those conditions begin to fall outside of the necessary parameters, our bodies start to break down fast.

The endocannabinoid system helps us maintain homeostasis. The three main parts of this system include cannabinoid receptors (which should obviously sound familiar if you like marijuana and THC), endocannabinoids, and metabolic enzymes. The receptors help transmit important information to the brain about what is happening in our cells. 

The endocannabinoids are molecules that help activate the receptors. And the enzymes break apart all the endocannabinoids that our bodies have already used — like THC.

What Scientific Studies Say About Marijuana: PART 3

The 1944 Laguardia Report is the focus of this, the third part of our discussion on what scientific studies have to say about marijuana and its effects on the general public — and whether or not the drug should be legalized for medical or recreational use. The Laguardia Report was a direct consequence to years of misinformation endorsed by Federal Bureau of Narcotics overlord Harry J. Anslinger, who did lasting damage to the legacy of pot.

The new report was commissioned by New York City’s Mayor Fiorello La Guardia and was ultimately endorsed by the New York Academy of Medicine.

The report concluded: “Marijuana, like alcohol, does not alter the basic personality. Marijuana does not of itself give rise to antisocial behavior. There is no evidence to suggest that the continued use of marijuana is a stepping stone to the use of opiates. Prolonged use of the drug does not lead to physical, mental, or moral degeneration, nor have we observed any permanent deleterious effects from its continued use. Quite the contrary, marijuana and its derivatives and allied synthetics have potentially valuable therapeutic applications which merit future investigation.”

Keep in mind, this was all long before Reagan’s War on Drugs. The report also helps debunk the popular “gateway drug” theory, which might be more aptly applied to caffeine by those with a brain. 

The commission reached many conclusions about marijuana. These include that the drug was used extensively in Manhattan, but perhaps not as often as was the case in other states. The report also mentioned that the price of the drug was low, which made it of particular interest to those living in poverty.

More importantly, the study concluded that marijuana did not lead to physical dependence (medically; we all know we can become addicted to our afternoon snack or anything else). Another conclusion? Marijuana was not a factor in major crimes in the city, making it a safer drug to society than similar drugs like alcohol.

Does Marijuana Make Sexual Assault More Likely?

We wanted to create even more awareness about the legalities of marijuana after publishing two posts on workers comp and personal injury laws related to medical marijuana. This time, we’ll explore what marijuana means during sex. You’ve already heard the rumors that pot makes sexual intercourse far more enjoyable. For some, it does. And a new study seems to suggest that having sex under the influence of marijuana even makes you regret it less in the morning!

But does marijuana increase instances of sexual assault? You can ask yourself the same question except after replacing “marijuana” with “alcohol” and know the answer off the top of your head: yes. But each drug is different.

The main thing to keep in mind with marijuana is that each person’s reaction to the drug is unique. You might have heard of a sleepy drunk, or a relaxed drunk, or an angry drunk — but at the end of the day we all experience much the same thing when we imbibe alcoholic beverages. 

We don’t really know whether or not marijuana affects people similarly to alcohol when it comes to decision-making.

Dr. Mark Green is an addiction psychiatrist in Belmont, Massachusetts and agrees with this assessment. He said, “[Alcohol] makes people impulsive. But it also allows people to get over their performance anxiety and explore sex. A lot of people might not have sex without alcohol.”

The problem is that alcohol also makes people make bad decisions that can have permanent legal consequences. Green explained, “People think they are being suave, sophisticated and sexual and their partner is into it as well. But they ignore the fact that they’re impaired, and their partner may be highly ambivalent, and not giving fully informed consent. On alcohol, you can really misread the signs. Even worse, alcohol increases violence and forced sex can occur.”

Although the research hasn’t really pointed the finger at marijuana when it comes to assault cases, the courts can sometimes be swayed by evidence on hand — even though there usually isn’t any. And Green speculated on what it could mean. He said, “Think of paranoia. What paranoia means is that you over-read the negative signs. In those cases when there’s not fully informed consent, the paranoia-enhancing aspect of pot makes people pick this out — this is not cool, the person is not comfortable. In this way alcohol and pot work on opposite ends of the continuum.”

Keep in mind that an addiction psychiatrist in Massachusetts might see it very differently than some random California sexual abuser lawyer who wants to use marijuana to build his case that you assaulted someone during sex.

But if Green is right, then that means that marijuana could become the “good sex” drug in more than just anecdotal stories. Future studies could prove that users are actually less likely to commit sexualized crimes with their partners. But it’s important to recognize that the actual data simply doesn’t exist yet, and that this is all speculation and conjecture until it does. Therefore, we would strongly recommend that marijuana users take care not to use too much of the drug before having sex — especially because it does affect every user differently. 

What Scientific Studies Say About Marijuana: PART 2

We recently published the first in a series about what science says about marijuana. We also laid the facts bare: how you can’t trust just one study until other studies back it up. If you haven’t read our other article on the science of marijuana, we suggest going back and doing that now. We’ll continue to publish follow-ups until we’ve exhausted scientific material (and that’ll never happen). Here’s the next study!

The over 3,000-page research paper called the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission was published in 1894. It provided the testimony of nearly 1,200 people, including “doctors, coolies, yogis, fakirs, heads of lunatic asylums, bhang peasants, tax gatherers, smugglers, army officers, hemp dealers, ganja palace operators, and the clergy.”

Needless to say, it makes for a drug, albeit interesting, read — and it would remain an important authority on cannabis for decades.

However, the study was one of the first to suggest that moderate consumption of cannabis products probably wouldn’t cause any significant harm, and might even provide a few health benefits. It didn’t stop there. The commission also stated that to make illegal a product that caused no harm would be unjust.

The report said, “To forbid or even seriously restrict the use of so gracious an herb as hemp would cause widespread suffering and annoyance.”

However, it should be noted that the general rule of thumb here regarded “moderate use.” To consume more marijuana could potentially risk one’s health.

The report said, “Viewing the subject generally, it may be added that the moderate use of these drugs is the rule, and that the excessive use is comparatively exceptional. The moderate use practically produces no ill effects. In all but the most exceptional cases, the injury from habitual moderate use is not appreciable. The excessive use may certainly be accepted as very injurious, though it must be admitted that in many excessive consumers the injury is not clearly marked.”

Will My Personal Injury Case Be Affected By Medical Marijuana

We recently discussed the liability factors present when medical marijuana is prescribed after a workplace injury, which led us to contemplate what would occur during other legal situations. Whether done recreationally or taken for medical reasons, marijuana has the tendency to become the focal point of many conversations on seemingly unrelated legal matters — such as unemployment benefits, for example. Many states now drug test for these benefits, which you will not receive when that test comes back positive (it seems worth noting that a positive test doesn’t actually mean you spent your own money — or used the unemployment funds — to buy weed). 

So what happens when you were injured in an accident that was someone else’s fault and your doctor prescribed marijuana? Will the fact that you’re consuming a federally regulated drug make a difference in your personal injury case? These are the facts.

First, it’s important to decide whether or not the defendant might be able to claim that you were already using marijuana before the accident — in which case they might be able to provide a story that seems to say “I didn’t cause the accident; his marijuana use did!” And of course that’s the last thing you want to happen when trying to recoup damages sustained when you were seriously injured after an accident that was someone else’s fault. Firms like Hale Monico suggest you discuss the possibility of a drug test with your doctor before consuming any medically prescribed marijuana to discount this as a possibility.

Medical marijuana might be more likely to affect your personal injury lawsuit if the opposing part was using it at the time of the accident. For example, let’s say that a person under the influence of medically prescribed marijuana causes a car accident. You might have an easier personal injury case ahead of you. Also, you might have a more lucrative personal injury case ahead of you, because the judge will be more likely to provide extra compensation via punitive damages, which is a type of compensation awarded for the purposes of punishing one party for their gross negligence. 

It’s also worth keeping in mind that authorities sometimes have a hard time deciding legally whether or not you or someone else was driving under the influence of marijuana. They have accurate tests that help them determine whether or not you were drinking and driving. But unfortunately for the law man, most drug tests only determine whether or not THC is still in the body — and that doesn’t help since the effects wear off long before the last trace of the substance disappears.

Legally, the best way for anyone to determine whether or not someone was driving while high is to conduct a blood test. In most circumstances this is considered far too invasive for a “what if” scenario and the legality is dubious. If a police officer asks you to submit to a blood test, your answer should be a definitive “no.” And you should ask for a lawyer…but that goes without saying!

What Scientific Studies Say About Marijuana: PART 1

If you’re here, chances are you’re interested in knowing everything there is to know about marijuana. We like to share all perspectives on what some suggest is nature’s miracle drug, and not all science seems to agree with those who like to use it. We decided to offer this comprehensive platform to discuss what scientific studies have discovered over the years. 

Before we start, we’d like to point out one thing: the scientific process isn’t just about one study but rather, a body of studies. What does that mean? Generally, when one study is published, 10,000 scientists will jump all over it, say “here’s the 18 million things you did wrong that I can do better,” and then publish a study of their own to either affirm or disprove the results of the last study. That’s the reason why you should believe the science of climate change, for example. The studies all say the same thing, or at least lean in the same general direction.

What we’re saying is this: we don’t sanction any of these scientific studies. We aren’t here to discuss whether or not they’re valid. We are here to say that before making conclusions based on any of these studies you should ask the question: do other studies say the same thing or similar?

We’ll start with the research of Dr. Robert Galbraith Heath, who in 1974 published a Tulane University study that found marijuana caused brain damage. The study has since been largely debunked by other scientists who acknowledge its inherent biases and flaws. But it provided President Ronald Reagan with a great reason to keep marijuana illegal or start the war on drugs.

The findings were based on animal testing. Martin Lee wrote in Smoke Signals: A social History of Marijuana: “Shackled in air tight gas masks, Heath’s monkeys were [regularly] forced to inhale the equivalent of 63 high-potency marijuana cigarettes in five minutes. Lo and behold, the primates suffered brain damage from suffocation and carbon monoxide poisoning, but Heath attributed the results to marijuana toxicity.”

Can A Doctor Prescribe Marijuana After Workers Comp?

We live in a world where doctors and patients are both beginning to understand the legitimate medical benefits of marijuana — but also one in which they are still illegal or unlawful to some degree in most of the country. And what do we do at the crossroads of some of these laws? For example, doctors can legally prescribe marijuana in certain states where employers can still fire you for a drug test.

The first thing an employer will do after an accident at work is hit you with a drug test. So what happens when they approve workers comp and your doctor wants to prescribe marijuana — the very thing that would have gotten you fired if the drug test came back positive for THC?

First, it’s important to realize that employers have always had the final say in what and what does not fly in a work environment (unless what they say is illegal). That means even if medical or recreational marijuana are legalized in a particular state, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll ever be okay with your employer. There will always be that annoying little disconnect between a drug test — which tells the employer if a substance is in your blood, urine, hair or saliva — and the fact that you can be stone cold sober at the moment of the test. 

The enjoyment of alcohol or marijuana at home doesn’t mean you do them at work, but the employer can still deny or terminate employment if the test comes back positive.

Workers comp cases will likely result in the same kinds of controversy. By 2019, 32 states were already approving medical marijuana. The wave is still rolling across America, and recreational weed is coming with it.

Part of the reason employers can do whatever they like — especially on this particular issue — is because marijuana is still classified as a Schedule 1 drug by the federal government, just like heroin or meth. That makes it very illegal no matter how many states approve it for the general public. 

State courts have determined where some of the lines are drawn, though — so it makes sense to ask a workers comp attorney in your own state if you have questions about the legality of medical marijuana after a workers comp-related injury. Keep in mind that it also makes sense to discuss this sensitive matter with your employer, too. The law might say yes, but if company policy says no, you can still lose your job. 

For example, a New Mexican appellate court set the precedent that insurers will have to provide reimbursement even if the injured worker is using medical marijuana to treat the job-related injury. The same precedent was set in New Jersey as far back as 2017. But in Arizona, insurance carriers do not legally have to reimburse patients who are using medical marijuana. The courts there took the position that federal law matters more (even though we’re discussing a legislative body dominated by the conservative think tank, which is supposed to support states’ rights above all else).

House Democrats Voted To Legalize Recreational Marijuana

The national consensus is very clear: the public wants to legalize weed. But police and prosecutors continue to make arrests and charge individuals (disproportionately prosecuting minorities). In 2019, there were nearly 550,000 marijuana-related arrests. That might not seem like a big deal to some people, but considering there were fewer arrests made in response to violent crimes, it’s clear that the priorities of our law enforcement and legislators have little to do with making our streets safer.

What could President-elect Joe Biden do? He could immediately move to reclassify marijuana. Right now, the substance is included as a Schedule 1 drug, right up there with heroin and cocaine (both of which can be deadly and addictive, unlike weed). Biden could also pardon or commute the sentences of every individual currently serving a sentence for marijuana-related offenses, transforming our prisons from cash cows into facilities where actual criminals are incarcerated. 

This is clearly how House Democrats would like the incoming president to approach weed, as they just passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE), was passed 228 to 164. The bill would change marijuana’s status as a non-controlled substance, help expunge the records of those convicted for related crimes, and provide federal incentives to push state and local authorities in the same direction without forcing the issue. In addition, Veterans Affairs doctors would now be allowed to prescribe marijuana, which is still illegal at the federal level. Immigrants would never again face deportation when caught with marijuana. 

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said, “For too long, draconian marijuana laws have contributed to racial inequality. These bills are part of a broader movement to address inequalities in criminal justice, business and more. Today’s bipartisan vote shows just how far that movement has come. I am encouraged by the action the House has taken and I encourage my colleagues in the Senate to support these efforts as well.”

Of course, the Senate will push the bill aside — and no one knows exactly what Biden will do.

Will Texas Ever Legalize Recreational Marijuana?

Texas is one of those states where we all think something is about to happen — again and again — but the desired outcome consistently eludes us. For example, Democrats seem to put the state into play in each presidential election, but it never quite shifts away from its Republican overlords. Marijuana-related laws are another such illusion. It also seems like legislators might take a step into the modern era, but they never quite do. 

This January, a record-setting eleven state bills will be put forth when the Legislature meets after their winter break. A similarly record-breaking spate of bills were put forth in 2019. All of these laws have the same goal: loosen marijuana restrictions. There hasn’t been much movement, though. The Legislature has allowed a limited number of individuals to use cannabis oil and others to grow hemp. 

Why hasn’t more changed? We can blame it on the fact that socially-conservative legislators control most of the forward movement in Texas. 

There is some reason to remain optimistic, though. For example, lawmakers need to find a way to make up the $4.6 billion windfall created by COVID-19 — a number which is only increasing now that the pandemic is getting worse by the day. Sadly, marijuana laws around the country have typically loosened restrictions only because legislators realized there was profit in doing so. It was sort of the same thing with gay marriage, and we know how that turned out.

Another ray of light exists because police and prosecutors both have a say in who they arrest and prosecute for crimes. 

Dallas Fort Worth Police Captain Mark Barthen acknowledged that his police force had discontinued the practice of arresting those caught with insignificant amounts of weed. He said, “We have only been seizing the marijuana. We are also not issuing citations in lieu of arrest like some jurisdictions.”

But even that was because of technical issues with “testing,” he explained. 

Those who were caught and prosecuted often skated because their attorneys argued that the differences between marijuana and hemp (which we mentioned was legalized) were difficult to distinguish. This made prosecuting marijuana possession harder. 

Defense Attorney Mimi Coffey said, “Since hemp is legal, how do prosecutors prove what they actually confiscate is hemp versus marijuana if they can’t test it?”

Policies regarding marijuana and arrests vary depending on state, county, and even city, making it even more difficult to find ways to effectively prosecute. If for no other reason, this could make the path to legalization in Texas easier.

Because the law only functions when prosecutors squeeze money out of those charged with crimes, it becomes a financial issue regardless of what your beliefs are on the ethics of marijuana. 

University of North Texas Department of Political Science Chair Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha said, “It’s a matter of time before we replace those individuals with more progressive conservatives, perhaps the ones who see the value on the more libertarian side of Texas’ political culture.”

In other words, many people don’t care which party resides in the state Legislature so long as they support what makes the most sense for the residents of Texas.

Can Taking Medical Marijuana Affect Federal Benefits?

Although some states have legalized recreational marijuana and an even greater number have legalized medical marijuana, the drug remains a Schedule 1 drug at the federal level — which means its sale and distribution are completely locked down at the federal level. We’ve received a number of inquiries from readers who are worried that they might lose access to their federal benefits — such as social security disability — if they continue to take medical marijuana, even though it’s legal where they reside.

Nearly half of the states have legalized medical marijuana. The Obama administration continued to allow states to regulate the drug on their own, although he did take some action to crack down on some dispensaries — most notably those along the Californian coast and in LA. Trump has done little to ease federal restrictions. Some believe that a Biden administration would end federal regulation once and for all.

For now, there are no definitive answers except that “it depends.” Is marijuana a factor that contributes to your disability? If the Social Security Administration can find a way to argue that the answer to that question is “yes,” then it can deny an application or revoke benefits that have already been approved. The answer should be “no” if you are only treating the condition with marijuana, so…in theory, your benefits should be safe.

Although that is the SSA’s official stance on drugs and alcohol, the fact that marijuana is still illegal at the federal level means that the organization can basically do whatever it wants if you’re a user. That means you should be careful not to aggravate the wrong people — because they could decide to make your life more difficult.

Because this is the case, medical users are generally urged to request both legal and medical advice before putting in a social security disability application. Your lawyer and doctor can make sure that you provide all the relevant information to the SSA without error, which increases the odds that the application will eventually be approved. And remember: even without medical marijuana, these applications can take years to be approved. You’re in for a wait either way.

There is good news for those who are worried that their benefits might be denied because of marijuana: several states have enacted disability-discrimination laws to protect medical users. These laws make it far more difficult for anyone to trounce on your rights, even at the federal level.

But there’s also some bad news for those who are still employed even with the disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act protects your rights as a worker in that your employer must reasonably accommodate you. However, because marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, your employer can still terminate your employment if you fail a drug test or admit to using. This is true whether you’re a recreational or medical user since neither category is protected under federal law.

At the end of the day, just make sure you act prudently before taking any next steps. Seek out qualified legal and medical advice before applying for your benefits.