Yesterday a new Gallup poll was released and the results were extraordinarily optimistic for everyone in the cannabis marketplace. According to Gallup, 60% of adult Americans are in favor of marijuana legalization. While Gallup has been polling this identical question for 47 years, there has never been a higher level of support.
In 1969, when the question was initially posed to the American public, only 12% were in favor of legalizing marijuana. There was a brief bump in support in the late 70s – The Hippie Generation – but as those Americans grew up, had children and stop smoking recreational weed as frequently, numbers decreased and stabilized.
The last decade has been a windfall for nearly every age demographic. With the most favorable demographics being the 18 to 34 year old, the sharpest gain in legalization support has come from the 35-year-old and up age group – the financially stable future and present cannabis entrepreneurs who recognized the money to be made. Though the 55 and up demographic is currently lagging behind the other age groups in their support, their level of support is still historically the highest it’s ever been.
Probably the most surprising statistics from the recent Gallup Poll is that marijuana legalization support among Republicans has more than doubled in just the past 10 years. While independent voters were the most supportive, as would be expected, they barely edged out the Democrats. Many believe that the political tides have turned because that’s what the general populace wants to see from the politicians that speak for them. Public opinions have changed with a bent toward more liberal thinking, which includes marijuana legalization, same-sex marriage and gay rights.
When November 8th rolls around, there will be five states deciding whether to legalize marijuana for personal use: California, Nevada, Arizona, Massachusetts and Maine. Four additional states will have medical marijuana on their ballots.
The big winner state this November is set to be California, as polling is showing a 2-1 margin in support of marijuana legalization. With current and future cannabis entrepreneurs preparing to set up shop in California, on November 9th the big marijuana news will be not when or how, but “how much?”
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Richard Branson filled a room – via Skype – of cannabis supporters recently, at the second annual New West Summit Conference, and told the attendees “ The future of cannabis, now”. Branson has spent the last five years serving on the Global Commission on Drug Policy, where he along with United Nations General Secretary Kofi Annan and 15 past world leaders have been hashing out the role of marijuana in our pharmacological futures.
Mr. Branson wholeheartedly supports industry growth as well as the decriminalization of cannabis.
“That’s the only way of sorting out the problems that come with drugs by not regulating and leaving it up to the underworld to supply drugs,” he said. “Our commission has worked really quite hard on that. We’ve had some successes and some massive failures, we’re going to keep going until we get governments to see otherwise.”
It probably doesn’t hurt that the billionaire tech entrepreneur views Cannabis as a rapidly growing industry with significant amounts of money to be made – even if he can’t invest due to his commission seat.
The New West Summit Conference, held in San Francisco this past week, made for the perfect backdrop to speak directly to the growth of the marijuana industry. With California being the most populated state in the US and having the world’s six largest economy with a gross domestic product of about $2.5 trillion, cannabis is poised to be big business. Though only four states– Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington – have legalized cannabis for recreational use, California is one of 25 states that allows its use for medical purposes. Considering all geographical regions, the marijuana industry is growing at 29% annually according to data-analysis group, New Frontier. New Frontier projects the industry could be worth greater than $20.5 billion by 2020.
While the average age of marijuana users is between 18 and 25 years old, the majority of business and cannabis entrepreneurs interested in the legalization of marijuana is 45 to 60 – just proving that you don’t necessarily need to toke to appreciate the multitude of money making opportunities in the industry. The stigma that once surrounded the use of marijuana has decreased dramatically, as the ability to make money from its legalization is increasing exponentially.
“Regardless of what you might hear people say, almost every venture capitalist is looking into this,” said Eric Eslao former Apple executive who worked on worldwide marketing and original video content for Apple Music and Beats “How can you not?”
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It’s an exciting time to be an Aussie! A medical cannabis bill has been passed in Queensland, Australia that will provide regulatory framework permitting drug access by the Therapeutic Goods Administration. What does that mean if you live in Australia? It means that physician specialists, who applied to TGA and have been accepted, will now have the ability to prescribe cannabis to patients with severe and/or chronic medical conditions.
Australian Health Minister Cameron Dick laid the bill out clearly in front of a supportive parliament. He explained that both synthetic and botanically derived cannabis products are now officially free game for prescribing purposes to pre-approved medical practitioners.
“This bill will change the paradigm for seriously ill patients who often feel compelled to seek out illicit cannabis treatment options”, the Health Minister stated.
In addition to the medical cannabis bill being passed, two laws that passed earlier this month provided extra provisions that will benefit the medical cannabis patient. But that’s not all. The Australian Capital Territory government announced plans recently to develop a medicinal cannabis program in the capital of Canberra and New South Wales developed their own medical marijuana program this past August.
With the rapid escalation of medical marijuana supporters, those involved with the Civil Liberties Council have made it clear that Australia is just getting started. Additional processes need to be put into place that would supply native production of cannabis. Without these stringent rules and regulations, there is concern that the industry could fall back to a less structured market that would encourage the medical marijuana patient to seek out unregulated sources.
If you’re thinking that the current Australian landscape is looking like a new place to call home, you might want to consider waiting until the second quarter of 2017 to relocate. The new medical cannabis bill isn’t expected to take effect until March 2017.
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In April 2016, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed Act 16. By doing so he gave patients with specific medical conditions access to medical marijuana. The 4th quarter of 2016 will bring about a final decision by the Pennsylvania Department of Health as to whether Act 16 will be put into law. The temporary regulations that are currently in place permit eight “clinical registrants” to hold permits for growing, processing and dispensing medical marijuana at up to six locations each. The caveat is that each clinical registrant must maintain a contracted relationship with a medical school located onsite at a tertiary care hospital within the state of Pennsylvania.
Enter The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Art Levine, senior Vice Chancellor for health sciences and Dean of the University of Pittsburgh’s medical school has put the industry on notice that they will soon be distributing letter of intent guidelines to develop research partnerships.
The state of Pennsylvania has “placed a greater emphasis on the need for reliable research than other states that have also enacted medical marijuana laws,” Levine said.
“While the state is still in the process of defining the regulatory parameters for research programs, the University of Pittsburgh is interested in exploring options for partnerships to advance research on the safety and efficacy of medical applications of cannabis products beyond the current and inadequate level of research and scientific evidence.”, he continued.
Although there are currently 25 states having legalized medical marijuana usage at varying levels, physicians in the state of Pennsylvania have made it clear that they’re concerned about the lack of documented clinical evidence that seeks to support the prescribing of medical marijuana.
“I would challenge those who worked and supported the bills owe it to their constituents to really do what’s more meaningful and follow through on their efforts and find a way to get funding for these studies,” said Scott Shapiro, a Montgomery County cardiologist and current state medical society president. “Because passing a law doesn’t translate into medical treatment.”, he stated.
The United States Drug Enforcement Agency has yet to receive any applications for permits to conduct medical marijuana research or to grow and harvest cannabis for research purposes in partnership with the University of Pittsburgh. A source inside the DEA public affairs office thinks it’s only a matter of time.
“To my knowledge, we haven’t had anybody apply yet,” said Melvin Patterson of the DEA public affairs office. “I think people will. They’re just making sure they get their protocol together. There’s a lot of prep work that has to go into that.”
Researchers inside the world of medical marijuana believe that if the DEA would alter the drug schedule of marijuana, research would escalate rapidly. With licensed clinical physicians being the only ones able to gain access to Schedule 1 drugs, it makes scientific research difficult for any non-MDs. A change in the Schedule of marijuana would certainly open the doors to significant and needed research. This is what makes Gov. Tom Wolf’s signing of Act 16 so important. It partners MDs, who have access to Schedule 1 drugs, with researchers who can provide answers to some of the more difficult questions that physicians in the state of Pennsylvania want to know.
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Recently Justin Bieber has spoken out about the fight between big pharmaceutical companies and the legalization of medical marijuana. On his twitter account, over the weekend, Bieber tweeted “This is important. A friend showed me this. I’m going to be talking more about this. We all need to pay attention”.
What Bieber was tweeting about was a video posted on the Facebook page @Attn. The video lasts less than 60 seconds but breaks down the battle between Big Pharma and advocates of medical marijuana.
In the past decade over $880 million has been spent by pharmaceutical companies in the fight to block the legalization of medical marijuana. More than 20,000 people died in 2014 from opioid overdoses, yet the establishment continues to push the highly addictive pain medications. Why? Because this is where Big Parma makes their money. Medical marijuana, despite its continuing Schedule 1 drug classification, is poised to be of great benefit to alleviate the opioid crisis currently gripping our country. While data is not yet conclusive that marijuana decreases opioid usage, it is highly suggestive that is the case. Additional research and research funding is needed to answer the question “to what degree will medical marijuana reduce the rapidly escalating opioid addiction in the US?”
One thing is certain – whatever your opinion of Justin Bieber is as an entertainer, his advocacy of this issue can only open dialogue, enhance funding and move the legalization of medical marijuana down the field.
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Newly retired NFL defensive tackle, Eugene Monroe, is speaking out about opioid usage in the league. Pain management has trended aggressively towards opioids as a first-line treatment plan over the past decade and he’s concerned for his fellow players.
“We need to look at alternative methods for managing pain in players, especially the ones who experience injuries at a high rate…”, Monroe said in a Sports Illustrated interview in the September 2016 edition.
With the opioid addiction growing at breakneck pace across the United States and lack of a preferable legalized pain management regimen, what other options are available for those with chronic pain? This is an issue that stretches far beyond the National Football League. It just happens to hit close to home for Monroe, given the number and frequency of league injuries he’s seen in his teammates. Monroe, an outspoken advocate of medical marijuana usage, believes the research dollars should be put toward the funding of alternative pain management solutions – whether they be cannabis or other nonaddictive options.
Eugene Monroe has officially walked away from football but continues to advocate for players and their options. His belief is that opioids are offered too quickly and made available too frequently to his former NFL teammates.
It is estimated that 100 million Americans are affected by chronic pain. This makes chronic pain a public health issue. Despite the known pitfalls of opioid use for the treatment of chronic pain, the majority of physicians in the US still use them as the first or second line of pain management.
In 2014 nearly 15,000 US residents succumbed to unintentional overdoses of opioids. The Centers for Disease Control names opioid overdose as a leading cause of death among younger individuals and many states in the US.
Advocates for the use of medical marijuana for chronic pain continue to push the rapidly advancing agenda to legalize medical marijuana at a Federal level. Whether this is a change that happens quickly in the next electoral cycle or that takes many years, it is reassuring to know that patients in general and athletes specifically will have more options for treatment of chronic pain in the future.
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