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More than half of marijuana medical claims on Twitter were tweeted by bots

APHA Press 19 December 2019
Family First Comment:This is a significant study – and shows how the debate is being skewed… to the detriment of public health.

“Posts generated by bots that indicated cannabis could allay health concerns outnumbered those generated by humans. “Unsubstantiated health claims perpetuated by social bots may have offline consequences, such as leaving Twitter users with the impression that cannabis use can allay health problems such as cancer,” the researchers warn. They note that previous research shows adolescents exposed to messages about marijuana benefits on social media are more likely to use the drug than those not exposed to such messages.”

Distil Networks defines social media bots as “A type of bot on a social media network used to automatically generate messages, advocate ideas, act as a follower of users, and as a fake account to gain followers itself. It is estimated that 9%-15% of Twitter accounts may be social bots.”

Researchers from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles mined tweets of cannabis conversations on Twitter from May 1, 2018 to December 31, 2018. Using sophisticated software, they were able to distinguish between tweets generated by humans and those generated by bots.

Twitter posts studied discussed “edibles, hemp, legalization, buying products, cannabis’ appeal or abuse liability, and health claims among other issues. Most of these topics were evenly divided between humans and bots, but posts generated by bots that indicated cannabis could allay health concerns outnumbered those generated by humans.

“Unsubstantiated health claims perpetuated by social bots may have offline consequences, such as leaving Twitter users with the impression that cannabis use can allay health problems such as cancer,” the researchers warn.

They note that previous research shows adolescents exposed to messages about marijuana benefits on social media are more likely to use the drug than those not exposed to such messages.

They conclude that “the current study’s findings should be important to the public health community, as repeated exposure to pro-cannabis messaging and cannabis use by others can influence the social norms of those exposed to the content and lead to initiation of the behaviours.”

See infographic describing social bots here.
Visit Distil Networks for more information about social media bots here.
READ MORE: https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.2019.305461?journalCode=ajph&

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OSU study: Smoking by students up where marijuana is legal, but binge drinking down

Seattle PI 13 January 2020
Family First Comment: The OSU study, published in the journal Addiction, found that occasional lighting up and more frequent cannabis use has increased most where it can be done legally. Overall use is up, but up 18% more in “legal” states, with an equal jump among those who use cannabis frequently.

Marijuana use  among college students is going up, and at a decidedly higher rate in states where recreational use is legal, according to a new Oregon State University study.

But work by another OSU researcher, using the same data base, points to a decline in binge drinking on campuses in states with legal pot.

Washington and Colorado became the first two states to legalize, tax and regulate use of marijuana for recreation in 2012. Numerous other states, notably California, have followed.

Canada has recently legalized cannabis, largely to wrestle production away from gangs.

The OSU study, published in the journal Addiction, found that occasional lighting up and more frequent cannabis use has increased most where it can be done legally.

Overall use is up, but up 18% more in “legal” states, with an equal jump among those who use cannabis frequently.

The study was undertaken by Harold Bea of the OSU College of Public Health‎ and David Kerr of the College of Liberal Arts.

They engaged data from seven states and 135 campuses where marijuana is legal, and from 41 states and 454 pot use was not (yet) legal.
READ MORE: https://www.seattlepi.com/local/marijuana/article/OSU-study-marijuana-smoking-students-Oregon-WA-14972147.php

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Heavy marijuana users who started young drive differently — even while not stoned, study says

Boston Globe 14 January 2020
Family First Comment: “People who started using marijuana heavily before they were 16 exhibit poorer driving performance than those who abstain — even when they’re not high, according to a new study that underlines the risks of adolescent cannabis consumption.”

People who started using marijuana heavily before they were 16 exhibit poorer driving performance than those who abstain — even when they’re not high, according to a new study that underlines the risks of adolescent cannabis consumption.

The research, conducted by a team at McLean Hospital in Belmont and set to be published this month, is the first to find a link between marijuana use and diminished driving performance when the user isn’t actively stoned. Most previous studies have focused on the effects of acute impairment, testing how people drove shortly after consuming pot.

The study of 45 subjects found heavy cannabis users using a driving simulator hit more pedestrians, missed more stop signs and red lights, drove faster, and left their lane more often than non-users, even after abstaining from the drug for at least 12 hours. But those differences became insignificant when researchers removed from the sample those who began using pot heavily before 16, suggesting the effect is almost entirely limited to that group. Heavy consumers who started later in life drove about as well as those who abstain.

The McLean researchers, led by Drs. Mary Kathryn Dahlgren and Staci Gruber, cautioned their paper does not prove heavy, early users are functionally impaired behind the wheel on real-world roads. Instead, they said, the work echoes earlier findings by their lab that heavy marijuana use during critical stages of adolescent brain development is associated with poorer cognitive performance, including at some of the various mental tasks required to drive.

“What we’re seeing is relatively poor performance in early users compared to our non-using controls, but not necessarily impairment,” Dahlgren said. “We don’t want to make any firm statements about causality.”

A complex web of potentially confounding factors make it difficult to directly tie heavy marijuana use to impaired driving in the real world, the researchers said. One of the most significant is impulsivity, a trait that was generally stronger among the heavy cannabis users — though it’s unclear whether impulsivity helps cause heavy use or is a result of it (or both). Impulsivity on its own may also contribute to poor driving, and when controlled for in the McLean driving simulator study, erased most of the performance differences between all the heavier cannabis users and the non-users.
READ MORE: https://www.bostonglobe.com/www/bostonglobe/com/2020/01/14/potdriving/KZHEacgsEnmIIS0OERy6zN/story.html

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High Marijuana Taxes: Be Careful What You Wish For, You Just Might Get It

Forbes 12 January 2020
Family First Comment: One of the most popular arguments that the cannabis advocacy community (including the Drug Foundation) has when the time comes to fight for legal weed is tax revenue. “Just think about how much money the state could make by taxing marijuana,” said every cannabis advocate to speak on the issue over the past several decades… It’s a great idea, too, only now cannabis supporters are no longer satisfied with the novel concept they have been selling like a coked-out car salesman all of these years. High pot taxes have a lot of these cats peeved, which has them threatening to return to the black market. But this is what they have been asking for. 
Read more of our research on this issue https://saynopetodope.org.nz/social-costs-v-tax/

One of the most popular arguments that the cannabis advocacy community has when the time comes to fight for legal weed is tax revenue. “Just think about how much money the state could make by taxing marijuana,” said every cannabis advocate to speak on the issue over the past several decades. In fact, they have preached this ethos for so long that lawmakers have finally taken notice and decided, you know what, you guys are right, we’re going to legalize this stuff and tax the ever-living snot out of it. The political suits are finally convinced that legal weed is a good way to generate beaucoup bucks for their respective state, pay off budget deficits, help drug addicts out of the gutter, construct new schools and repair roads. It’s a great idea, too, only now cannabis supporters are no longer satisfied with the novel concept they have been selling like a coked-out car salesman all of these years. High pot taxes have a lot of these cats peeved, which has them threatening to return to the black market. But this is what they have been asking for.

Maybe it’s time they make up their minds.

In Illinois, where recreational pot sales just got underway at the first of the year, cannabis patrons are a little miffed over how much it costs to catch a buzz. And, honestly, it’s a legitimate gripe. The tax scheme is a bit nutty. Not only does Illinois tax its growers to the tune of 7 percent, but it is also sucking out multiple excise taxes depending on the type of pot product a person buys. They want 10 percent for flower, 20 percent for edibles and beverages, and 25 percent for any product that comes packed with over 35 percent THC. Oh yeah, Illinois pot customers must also contend with state and local taxes. So, in many cases, customers are paying 30 percent extra at the cash register. And, make no mistake about it, they are crying about it too.

“So for all the people out there that are coming out to buy I would encourage you to bring about $40 on top of what you’re going to spend,” cannabis customer Marc Woolfolk told NBC affiliate KSDK.
READ MORE: https://www.forbes.com/sites/mikeadams/2020/01/12/high-marijuana-taxes-be-careful-what-you-wish-for-you-just-might-get-it/#663d5a07600c
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Beware the influence of vested interests’ input into the cannabis debate

Stuff co.nz 9 January 2020
Family First Comment: Superb article  warning of financial conflicts of interest by those arguing for legalisation of cannabis…
“In the ongoing public discussion of New Zealand’s decision on cannabis it is valuable to hear all perspectives, but when these reflect only major corporate vested interests it would be reasonable to expect an indication of this from the publisher.”
Media – take note.

OPINION: David Clement of the Toronto Consumer Center writes of mistakes he believes Canada made in recent legalisation of recreational cannabis use, warning New Zealand not to do the same.

He writes of the need to create a “more consumer friendly regulatory regime”. The gist of his recommendations is to allow the sale of higher potency products, keep prices low, and allow the marketing of cannabis.

It was not surprising to find on the Consumer Center website acknowledgement of funding from Facebook (a social media platform selling data on individuals’ characteristics to enable marketing to them) and from two cannabis corporations. It is certainly possible to infer the influence of these funders on Clement’s arguments.

Clement argues against a ban on cannabis advertising because it is inconsistent with our liberal approach to alcohol marketing, an argument we will expect to hear often from the cannabis corporations and their public relations surrogates.

However, this inconsistency is also an issue for those concerned with health and wellbeing. There is a certain irony in our Government saying there should be no marketing of cannabis because research shows the adverse impacts of alcohol marketing, yet successive New Zealand governments have failed to regulate alcohol marketing even in the face of costs from alcohol harm of $7 billion every year.

Marketing these products and keeping the price low, as Clement advocates, will increase the amount sold and correspondingly increase the number of people with cannabis-use disorder and cannabis-related motor vehicle crashes.

In the ongoing public discussion of New Zealand’s decision on cannabis it is valuable to hear all perspectives, but when these reflect only major corporate vested interests it would be reasonable to expect an indication of this from the publisher.

Professor Sally Casswell is a Professor of Public Health and Social Research at Massey University.
READ MORE: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/opinion/118650579/beware-the-influence-of-vested-interests-input-into-the-cannabis-debate?cid=app-iPhone

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Canadian doctors warn marijuana edibles pose greater risk of overdose

CNBC 7 January 2020
Family First Comment: “Baked goods, candies or other cannabis-infused edibles may not be as safe as people think, researchers at the University of Toronto warn. It takes longer for the body to absorb edibles than other forms of marijuana, sometimes delaying psychoactive effects from the drug by up to 4 hours. This delay may lead some to eat more than intended and increase the risk of overdosing, they said.”

Baked goods, candies or other cannabis-infused edibles may not be as safe as people think, especially for first-time users, children and the elderly, according to a new paper published in the peer-reviewed Canadian Medical Association Journal.

The psychoactive effects can take up to 4 hours to fully kick in since it takes longer for the body to absorb edibles than other forms of marijuana. Some people may eat more than intended as a result, increasing the risk of overdosing, University of Toronto public health researchers Drs. Jasleen Grewal and Lawrence Loh wrote in a commentary piece published Monday.

“Although edibles are commonly viewed as a safer and more desirable alternative to smoked or vaped cannabis, physicians and the public should be aware of several risks related to the use of cannabis edibles,” Grewal and Loh wrote.

It’s difficult to die from overdosing on marijuana, according to the Centers for Disease Control. But an overdose can cause extreme confusion, anxiety, paranoia, hallucinations and vomiting.

The effects of smoking pot or eating an edible can also last longer than alcohol, with the “high” from marijuana lasting up to eight hours, the researchers said.

The researchers also warn that the same dosage of cannabis can cause different responses in different people. Edibles can be especially risky for children, they said, whose metabolisms are different from adults.
READ MORE: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/01/07/canadian-doctors-warn-marijuana-edibles-pose-greater-risk-of-overdose.html

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Vaping THC: Reporters can’t ignore cannabis, mental illness links

The true cost of cannabis: Why don’t its illnesses, deaths command media headlines?
USA Today 3 January 2020
Family First Comment: “the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 2,561 people have been hospitalized with vaping-related lung illness and 55 have died. That’s one more death and over 50 more hospitalizations from two weeks earlier. CDCs says 80% of hospitalized patients who had complete information about their products reported vaping THC; 13% said they vaped just nicotine.”

I’ve covered things that injure, sicken and kill kids and adults for more than 30 years. From auto safety to medical errors, I’ve competed to break stories on the latest deadly defect or health policy change, most recently on electronic cigarettes.

In late August, I added vaping-related lung illnesses to the beat. Last month, I added marijuana, psychosis and other mental illness. 

It’s a pretty solitary place to be.

We reporters covered the heck out of vaping lung illnesses starting in August. Once it became clear the culprit was THC and not nicotine, however, the news media seemed to lose interest, said former Food and Drug Administration chief Scott Gottlieb at a breakfast event I attended in early November.

Indeed, a search on the news archive Nexis shows that the number of stories mentioning “vaping” and “lung illness” went from 953 in September to 584 in the first 30 days of October, a nearly 40% drop.

The deaths and injuries from lung illnesses are declining, but they’ve hardly abated and are clearly a sign of a much larger problem with excessive marijuana use among young people. Yet families from the D’Ambrosios in California to the Donats in Connecticut were caught unaware.

On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 2,561 people have been hospitalized with vaping-related lung illness and 55 have died. That’s one more death and over 50 more hospitalizations from two weeks earlier.

CDC says 80% of hospitalized patients who had complete information about their products reported vaping THC; 13% said they vaped just nicotine.

Most everyone I talk to — even some doctors — say nicotine vaping and Juul, especially, is what’s clogging kids’ lungs. If it is, it hasn’t been identified by any of the many state or federal scientists who have reported on their findings. They have only been able to find vitamin E acetate from THC oil in patients’ lungs.

There has been an outcry to ban flavored electronic cigarettes — or all of them, as in San Francisco — and Congress voted to raise the age for all e-cigarette tobacco products to 21 last month. The Trump administration announced plans Thursday to restrict most flavors of the one-time-use pods in e-cigarettes

But what about when the industry isn’t an easily identified and demonized monolith like Big Tobacco or … Juul? What if the purported problem is something advocates have been trying to get mandated or legalized for years?

That sounds a lot like air bags to me — and the kind of resistance my former colleague Jim Healey and I faced in 1996 when we wrote that air bags had killed about two dozen kids and that regulators weren’t telling the public. Our stories led to the warning labels and smart air bags now in every new car.
READ MORE: https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/voices/2020/01/03/marijuana-pot-thc-vaping-psychosis-mental-illness-media-column/4299001002/

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Marijuana and Psychosis

Break Point 31 December 2019
Family First Comment: Critics will respond, “That’s correlation, not causation.” The only way to prove causation would be to ask half a sample group to experiment with something that may harm them. That’s not ethically possible. By the way, all the studies that made us believe that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer were correlated studies too, but that was enough to convince us all.

The pitfalls and perils of marijuana legalization are well-documented, but whenever we discuss that research here on BreakPoint, we are accused of not having the right research. Of course, what that typically means is we’ve used studies that contradict the very vocal advocates of weed.

Well, let’s see what happens when we cite The British journal The Lancet which, along with the New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association, is considered the “gold standard” for peer-reviewed medical research. It doesn’t get more “real” than being published in The Lancet.

A just-published study in the Lancet involving, among others, researchers at King’s College London, compared 900 people who had been treated for psychosis with 1,200 people who had not. Sample participants were drawn from across Europe and Brazil.

Both groups were surveyed on a host of factors, including their use of marijuana and other drugs. The study’s authors concluded that “people who smoked marijuana on a daily basis were three times more likely to be diagnosed with psychosis compared with people who never used the drug. For those who used high-potency marijuana daily, the risk jumped to nearly five times.”

By “high-potency” the researchers meant marijuana with a THC content of more than ten percent. Today, it’s not uncommon to read of marijuana that’s legally-sold in places like Colorado with THC content above 20 percent and, occasionally even 30 percent! Legalization advocates minimize the exponential growth in potency by saying that twenty or more years ago, Americans didn’t have access to the more potent strains, a.k.a, “the good stuff.”

That misses the point by several astronomical units. The point is that those people who daily use “the good stuff” are five times more like to find themselves in a hospital suffering from delusions and hallucinations, to name only two symptoms of psychosis.

Now, critics will respond, “That’s correlation, not causation.” And that’s the criticism leveled at journalist Alex Berenson, author of “Tell Your Children: The Truth about Marijuana, Mental Illness and Violence,” a book I recommend highly. But as I heard Berenson say just last week in Denver, “of course it’s correlation and not causation.” The only way to prove causation would be to ask half a sample group to experiment with something that may harm them. That’s not ethically possible. By the way, all the studies that made us believe that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer were correlated studies too, but that was enough to convince us all.

Even so, writer Ron Powers doesn’t need a peer-reviewed study to convince him of the link between marijuana use and psychosis. In his 2017 book, “Nobody Cares About Crazy People,” he tells the moving story of his two sons, Dean and Kevin, who were diagnosed with schizophrenia in their late teens.

As Powers tells readers, while there is a strong genetic component to schizophrenia, there is no “schizophrenia gene.” Instead, a constellation of genetic and environmental factors make people susceptible to schizophrenia. One of these, as Powers painfully learned, is heavy marijuana use, especially in your teenage years.

Of course, some people will tell you that they and most people aren’t mentally ill, so there’s little if any risk. But, for a host of reasons, no one can know that with certainty. In fact, all pronouncements about how safe marijuana legalization is, overstates the case.

That’s exactly what happened here in Colorado. The possible pitfalls were denied or downplayed. And since legalization, Colorado has seen a spike in marijuana-related emergency room visits by people between the ages of 13 and 20.

Given the well-documented mental health risks, especially to not-fully-formed adolescent brains, the rush to legalization is the height of irresponsibility. An irresponsibility that can shatter lives. And don’t just take our word for it.
https://www.breakpoint.org/marijuana-and-psychosis/

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A quarter of young Canadians have driven under the influence of cannabis: poll

CTV News 27 December 2019
Family First Comment: “the results of the survey reveal a lack of awareness on the part of many young people who believe that cannabis does not affect their driving skills.”
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A quarter of Canadians aged 18 to 34 have driven after consuming cannabis or been a passenger in a vehicle driven by someone under the influence of cannabis, according to a new poll.

This worrying data is contained in a new survey released Friday by the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA), which says it hopes to increase public awareness on the subject.

According to the same survey, 86 per cent of young Canadians said it is important to find alternative ways to get home when they drink alcohol, but only 70 per cent of them believe it is important to do so after using cannabis.

Jeff Walker, a senior strategic manager at CAA, said the results of the survey reveal a lack of awareness on the part of many young people who believe that cannabis does not affect their driving skills.

Walker said that while the effects of cannabis and alcohol on driving differ, reflexes are slowed in both cases, which can lead to accidents and deaths.

The CAA survey of 1,517 Canadians aged 18 to 34 was conducted Nov. 27 to Dec. 4. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
https://montreal.ctvnews.ca/a-quarter-of-young-canadians-have-driven-under-the-influence-of-cannabis-poll-1.4744782

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