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Week in Review: Cannabis May Decrease Cognitive Decline in Older Adults

cannabis decrease cognitive decline
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Current Events

Week in Review: Cannabis May Decrease Cognitive Decline in Older Adults

ICYMI: Catch up on the week’s latest news from across the cannabis spectrum.

In this week’s cannabis news round-up, a new study shows adult-use cannabis may decrease cognitive decline in older adults; Minnesota plans to expunge over 60,000 misdemeanor cannabis records; UK faces growing threat of animal tranquilizer in cannabis vapes and illicit sedatives; and medical marijuana laws are linked to improved mental health in patients.

cannabis decrease cognitive decline
PHOTO Elsa Olofsson

Study Shows Adult-Use Cannabis May Decrease Cognitive Decline in Older Adults

A study recently published in Current Alzheimer Research suggests that adult-use cannabis may be linked to decreased cognitive decline in adults aged 45 and older. 

The study, conducted by SUNY Upstate Medical University’s Master of Public Health (MPH) student Zhi Chen and Professor Roger Wong, Ph.D., MPH, MSW, analyzed a large data set from the CDC to explore the association between cannabis consumption and subjective cognitive decline (SCD). 

Analyzing self-reported data from 4,755 adults aged 45 and older, the study found that non-medical cannabis use was significantly associated with a 96% decrease in the odds of SCD. Factors such as different cannabinoid compositions and cannabis’ role in addressing sleep and stress issues may contribute to its observed benefits.

Co-author Prof. Wong, assistant professor of the Department of Public Health & Preventive Medicine, emphasized the need for longitudinal studies to understand the long-term effects. 

“The main takeaway is that cannabis might be protective for our cognition, but it’s really crucial to have longitudinal studies because this is just a snapshot of 2021,” Wong said. “We don’t know if non-medical cannabis leads to better cognition or the other way around—if those with better cognition are more likely to use non-medical cannabis. We need longitudinal studies to see long-term if non-medical cannabis use is protecting our cognition over time. That’s something we don’t know yet, but that research is hindered since cannabis remains illegal federally.”

Rhode Island expunges cannabis records

Minnesota Plans to Expunge Over 60,000 Misdemeanor Cannabis Records

Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) is set to erase more than 60,000 misdemeanor marijuana convictions as early as next month, a step mandated by the state’s recent adult-use marijuana legislation. Initially slated for August, the expungement process is now expected to be completed sooner, pending any objections from the Minnesota Judicial Branch by May 13. 

A newly established Cannabis Expungement Board, led by executive director Jim Rowader, aims to review tens of thousands of felony cannabis cases, acknowledging the potential positive impact on individuals’ lives by removing barriers to housing, education and employment.

“Black and brown communities across the country tend to have been arrested at three to four times the rate for cannabis-related crimes,” Rowander said. “There’s a very significant equitable impact that can be had here.”

PHOTO Lee Phillips

UK Faces Growing Threat of Animal Tranquilizer in Cannabis Vapes and Illicit Sedatives

concerning trend has emerged in the UK, as cannabis vapes and illicit sedatives intended to alleviate pain, anxiety and insomnia may contain xylazine, a potent animal tranquilizer. Originating in the US, where it contributed to numerous deaths, xylazine has infiltrated the UK drug market, leading to fatalities since 2022. 

Unlike the US, where it’s often mixed with opioids like heroin or fentanyl, xylazine in the UK is found in counterfeit prescription drugs and THC-containing vapes. The UK government plans to classify xylazine as a Class C drug, carrying penalties of up to 14 years in prison, reflecting efforts to combat its spread and safeguard public health.

With xylazine’s potential to cause severe health issues, including skin ulcers and overdose, experts advocate for comprehensive harm reduction strategies to mitigate the escalating threat. Researcher Dr. Caroline Copeland of King’s College London warns of the expanded risk beyond heroin users and urges broader toxicology testing. 

“This is cause for alarm as a much wider population of people who use drugs beyond heroin users will be exposed to its harms,” Copeland said. “We also know that most people who buy heroin will not intend to buy xylazine and this combination increases the risk of overdose. Xylazine was designated an ‘emerging threat’ to the United States, and this public health threat is a growing concern for the UK.”

The study’s co-author, Dr. Adam Holland, emphasizes the need for drug checking and overdose prevention centers to protect vulnerable drug users. “We need to expand the range of harm reduction interventions available for people who use drugs, including drug checking and overdose prevention centers, to give them the opportunities they need to stay safe.”

compassionate care programs
PHOTO Atomazul

Study: Medical Marijuana Laws Linked to Improved Mental Health in Patients

Patients with chronic health issues, particularly chronic pain, experience better mental health with medical marijuana access laws, a new study published in the journal Health Economics, Policy, and Law reveals. 

Over a 26-year period (1993-2018), researchers from Switzerland and the UK found that easier access to medical marijuana decreased reported days of poor mental health for users and those with frequent pain. Laws allowing home cultivation and broad pain condition coverage showed the most significant benefits. 

“Overall, our results are in line with the hypothesis that MMLs [medical marijuana laws] benefit those individuals for whom they are nominally designed without systematically harming other groups,” the study’s authors concluded.

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