OH GOP Eyes Changes to New Legal Weed Law, National Drug Survey Data Released, More... (11/15/23)

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #1198)

New York advises drug treatment providers to quit testing for marijuana in most cases, Ohio GOP lawmakers want to modify the just-passed marijuana legalization initiative, and more.

[image:1 align:right caption:true]Marijuana Policy

OH GOP Senate President Says Senators Will Push for Changes to New Marijuana Legalization Law Before It Takes Effect Next Month. State Senate President Matt Huffman (R) said Wednesday that senators will push for changes in the state's new marijuana legalization law before it takes effect next month. But details are still unclear -- and the House may not be in agreement.

"It's kind of all hands on deck here," Huffman said.

Within hours of the vote last week, Huffman, House Speaker Jason Stephens (R), and Gov. Mike DeWine (R) signaled they wanted to modify the legalization initiative even though it won with 57 percent of the vote. DeWine has urged lawmakers to move quickly and Huffman joins him in seeking to have rules in place by December 7, when legalization commences.

But Stephens said the real deadline for regulation is sometime before next fall, when the first commercial marijuana licenses are supposed to be issued. "That runway is all the way through September before the first licenses are even issued, so to do that decision-making process in the next couple of weeks, it's going be a real challenge to put forth such a large program that quickly," Stephens said Tuesday.

Among the changes the Republicans are considering: changing the tax rate, using the revenue to fund county jails or police training, and clarifying the language around public smoking. Under the initiative, smoking pot in "public areas" would be a minor misdemeanor, but property owners and "any public place" could decide to accommodate marijuana use. Some businesses are complaining that the language is unclear.

The Senate could also limit the number of marijuana retail outlets and reexamine the language around THC content caps.

New York Officials Advise Drug Treatment Providers to Stop Testing Patients for Marijuana in Most Cases. The state Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS) has issued new guidance to drug treatment providers that advises against routine screening for marijuana use, similar to the approach the office uses with alcohol. Some clinicians are hailing the move as a step away from abstinence-only recovery efforts and toward a more flexible harm reduction approach.

New state guidance for addiction services and treatment programs in New York advises against routine screening for marijuana use, an approach designed to parallel that used for alcohol. Some clinicians see the change, which is being implemented following the state's legalization of cannabis, as a step away from an abstinence-only view of recovery and toward a more flexible approach aimed at minimizing harm.

"With the legalization of adult-use cannabis in NYS, testing for the metabolite of THC routinely is not recommended unless the patient has identified a reduction in, or cessation of cannabis as part of their treatment goals," says the guidance document from OASAS. "Alcohol and THC metabolites should not be included in routine toxicology panels," it adds, "unless a clinician determines that alcohol or cannabis is a concern and toxicology testing would be appropriate clinically."

OASAS regulates about 1,700 prevention, treatment, and recovery programs statewide, as well as a dozen treatment centers it operates directly. The guidance applies to "providers working in OASAS-certified programs who use toxicology testing over the course of a patient's treatment." The office's website describes its approach as "responsive, data-driven, person-centered, and prioritizes equity."

Peter Grinspoon, a marijuana specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a Harvard Medical School instructor, saw the new guidance as a matter of harm reduction. "This is one of those questions where you can't really disentangle the social history and the politics from the science," he said. Historically "a lot of this is predicated on the idea that cannabis was a gateway to addiction" -- an idea he dismissed as a "foolish notion."

While medical professionals' perspective on the harms or benefits of marijuana "depends on his or her vantage point," Grinspoon added, addiction treatment providers have "been a big part of the problem with cannabis, because they really just get in their own echo chamber about the harms, and they don't have the context of, like, yes, sure, this can happen, and it's tragic when it does happen, but it's not what usually happens."

Drug Use

HHS, SAMHSA Release 2022 National Survey on Drug Use and Health Results. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), on Monday released the results of the 2022 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). The report shows how people living in United States reported about their experience with mental health, substance use, and treatment related behaviors in 2022. The report is accompanied by a high-level brief that includes infographics.

"The National Survey on Drug Use and Health provides an annual snapshot of behavioral health nationwide," said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. "This data informs knowledge, policy and action, and drives our shared commitment across government, healthcare, industry and community to offer resources and services to those in need."

"To tackle the behavioral health crisis in this nation, we need to fully understand the issues surrounding mental health and substance use, and the impact they have on people and communities," said Deputy Secretary Andrea Palm. "The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to meeting people where they are with information, resources, and support. The 2022 National Survey on Drug Use and Health allows us to follow an evidence-based path forward as we provide support for those struggling with substance use and work to build healthier futures."

"The data released today is crucial for informing our policies, protocols and understanding of our nation's health," said HHS Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, Ph.D., the leader of SAMHSA. "This important work better situates policy makers, researchers, practitioners and the general public to understand the collective behavioral health needs across the country and anticipate the needs of future generations."

The 2022 NSDUH report includes the following key findings:

  • Among people aged 12 or older in 2022, 59.8% (or 168.7 million people) used tobacco products, vaped nicotine, used alcohol, or used an illicit drug in the past month (also defined as "current use"), including 48.7% (or 137.4 million people) who drank alcohol, 18.1% (or 50.9 million people) who used tobacco products, 8.3% (or 23.5 million people) who vaped nicotine, and 16.5% (or 46.6 million people) who used an illicit drug.
  • In 2022, 70.3 million people aged 12 or older (or 24.9%) used illicit drugs in the past year. Marijuana was the most used illicit drug, with 22.0% of people aged 12 or older (or 61.9 million people) using it in the past year.
  • In 2022, 48.7 million people aged 12 or older (or 17.3%) had a substance use disorder (SUD) in the past year, including 29.5 million who had an alcohol use disorder (AUD), 27.2 million who had a drug use disorder (DUD), and 8.0 million people who had both an AUD and a DUD.
  • In 2022, almost 1 in 4 adults aged 18 or older had any mental illness (AMI) in the past year (59.3 million or 23.1%).
  • Among adolescents aged 12 to 17 in 2022, 19.5% (or 4.8 million people) had a past year major depressive episode (MDE).
  • 1 in 20 adults aged 18 or older had serious thoughts of suicide in the past year (13.2 million or 5.2%), 1.5% (or 3.8 million people) made a suicide plan, and 0.6% (or 1.6 million people) attempted suicide in the past year.
  • Over 1 in 8 adolescents aged 12 to 17 had serious thoughts of suicide in the past year (13.4% or 3.4 million adolescents), 1 in 15 made any suicide plans (6.5% or 1.7 million adolescents), and nearly 1 in 25 (3.7% or 953,000 adolescents) attempted suicide in the past year.

Law Enforcement

New Jersey Supreme Court Says Drug Recognition Experts Reliable but Limits Their Use. The state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the testimony of police drug recognition experts is reliable enough to be used as evidence, but limited its use, citing concerns about the experts' processes. Drug recognition experts are trained to determine whether drivers are impaired by drugs that can’t be detected by roadside tests, bloodwork, or breathlyzers.

The ruling came in a case brought by the Office of the Public Defender with support from the ACLU of New Jersey, which made the most of the court's concerns. The case dates back to 2015, when Jerseyite Michael Olenowski was charged with driving while intoxicated on two separate occasions.

"Although we believe evidence regarding the DRE protocol should never be admissible at trial, the Court today took important steps to show its commitment to sound science, to stop the prosecution from proving its case through shortcuts and the overuse of police officers in place of empirical evidence to sustain criminal convictions, and to make clear to all courts, prosecutors, defendants, and the public that it will maintain the integrity of criminal prosecutions." said Assistant Deputy Public Defender Molly Mclane.

The high court split on the decision, with even the majority making it clear the ruling was unlikely to be the last word on the matter.

"We presume that researchers will continue to study the efficacy of the DRE methodology, and we do not foreclose future litigation with appropriate testimony to re-examine it," wrote Superior Court Judge Jack Sabatino, who is temporarily assigned to the Supreme Court.

In a dissent joined by Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, Justice Fabiana Pierre-Louis wrote that her colleagues on the court approved the admissibility of drug recognition expert testimony despite admitting that they could not determine its reliability.

"The majority opinion discounts legitimate concerns about the reliability and accuracy of the DRE protocol and upholds the admission of DRE evidence despite acknowledging that 'the factors of testability and false positive error rate are largely inconclusive' and that 'DRE testimony does not, in and of itself, establish impairment,'" she wrote.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

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