Cannabis Officially Enters the Craft Beer Craze

It should come as no surprise that cannabis has finally found its way into the the craft beer craze that has dominated world alcoholic beverage markets for the past decade or so.  Last week, LGC Capital, Cresco Pharma and Baltic Beer Company announced a joint venture company called CLV Frontier Brands with the goal of developing a full beverage portfolio using proprietary cannabis terpene blends and hemp ingredients.

According to reports, CLV plans on crafting four premium beers (that contain different terpene blends and other “innovative ingredients”) with a global release of the first batch of beer in Spring 2018.  While Humboldt Brewery and a partnership between Lagunitas Brewing and Absolute/Xtracts  already brew Hemp Ale with toasted hemp seeds and an IPA with terpenes respectively,  CLV joint venture represents the first aggressive effort to bring cannabis and hemp-based  craft beers  to the global stage.  CLV plans on building a pilot brewing facility in Tallinn, Estonia and has identified potential distribution partners in Europe, East Asia, Central and Latin America, Africa and Canada/Australia and New Zealand.

Noticeably absent from the distribution list of potential partners is the US.  Although terpenes, non-psychoactive cannabinoids that give different cannabis strains distinctive odors and flavors are generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and classified as food additives, cannabis is a schedule 1 drug and anything derived from it is illegal at the federal level in the US.  Consequently, because  the beers will be brewed overseas and require shipping to the US they will not be legally available in the US (even in states where cannabis has been legalized) because interstate shipping is regulated by the federal government.  That said, I suspect that some of CLV’s products may make it into the heads of cannabis craft beer enthusiasts!

How to Get a Job in the Marijuana Industry

Tony the Editor-in-Chief at THCoverdose.com sent me this piece and several shorter ones that showcase Cannabis jobs and how to get them.   The article is informative and provides helpful tips and ideas about landing jobs in the cannabis industry.  Enjoy!

Imagine getting to work in the marijuana industry. It’s a new industry that still needs its pioneers. The possibilities are endless, and best of all, it’s in the freakin’ marijuana industry!

Today, we’re going to show you how to get a job in the marijuana industry. And where did we get our information?  Straight from the mouths of the people in charge of hiring at various harvesting companies, dispensaries and even some people in the smoking accessories space. Whatever you want to do in the marijuana industry, this guide will teach you what you need to do to get the job.

How Can Someone Improve Their Chances of Getting a Job in the Marijuana Industry?

When doing our research, we asked companies that are at ground zero of the legal marijuana boom one simple question: How can someone improve their chance at getting a job in the marijuana industry?

Once you get your foot in the door, the growth potential is amazing. The market is projected to be $30 billion by 2021, with no signs of slowing its growth. The money is there. The jobs are there. The only problem? Actually getting your feet in the door.

Because of this phenomenal growth, and the massive amounts of money floating around, the marijuana space is starting to attract top talent. Growing marijuana for a living is everyone’s dream job, but what do you put on your resume? That you’ve been growing in your closet the past ten years? Probably not.

Before you start your journey to working in this cannabis space, you need to think about why you want to do. The jobs are demanding, and, depending on the job you want, may require you to devote a lot of time to studying cannabis. Master grower, extraction technician and even chef all require precision and years of hard work to master. The cannabis industry is for the ambitious and the talented. If you think you have what it takes, keep reading to find out how you can get your chance.

Brief History of the Cannabis Job Market

The beginning of the 106-year prohibition of marijuana all started with Massachusetts requiring a prescription to get marijuana. And then in 1937 when the passing of the Marijuana Tax Act made cannabis illegal at a federal level. Since then we’ve hit major milestones on the path to winning our cannabis back.

In 1973 Oregon first decriminalized possession, and then again in 1996 when California Prop 215 first made marijuana legal again in the United States. One by one states are starting to follow California’s lead in legalizing medicinal marijuana, and this brought its fair share of jobs. It wasn’t until 2012, however, when both Colorado and Washington both legalized cannabis for recreational use, that the job market exploded. 2015 brought 18,000 jobs to Colorado alone. And as of today, in total, the marijuana industry has created an estimated 123,000 jobs! Plus, with more and more states legalizing cannabis on a recreational level, that number is projected to hit 283,422 jobs by 2020.

Does the Pay Reflect the Market Size?

Of course, we all want to work with cannabis. It’s something we love and strongly believe in. Plus, cannabis culture is filled with positive vibes and people trying to make the world a better place. But, at the end of the day, rent is due on the 1st of the month, every month. So, how good is the pay in the marijuana industry? Let’s take a look at some of the most popular jobs in the industry and how their salaries play out.

Grow Master

You can’t think about working with cannabis without wanting to grow it! And, while you don’t start off as a grow master, this should ultimately be your end goal if you want to grow cannabis. We’ll get into the duties of a grower, as well as how to get a job growing, in just a bit. Moneywise, though, you can expect to make over $100,000 per year plus a cut of the profits.

Store Managers

Managing a store (head shop or dispensary) is a good way to take job skills from another job sector into the marijuana industry Since not a lot of other skills transfer over, if your resume demands it, you can manage a store and command $75,000 a year plus bonuses. Sure, it all depends on the sales of your store, but with business continuing to increase a good manager will be worth more and more.

Dispensary Owner

Now, this isn’t for the faint of heart. If you’re an adventurous entrepreneur that wants in the space, this is one route you can go. With some stores doing $20+ million in sales annually you can make some good change being at the top of the food chain. Be prepared, however, to face struggles with storing money, jumping through red tape and the threat of a federal crackdown.

Extraction Technician

Extracts have BLOWN UP in the past few years. For good reason, they rock. With the demand for them increasing, so is the demand for extraction technicians. This isn’t the easiest job to get, however.

To be looked at on this side of the business, your schooling is going to need to back you up. A lot of these techs have Ph.D.’s in chemistry, and it involves a lot of lab work, but you can expect to earth $75,000 to $125,000 per year.

 Bud Trimmers

If you have no experience, but really want to get your hands on the bud, this is your best bet.

Usually, an entry-level position that can lead to better-paying jobs like a grower, bud trimmers earn $12-18 per hour. You can read more on bud trimmer salaries here.

Bud Tenders

Another entry-level position, however, it is ultra-competitive. To land a job as a budtender, you need to really study your strains, know the effects they have and what they are suggested to treat. Your job is to help the consumer land on the perfect cannabis for their situation. You can expect anywhere from 31,200 to $42,000 per year as a budtender.

Edibles Chefs

Love cooking? If so, combine your love of cannabis with cooking, and you can make some damn good money. It’s not as simple as just cooking, though. You are expected to make good tasting edibles while also maintaining perfect dosing amounts. The casual cook can use our cannabis cooking calculator found here, but a profession edibles chief will have to lab test everything. They make $50,000-$100,000 per year depending on your experience and talent.

The List Goes On and On

There are more jobs in the space then you think. We need accountants, lawyers, doctors, sales reps and marketers. There’s glassblowing, working in head shops and online headshop warehouses. If you fancy yourself a writer, you can even get paid to write about cannabis by publishing companies like THCoverdose. Remember, you don’t just have to have your hands on the buds to carve yourself a niche in the marijuana industry.

 

Novel Delivery Methods for Medical Cannabis Users

There is no doubt that vaping is better than smoking cannabis but even vaping can lead to respiratory problems. Moreover many medical cannabis users do not want the negative stigma commonly associated with “smoking weed.” Finally, in certain states, including New York, where medical cannabis is legal, dispensaries are not allowed to sell leaf or plant-like material to patients.  This is causing medical cannabis companies to figure out creative ways in which to deliver cannabinoid-based products and remain compliant with individual state mandates and cannabis regulations.

Interestingly, many of these so-called innovative delivery methods for cannabis are routine delivery technologies that have already been tested, refined and approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). or example,  Colorado-based Next Frontier Biosciences, founded by former biotechnology executives and research scientists,  recently created a micro dosing-based, nasal mist delivery system intended for the pain management market segment. Likewise, similar companies with biotechnology and healthcare backgrounds are also developing time-release transdermal patches, sublingual sprays and suppository-based systems.  These developments suggest that the medical cannabis industry is beginning to mature and is likely to become mainstream in the not-too-distant future.

THCA: The Cannabinoid That “Gets No Respect”

Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinoic acid or THCA, like the late great Rodney Dangerfield, simply “gets no respect” when compared with higher profile cannabinoids like CBD, CBG, or CBN that are highly touted in medical cannabis circles.

THCA is the carboxylated precursor of the psychoactive cannabinoid Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. Unlike THC, THCA is not psychoactive and can be found in high concentrations (10%-20%) in certain cannabis strains (1). Interestingly, there is a growing body of evidence that suggest that THCA may possess a variety of medically-beneficial, therapeutic properties.

First, THCA has been reported to possess potent in vitro anti-inflammatory properties similar to those exhibited by COX-2 inhibitors like Celebrex (2). Second, THCA exhibited neuroprotective effects in various tissue culture and animal models of Parkinson’s disease (3). Finally, THCA may possess antiproliferative and anti-tumor effects against prostate cancer (4)

Unfortunately, like most other cannabinoid research, additional studies must be conducted to confirm or refute possible therapeutic benefits of THCA. That said, it is a cannabinoid that deserves more respect than it is currently getting!

References

  1. Baker PB, Taylor BJ, Gough TA. The tetrahydrocannabinol and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid content of cannabis products. J. Pharm & Pharmacol. 1981; 33:369-372.
  2. Ruhaak LR, Felth, J, Karlsson PC, Rafer JJ, et al. Evaluation of the cyclooxygenase inhibiting effects of six major cannabinoids isolated from Cannabis sativa Biologic and Pharmaceutical Bull; 2011 34:774-778
  3. Moldzio R, Pacher T, Krewenka C, Kranner B, et al. Effects of cannabinoids Δ(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol, Δ(9)-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid and cannabidiol in MPP+ affected murine mesencephalic cultures. Phytomed 2012: 19:819-824.
  4. De Pretrocellis L, Ligresti A, Moriello AS, Iappelli M, Verde R, et al. Non-THC cannabinoids inhibit prostate carcinoma growth in vitro and in vivo: pro-apoptotic effects and underlying mechanisms. Br. J. Pharmacol 2013: 168:79-102

What Does It Take To Be An Executive In The Legal Cannabis Industry?

It is no secret that there are enormous sums of money to be made in the legal cannabis business. Not surprisingly, compensation packages for the executives who run profitable cannabis-based business are also likely to be large. That said, because cannabis and its products are illegal in the US, the talent pool is relatively shallow for executives with previous cannabis experience. Consequently, most new cannabis executives are likely to be recruited from other industries including pharmaceuticals, agribusiness, consumer healthcare and tobacco.  This is because, like the cannabis industry, these industries are highly regulated and will be under intense scrutiny from state and even federal agencies.

Gilbert J. Carrara Jr, MD, who oversees retain recruiting services at Battalia Winston International, recently described the skills sets and characteristics that he believes will be required for successful cannabis industry executive. They include:

Tough Mindedness

Because of the state-to-state complexity of cannabis legislation and negative perceptions surrounding cannabis use, executives in this industry cannot be thin-skinned or easily discouraged. If a person cannot accept repeatedly being told “no” or “go away” then he/she is not likely to be executive material in the legal cannabis industry.

Flexibility

The legal cannabis industry is in its infancy and it will continue to evolve and grow in wildly unpredictable and unanticipated ways. At present, change is the norm in the cannabis industry executive who are flexible, can pivot on a dime and remain open to sometimes new unconventional ideas on a regular basis will do just fine.

Adaptability

Like executives in other industries, cannabis industry executives must be adaptable because they will be required to communicate with a diverse group of stakeholders. That said, cannabis executives must be comfortable discussing scientific and medical topics with government and healthcare officials and equally as comfortable addressing business concerns with consumers.

Passion & Drive

Unlike other industries, simply having a resume with the requisite college degree and executive skill sets may not be sufficient for success in the cannabis industry. Because cannabis and its products are not legal at the Federal level in the US, the road ahead for cannabis executives is likely to be a long and very rocky one. To that point, the success of the industry will likely depend upon executives who have the desire and passion to continue to push things forward even when the likelihood of success is not certain.

As a former professional recruiter, I can tell you that finding a qualified “right fit” candidate at the technical or executive levels is never an easy task. And a limited talent pool does not make things any easier.  But, even though the existing executive talent pool may not be a great one, cannabis industry executives are needed; so choose wisely!

 

 

Currently Approved Cannabis-based Pharmaceuticals and Some in the Pipeline

Because of historical negative perceptions and ongoing legal concerns, only a few cannabis-based pharmaceuticals are currently licensed for clinical use. In the United States and Europe the synthetic Δ-9-THC drugs nabilone (Cesmet®) and dronabinol (Marinol®) and dronabinol (Marinol®) are approved for treatment and prevention of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV; 1).  Another synthetic Δ-9-THC product, Syndros (dronabinol oral solution) received approval in 2016 for the treatment of anorexia associated with weight loss in patients with AIDS and for cancer patients with CINV who failed to adequately respond to conventional antiemetic treatments.

GW Pharmaceuticals’ Sativex®, an extract containing THC and CBD, is approved in 27 countries Europe and elsewhere for the treatment of spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis and, in Canada, is also approved as an adjunctive treatment for cancer pain (1) The CB1 cannabis receptor agonist rimonabant (Acomplia®) was approved for use in Europe to treat obesity but was discontinued because of serious adverse effects (2)

While the approved cannabis-based pharmaceutical list is quite short, there are several compounds and extracts that are currently being evaluated in human clinical trials for regulatory approval. Sativex®, which received FDA fast track designation, has completed Phase 3 clinical testing and an application for approval has been filed at FDA. Another GW Pharmaceuticals product called Epidiolex® received FDA orphan drug status and is currently in mid to late stage clinical testing as a treatment for orphan pediatric epilepsy including Dravet Syndrome and Lennox Gastaut syndrome

Other companies, including Arena Pharmaceuticals, are attempting to develop cannabis-based drugs and mimetics that treat pain by binding to certain types of cannabis receptors found throughout the body (3). Removing cannabis’ psychotropic effects and preserving its pain-relieving benefits is the major objective for this new class of pharmaceuticals.  Although these drugs are still in early stages of development, using them rather than addictive opioids to manage chronic pain would be an important step in combating the US opioid epidemic.

Although the future of cannabis-based pharmaceuticals in the US  is brighter than it has been over the past 50 years, there are still some major hurdles and obstacles that must be overcome. To gain some insight into some of these, please read 2015 testimony to Congress given by Douglas C. Throckmorton, M.D. Deputy Director for Regulatory Programs Center for Drug Evaluation and Research Food and Drug Administration.

Moreover, the approval process for cannabis-based pharmaceuticals has an additional layer of complexity as compared with conventional pharmaceuticals.  Because cannabis and its products are classified as Schedule 1 drugs according to the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), a product that garners FDA approval must also be reviewed by DEA for scheduling recommendations. To that end, FDA usually provides DEA with a scientific and medical evaluation to help with scheduling.  Scheduling classification is important because it affects the controls necessary for prescribing, supplying, or storing the product.  At present cannabis’ Schedule 1 status means that it and any products derived from it have no medicinal value or benefit and consequently are illegal in the US.  Nevertheless, it is extremely likely that any newly approved cannabis-based pharmaceuticals  will be rescheduled as Schedule II or Schedule III drugs as was  FDA’s previous experience with nabilone, dronabinol and Syndros.  That said, permanently removing  cannabis and its products form the Schedule 1 list would  undoubtedly help to speed development and subsequent regulatory approval of potentially life-altering cannabis-based pharmaceuticals.

References

  1. Ladin, DA, Soliman E, Griffin L and Van Dross, R. Preclinical and clinical assessment of cannabinoids as anti-cancer agents. Front Pharmacol. Oct. 2016; 7: 361 DOI: 10.3389/fphar.2016.00361
  2. Fijal, K, Filip M. Clinical/therapeutic approaches for cannabinoid ligands in central and peripheral nervous system diseases: mini review. Clin Neuropharmacol 2016; 39:94-101.
  3. Mintz CS, Fabrizio AJ, Nison E. Cannabis-Derived Pharmaceuticals. J. Comm. Biotechnol. 2015; 21:16-30.

 

Cannabis Education Hits the Ivy League (And Elsewhere)

It was only a matter of time before the Ivy League entered the cannabis education business.  Unlike some lesser institutions that have made  long term commitments to cannabis education, the Harvard Business School is testing the waters by offering a one-time only cannabis class. The master class will be taught by  California-based cannabis entrepreneur Adrian Sedlin (a Harvard Business School alum), and will include everything from measuring plant THC levels to how to build a scalable profitable business in an industry at a time of regulatory uncertainty.

For those of you looking for a lesser known but degree-bearing program, check out the  Institute of Cannabis Research a joint effort between the University of Colorado-Pueblo, the State of Colorado and Pueblo County, CO. According to the institute, the program was the nation’s first multi-disciplinary cannabis research center at a “regional, comprehensive institution.” The CSU Pueblo program has an in-state price tag of around $24,185 and roughly $38,767 for out-of-state students.

Another option is the Northern Michigan University (NMU) medicinal plant chemistry program which began this past Fall. According to the university,  the program (which has 12 current enrollees) is designed to give students a more “traditional four-year-secondary-education” approach to cannabis education.  In state tuition at NMU is $22,156 and out of state costs are $27,652.

A recent report indicated that almost 150,000 Americans are employed in the legal cannabis industry. As the industry continues to expand both medically and recreationally, the need for educated and well trained prospective employees will also continue to grow (pun intended).  If you are thinking about an upwardly mobile, long term, financially-satisfying career, it may be worth a shot to go to  (or go back to) college and learn  everything you can about cannabis, its products and its use!

Cannabis and Sex: Is There A Connection?

A recent study conducted by Stanford University researchers Andrew Sun and Michael Eisenberg entitled “Association Between Marijuana Use and Sexual Frequency in the United States: A Population-Based Study” suggests that smoking cannabis increases sexual activity in both men and women (1).

The researchers asked  28,176 women (average age= 29.9 years) and almost 22,943 men (average age =29.5 years)  men how often they had sex (heterosexual) in the four weeks prior to the survey and how frequently they used cannabis in the past year.  The study employed a multivariate statistical model that controlled for demographic, socioeconomic and geographical/culture characteristics.  More than 60% of the men and women were Caucasian and 76.1% of men and 80.4% of women reported at least a high school diploma.

Results from the study found that women who did not use marijuana over the four-week period had sex on average six times  whereas women who used cannabis daily had sex 7.1 times on average. Similarly, men who did not use cannabis had sex 5.6 times on average whereas men who used cannabis daily reported having sex 6.9 times on average during the four-week period.

Based on these results, which were statistically significant (P<.001), the researchers suggested that cannabis use may lead to greater heterosexual sexual activity.  It is important to note, however, that while the study results may have been statistically significant, the real life implications of these findings may  not be relevant.  More important, the researchers did not offer any explanations about the connections between cannabis and sex. Further, although the statistical design of the study controlled for a variety of variables,  other variables were not considered or addressed. For example, did the persons who participated in the survey have cannabis in their systems before, during or after sex.  Was cannabis consumed before, during or after sex?   What was the time differential between cannabis and actual sex? Put simply, there needs to be a greater examination and more in depth analysis of the direct effect of cannabis on sexual activity before any firm conclusions can be drawn.

Sadly, many cannabis users who read this post (or similar articles in the lay press) are likely to point to this study as another reason why it is good to regularly smoke cannabis.  That said, despite assertions to the contrary, there is evidence which suggests that smoking cannabis daily may negatively affect your health e.g., lung irritation and other respiratory issues.  LIke most things in cannabis science, many more studies must be conducted before scientifically accurate conclusions and facts can be established.

Despite the possible limitations of this study, there was something positive that came out of it.  One of the study’s authors offered “that if a patient asks whether his frequent marijuana use is getting in the way of his sex life, he will tell them that “it may not be the culprit. For most people, we tell them instead to go to the gym and lose 20 pounds”

References

  1. Sun AJ, Eisenberg ML. Association between marijuana use and sexual frequency in the United States: a population-based study. J. Sex Med 2017; 14:1342-1347.

 

O Canada-Part Deux

Those zany Canadians are at it again!  Yesterday, the Canadian government announced that it will invest almost $47 million (Canadian) over the next five years in a cannabis education and awareness campaign.

According to a press release,  the campaign will include “factual and evidence-based information on the health and safety risks of cannabis use and drug-impaired driving. The campaign will build on ongoing social media efforts, advertising and interactive events to engage youth on the facts.”

The goal of the campaign is to provide Canadians, especially young adults and youth, with clear factual information so that they understand how cannabis could affect them.  A critical part of the initiative is to equip parents and teachers with factual evidence-based scientific information so that they can have meaningful discussions with young Canadians about the risks of cannabis use, especially drug-impaired driving.  To that end, this fall, Public Safety Canada will launch an initiative to inform citizens about the dangers of drug-impaired driving.

Because medical cannabis is legal nationwide  in Canada (and recreational use is soon to follow)  making an investment in cannabis education and awareness makes sense.  An informed and educated public ought to reduce some of the anxiety and possible dangers associated with cannabis use.

Perhaps, the US ought to follow Canada’s lead and make similar investments to educate the American public about medical and recreational cannabis use. At present, the amount of misinformation far outweighs the facts. This is extremely troubling since tens of millions of Americans are currently regular cannabis users.

 

A Role for Medical Cannabis in Combating the Opioid Epidemic

Drug overdoses and opioid-related deaths have reached epidemic proportions throughout the United States (1). Over the past 25 years or so, the number of opioid-related deaths (from prescription opioids including oxycodone, hydrocodone and methadone and heroin) quadrupled to more than 200,000 (2). In 2015 alone, opioid overdoses resulted in 33,901deaths (1, 2) and in 2016 nearly half of all opioid-related deaths involved prescription opioids (CDC). Today, opioid-related deaths in the US surpass combined deaths caused by both car accidents and guns annually (2, 3).

Cause of the Epidemic

While the exact causes of the current opioid academic are uncertain, a variety of factors including job loss, chronic unemployment, financial hardship and over-marketing/over-prescribing of opioids have been suggested. It is important to note, however that between 1981 and 2011 the number of opioid prescriptions in the US tripled from 76 million to 219 million per year (4). According to a recent survey, over 97 million people took prescription opioids in 2015 and of these, roughly 12 million used opioids without being directed by a doctor (5).  Interestingly, because of recent state legislative initiatives that restrict the opioid prescribing habits of physicians, the number prescription opioids deaths appeared to level off in 2011(6). However, since 2011 the number of heroin overdose deaths and those related to illegal “black market” synthetic opioids like fentanyl has skyrocketed (CDC) in many hard hit states like West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. This is because heroin and fentanyl are now much cheaper and more available than prescription opioids (6).

The current opioid epidemic is forcing many physicians to reevaluate their use of prescription opioids for pain control and to consider alternative pain management strategies. There is an emerging body of evidence that suggests that medical cannabis (smoked, vaporized or ingested) can effectively manage and control chronic non-cancer pain (6-9), reduce opioid consumption (10-15) and help to lower opioid overdose deaths (14, 15).

Medical Cannabis and Pain Management

There are numerous reports that show that smoked or vaporized medical marijuana (and cannabis extracts), used alone or in combination with opioids, can effectively treat chronic neuropathic pain, muscle pain associated with spasticity from Multiple Sclerosis and certain types of cancer pain (8,9). More important, these studies found that smoked/vaporized cannabis or its extracts induce few adverse side effects and are safe for use; even in chronic pain patients who take prescription opioids for pain management (7).

Cannabis Reduces Opioid Consumption and Lowers Overdose Deaths

Although cannabis is not approved as a treatment for pain in the US, there is new evidence from states where medical cannabis is legal that cannabis reduces opioid consumption in chronic pain patients. Several studies in the US and around the world showed that opioid use dropped by as much as 50% among chronic pain patients when they were given access to cannabis. (10, 11). Further, other studies with chronic pain patients showed that cannabis use—along with its opioid-sparring effect—enhanced patient executive cognitive performance (12). The observed improved cognitive functioning likely resulted from a 42% reduction in opioid use by these patients (12).

A study that researched the association between the existence of state medical marijuana laws and opioid overdose deaths from 1999 to 2010 found that opioid overdose deaths declined by as much as 25% in states that had medical cannabis laws in effect (14). Other research showed that reductions in opioid overdose deaths tend to improve in states where medical cannabis laws have been in effect the longest (15). For example, in California, where medical cannabis laws have been in effect since 1996, there has been a 33% drop in the number of opioid overdose deaths (14). Similar reductions were also observed in other legacy medical cannabis states such as Oregon, Colorado and the State of Washington (14,15).

Other Efforts

Several biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies are attempting to develop cannabis –derived drugs and mimetics that treat pain by binding to certain types of cannabis receptors found throughout the body (16). Removing cannabis’ psychotropic effects and preserving its pain-relieving benefits is the major objective for this new class of drugs (16). Although these drugs are still in early stages of development, using them rather than addictive opioids to manage chronic pain would be an important step in curbing opioid overuse and abuse.

A Path Forward

Physicians play a critical role in prescription drug misuse and abuse prevention. To that point, continuing medical education programs that help raise awareness and educate physicians about the benefits of cannabis for pain management represents and important first step to curb over-prescription of opioids. Further, ongoing political and financial support for recent federal initiatives (17) such as enhancing access to prescription drug monitoring using health information technology, formalized collaborative efforts between insurers, health care providers, and employers to combat opioid misuse and abuse and community-based programs like the national take-back initiative—which provides a safe, secure, environmentally-responsible plan for disposing of prescription opioids and educates the public about the potential for abusing and trafficking prescription medications—will also be critical. Finally, new federal and state legislation that offers counseling and medical solutions to treat opioid abusers rather than punish them will be vital to control America’s epidemic opioid crisis.

References

  1. Rudd RA, Seth P, David F, Scholl L. Increases in Drug and opioid-involved overdose deaths — United States, 2010–2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. ePub: 16 December 2016. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6550e1  Accessed October 23, 2017
  2. CDC. Wide-ranging online data for epidemiologic research (WONDER). Atlanta, GA: CDC, National Center for Health Statistics; 2016. Available at http://wonder.cdc.gov  Accessed October 23, 2017.
  3. Drug overdoes now kill more Americans than guns. CBS News 2016 https://www.cbsnews.com/news/drug-overdose-deaths-heroin-opioid-prescription-painkillers-more-than-guns/ Accessed October 23, 2017
  4. America’s opioid epidemic is worsening. The Economist (UK) 2017    https://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2017/03/daily-chart-3  Accessed  October 23, 2017.
  5. Hughes A, William MR, Lipari RN, Bose J. Prescription drug use and misuse in the United States: results from the 2015 national survey on drug use and health. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) 2016 https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-FFR2-2015/NSDUH-FFR2-2015.htm  Accessed October 23, 2017.
  6. Katz J. Short answers to hard questions about the opioid crisis. The New York Times 20 https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/08/03/upshot/opioid-drug-overdose-epidemic.html Accessed October 23, 2017.
  7. Jensen B, Chen J, Furnish T, Wallace M. Medical marijuana and chronic pain: a review of basic science and clinical evidence. Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2015; 19:50 doi: 10.1007/s11916-015-0524-x.
  8. Wilsey B, Marcotte, Deutsch R, Gouaux B, Sakai S, Donaghe H. Low-dose vaporized cannabis significantly improves neuropathic pain. J. Pain. 2013; 14:136-148.
  9. Andreae MH, Carter GM, Shaparin N, Suslov K, et al. Inhaled cannabis for chronic neuropathic pain: a meta-analysis of individual patient data J. Pain 2015; 16:1221-1232.
  10. Boehnke KF, Litinas E, Clauw DJ. Medical cannabis use is associated with decreased opiate medication: use in a retrospective cross-sectional survey of patients with chronic pain. J Pain. 2016; 17:739-744.
  11. Haroutounian S, Ratz Y, Ginosar Y, Furmanov K, Saifi F, Meidan R, Davidson E. The effect of medicinal cannabis on pain and quality-of-life outcomes in chronic pain: A prospective open-label study. Clin J Pain. 2016; 32:1036-1043
  12. Gruber SA, Sagar KA, Dahlgren MK, Racine MT, Smith RT, Lukas SE. Splendor in the Grass? A pilot study assessing the impact of medical marijuana on executive function. Front Pharmacol. 2016; 7: 355  eCollection 2016.
  13. Bradford AC, Bradford WD. Medical marijuana laws reduce prescription medication use in Medicare Part D. Health Aff (Millwood). 2016; 35:1230-1236.
  14. Bachhuber MA, Saloner B, Cunningham CO, Barry CL. Medical cannabis laws and opioid analgesic overdose mortality in the United States, 1999-2010. JAMA. Intern Med. 2014; 174:1668-1673.
  15. Kim JH, Santaella-Tenorio J, Mauro C, Wrobel J, Cerda M, Keyes KM, Hasin D, Martins SS, Li G. State medical marijuana laws and the prevalence of opioids detected among fatally injured drivers. Am J Public Health. 2016; 106: 2032-2037.
  16. Mintz CS, Fabrizio AJ, Nison E. Cannabis-Derived Pharmaceuticals. J. Comm. Biotechnol. 2015; 21:16-30.
  17. SAMHSA’s effort to fight prescription drug misuse and abuse. https://www.samhsa.gov/prescription-drug-misuse-abuse/samhsas-effort  Accessed October 23, 2017.