Massachusetts Lawmakers Ban Flavored Tobacco and Vaping Products

After months of grappling with how best to address the health costs of vaping, Massachusetts lawmakers have opted to ban the sweet (and minty) stuff. On Thursday, members of the state’s House of Representatives voted to prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco and vape products. The vote was handed down shortly before the members of Congress broke for the holidays. 

And that’s not all. The vaping products that remain legal will be subject to a whopping 75 excise tax. 

The vote marks the first time such a statewide prohibition has been enacted in the United States, although San Francisco lawmakers banned the sale of all vaping products earlier this year. Other states have enacted temporary bans on certain products, as in the case of Oregon, where a prohibition was overturned by the courts that would have blocked the sale of flavored cannabis vaping products.

The legislation will now go to the desk of Governor Charlie Baker, who has already established himself as an advocate for limiting access to vaping. In October, he enacted an emergency four-month ban on all vaping products in a move that was deemed outside his authority by a judge. The decision was handed over to Massachusetts’ Cannabis Control Commission, which opted to quarantine all cannabis vaping products, save for those that use flower. Later, a judge lifted the ban for medical marijuana patients.

The flurry of prohibition was largely catalyzed by a rash of vaping-related lung injuries that has so far claimed 47 lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Vaping companies have also been the subject of recent lawsuits, including lawsuits filed by California and North Carolina state officials against leading vape company Juul. New York Attorney Letitia James announced that the state was suing the company, citing what she calls a coordinated marketing campaign targeting teens. 

A National Youth Tobacco survey found that 4.1 million students nationwide vape, including one-third of high school students in New York State. The nationwide vaper figure stands at 1.2 million among middle school students. 

Perhaps in response to such allegations of the targeting of young people, Juul announced earlier this month that it would no longer be selling its popular mint-flavored products. The decision was made after a government survey.

If signed, the Massachusetts bill will go into effect immediately for flavored products and on June 1 for menthol cigarettes. It also mandates that health insurance companies fund tobacco cessation counseling. 

“This legislation is a critical step to help end the worsening youth e-cigarette epidemic and stop tobacco companies from using appealing flavors to lure kids into a lifetime of addiction,” said president of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids Matthew Myers in a written statement. “It would make Massachusetts the first state in the nation to prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products.”

Not everyone was pleased, however. “We are disappointed the legislature supports bills that disproportionately impact communities of color and have disastrous implications for public health, public safety, state tax revenue and jobs in the Commonwealth,” said Jonathan Shaer, president of the New England Convenience Store Owners and Energy Marketers Association, in a statement.

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Blaze Ya Dead Homie Interview [by Interview Under Fire]

We got to sit down with Blaze Ya Dead Homie and discuss his tour, Graveyard Greats, music, influences and much more. Blaze Ya Dead Homie has been in the music game for over 25 years. He started his journey at the age of 17. Formerly signed to Psychopathic Records (1998-2013), he is now signed to Twiztid’s record label Majik Ninja Entertainment. Blaze’s latest release “Graveyard Greats” was released October 4th 2019. It features ABK, Prozak and Jelly Roll and has some old songs, rare songs and some new songs. Blaze also speaks on current projects on MNE.

from Faygoluvers

Not Many North Dakotans Are Applying To Have Their Cannabis Offenses Pardoned

A new North Dakota program to expunge the records of low-level cannabis offenders has seen few takers so far, leading state officials wondering how to better get the word out. Under the program, offenders with convictions for minor marijuana crimes can receive a pardon and have their records cleared if they refrain from further unlawful behavior for five years.

The policy change was spearheaded by Republican Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem as a way to ease the collateral damage caused by convictions for minor drug crimes, such as problems obtaining employment, housing, and educational benefits. The action was supported by fellow Republican Gov. Doug Burgum, who said that the change could help “address our state’s workforce shortage and grow the economy.”

Stenehjem has estimated that up to 175,000 North Dakotans convicted of minor crimes committed over several decades are eligible for the pardon program and could have their criminal records cleared. But in the months since the program was launched in July, less than three dozen people have applied.

“I’m rather surprised that so few people have applied,” said Stenehjem, who is also one of five members of the state’s pardon advisory board. “We will look at ways to get word out.”

Dan Owen, an advocate for the legalization of cannabis for adult use in North Dakota, applauded the change in law enforcement policy.

“This is a fantastic policy and I wish people would be willing to get informed,” Owen said. “The problem is a lot of people are uneducated on the issue.”

Pardons Are Free and Easy

Unlike some other states that have enacted programs for the automatic expungement of low-level marijuana convictions, those wishing to have their records cleared in North Dakota must complete a short online application, which is reviewed by law enforcement before being placed on the pardon advisory board’s agenda. The board has been authorized to approve applications in batches, rather than individually, to expedite the process. There is no fee to apply for a pardon.

“I suppose there may be a certain number of people who won’t want to go through the process — but it is a very simple process,” the attorney general said.

Owen said those who wish to take advantage of the program have to make the effort on their own.

“In some ways, you have to control your own destiny. It is not that difficult to fill out the form,” he said. “I’d do it if I had a conviction,” he added.

Stenehjem says that most people who apply for the program will qualify and successfully have their records expunged, which “totally removes a conviction; totally removes guilt.” Those with cleared records would also be able to “honestly say ‘no'” if they are asked if they have a previous conviction for a marijuana offense.

When the pardon advisory board meets in Bismarck next week, 26 people are slated to have their applications reviewed. Six other applicants who did not meet the requirements of the program have been denied a pardon.

Only six people have submitted applications for the board’s next meeting in April. Stenehjem said that he may reach out to attorneys practicing in North Dakota and ask them to inform their clients and former clients of the new program.

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New Mexico Could Expand Medical Marijuana Program To Include Dogs

Pot for pooches? It could happen in New Mexico, where activists are lobbying to expand the state’s medical marijuana program to cover ailing dogs. 

The Associated Press is reporting that the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Advisory Board will take up a pair of petitions at its meeting next month to expand the qualifying medical conditions for medical cannabis. One petition is conventional: it calls for the program to extend to people with attention deficit disorder.

But the other one is where things get a bit more exotic. Citing veterinary studies in support of cannabis use for animals suffering from seizures, the petition calls for the state’s medical marijuana program to apply to dogs with epilepsy. 

The New Mexico Department of Health withheld the names of petition sponsors, according to the Associated Press.

Potential Problems With The Petition

It is unclear which studies the petitioner cited advocating for cannabis for canines. The American Veterinary Medical Association has said that “although cannabinoids such as CBD appear to hold therapeutic promise in areas such as the treatment of epilepsy and the management of pain and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis, the available scientific evidence pertaining to their use in animals is currently limited.”

“While findings from a few well-controlled studies have been published, much of what we know is related to anecdotal or case reports or has been gleaned from studies related to use in humans, including the study of animal models for that purpose,” the AVMA says in a primer available on its website. “The AVMA continues to encourage well-controlled clinical research and pursuit of FDA approval by manufacturers of cannabis-derived products so that high-quality products of known safety and efficacy can be made available for veterinarians and their patients.”

In a letter sent to the Food and Drug Administration in July, Janet D. Donlin, the CEO of AVMA, called for more regulatory clarity regarding the labeling, safety, and use of cannabis-derived and cannabis-related products.

“Veterinarians have a strong interest in and enthusiastically support exploring the therapeutic potential of cannabis-derived and cannabis-related products, but we want to be sure we can have continued confidence in the efficacy, quality, and safety of products used to treat our patients,” Donlin wrote. “We are aware of several research institutions with both completed and ongoing investigations into the therapeutic benefits of cannabinoids for companion animals, with results that appear promising in some areas (e.g., osteoarthritis, epilepsy, pain management, oncology).”

Donlin said that the AVMA has received many reports from its members “that animal owners are actively purchasing these products and administering them to their pets and horses to treat medical conditions, often in the absence of veterinary consultation, and without the assurance that comes with FDA review and approval of therapeutic claims being made by their manufacturers and distributors.”

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Can You Smoke Weed While on Antibiotics?

Some things don’t mix, and with this in mind, it is always important to be aware and cautious of what you’re taking when on any sort of medication, since certain medicines will have a negative or more enhanced reaction when taken with another substance. Case in point: When you’re fighting off a bacterial infection, doctors generally prescribe antibiotics, which come along with some strict rules. But almost never addressed is an important question: can you smoke weed while taking those antibiotics?

High Times decided to ask Terry Roycroft, the president of Canada’s Medicinal Cannabis Resource Centre Inc. (MCRCI), which works with doctors who have a special understanding of the medical applications of cannabis. Roycroft has studied marijuana and its effects for over a decade and is highly passionate about advancing public knowledge of the plant. Thankfully, according to him, taking antibiotics and smoking marijuana may not be as harmful to an individual as one would initially think.

How Harmful Are Interactions?

“There’s a number of drug interactions for numerous everyday things. For example, even with caffeine, there are 82 drug interactions out there and some of them are moderately severe to severe,” Roycroft explains.

According to the UK’s National Health Service, it’s “sensible” to stay away from drinking when taking antibiotics, although only two medications call for completely avoiding alcohol altogether: metronidazole and tinidazole. Even something as harmless as grapefruit can have a negative interaction with antibiotics. This piece of fruit can interfere with the metabolism of a number of medications, including some antibiotics used to treat certain respiratory, stomach and other infections. In fact, Roycroft says that they began using grapefruit as a guide for cannabis.

“The reality is that there [are] very little interactions with cannabis. In fact, the antibiotics are not on the contraindicator list [the list of symptoms or conditions that makes a procedure inadvisable] with cannabis,” Roycroft says.

Any interactions that have been identified are very mild — and, in fact, doctors are currently testing to see if some antibiotics work more favorably mixed with marijuana.

“For instance, when we’re treating someone that’s on pain medication and we introduce cannabis, we will cut their [antibiotic] dose in half immediately and they get the same benefits as they would, and the same reactions as if they were taking the full amount.”

Although there may be very mild interactions, effects may still be felt by those who mix the two. According to Jessie Gill, a medical nurse who specializes in medical marijuana, using some macrolide antibiotics, such as troleandomycin, could potentially interact with marijuana.

“Marijuana inhibits a specific enzyme in the liver, cytochrome p450. This enzyme is used by many medications – including some antibiotics,” Gill wrote on Quora.

“What this means is that the effect of the medications will be increased. That also means you’d be at a higher risk of experiencing side effects and adverse reactions from the antibiotics.”

What About Taking CBD?

Interestingly, studies have shown that CBD may, in fact, actually have antibiotic properties. Newsweek reports that Australian scientists have discovered that cannabidiol killed numerous strains of bacteria, including some that have been notoriously resistant to traditional antibiotics. But so far, it still seems like CBD has a long way to go, in terms of replacing antibiotics altogether.

“We still don’t know how it works, and it may have a unique mechanism of action given it works against bacteria that have become resistant to other antibiotics, but we still don’t know how,” Mark Blaskovich, senior research chemist at the Centre for Superbug Solutions, told Newsweek.

“So far, we have only shown it works topically, on the skin surface. To be really useful, it would be good if we could show that it treated systemic infections e.g. pneumonia, or complicated tissue infections, where you have to give it orally or by intravenous dosing. A very preliminary study didn’t show that it works in these more difficult models.”

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Vitaly Fedotov/Shutterstock

So, Should You Consume Cannabis on Antibiotics?

All in all, Roycroft says there’s really no issue with mixing cannabis and antibiotics. You may just experience increased side effects of the medication.

“At the Medicinal Cannabis Resource Centre Inc., we have patients on antibiotics and we would not tell them to stop their cannabis use,” Roycroft says.

As for other doctors, they will sometimes use grapefruit as a guide for cannabis. If there is a contraindication with grapefruit, then you may not want to mix cannabis with the medication.

If it is still an issue you’re concerned about, ask your doctor what they recommend — after all, there’s nothing wrong with receiving additional medical advice from a professional.

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