C3RN CANNABIS COMMUNITY CARE AND RESEARCH NETWORK
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C3RN | Study could help veterans get cannabis through health insurance
Jun 20, 2019
Veterans and cannabis: It’s all in the family.
America’s short history of legal cannabis has proved this much: Veterans are one of the groups that benefit most from the plant, from managing aches and pains to PTSD symptoms, and often avoiding synthetic opiates along the way.
But another, more inconvenient truth has also become apparent. Decades of prohibition left a dearth of serious, formal research into how the plant is used, and by whom.
This creates a moment of unique opportunity, according to those behind a new initiative called the Veterans Health and Medical Cannabis Research Study. The survey is spearheaded by the Cannabis Community Care and Research Network (C3RN) as part of a larger, ongoing study of cannabis use being conducted in partnership with the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
The Veterans Health and Medical Cannabis Research Study formally launched earlier this year in Boston, the first of six C3RN events produced bypartnered business development agency Joint Venture & Co and Massachusetts-based Alternative Treatment for Veterans.
Organizers are hoping this look at veterans, their families, and cannabis will help lead to fundamental change in how former soldiers access medicine.
“What I’d like to do is really show what the burden is on the veteran population and show what their spending pattern looks like so we can start to make an argument for health insurance coverage,” says public health veteran Dr. Marion McNabb, Director of Research for ATV and CEO of C3RN.
‘A lifesaving substance’
In recent years, veterans across America have reported cannabis helping treat a variety of physical and psychological symptoms. Many have even used the plant to wean themselves off pharmaceutical painkillers, which can bring debilitating side effects and cause intense physical addiction.
Government-provided health insurance gives veterans virtually unlimited access to pharmaceuticals. Yet, even in states where cannabis is medically or recreationally legal, veterans must pay out-of-pocket or rely on donations for herbal relief. This gets at a core issue McNabb and others hope to address through their study.
“It’s complicated when you’re working with addiction, and opioid addiction specifically, but we really believe cannabis could be a viable harm-reduction strategy,” she says.
Before starting the non-profit Veterans Alternative Healing, Stephen Mandile (also president of President of Alternative Treatment for Veterans) was one of an untold number of former servicemen and servicewomen unable to find effective treatment through prescription medications.
Cannabis changed everything.
“For me this was definitely a lifesaving substance,” Mandile told CBS Boston last November, when he became one of the first people in Massachusetts to purchase newly legalized recreational cannabis.
Veterans from coast to coast recount similar personal experiences. The Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance, Operation Evac, Weed for Warriors and the Veterans Cannabis Group are just a sampling of the organizations that help connect former military personnel with marijuana’s potential for healing.
Meanwhile, a first-of-its-kind clinical study led by Arizona scientist Dr. Sue Sisley to analyze cannabis as a treatment for veterans with PTSD is nearing completion.
All of which helps explain why McNabb, Mandile and others believe now is the perfect time for their Veterans and Veterans Family Member Research Study. Veterans across the country are welcome to participate, but organizers are focusing initial outreach in Massachusetts, home to both C3RN and Veterans Alternative Healing. Massachusetts last year became the first state on the East Coast to open recreational cannabis stores.
Study organizers are currently recruiting state cannabis dispensaries and hemp companies to offer discounts to veterans who complete the survey. It consists of about 100 questions about consumption habits, spending, medical conditions, prescriptions and more.
The study also includes questions about family members. McNabb says the challenges and solutions experienced by veterans are deeply shared with their families and caregivers — who may themselves be cannabis consumers as well.
A recent Eaze Insights report on general cannabis trends found veterans are more than twice as likely as non-veterans to consume with family members. The C3RN survey aims to drill down further on the topic.
‘A new industry is only created once’
“We’d love to be able to compare different states as well as sub-localities here in Massachusetts,” McNabb says. “We want to reach a policy-level analysis where we can really advocate for changing the paradigm of how veterans access cannabis.”
Cannabis’ emergence from the shadows continues to open new opportunities in business and adult recreation across America. That’s all well and good. But McNabb and others hope their study can help benefit those who most deserve support.
“A new industry is only created once,” McNabb says. “We should use this opportunity to fight for research and justice and rights—not just make it about money and profit, but to really think about how we handle some of the bigger issues around cannabis.”
Original Article: https://www.eaze.com/article/c3rn-veterans-cannabis-study-marijuana-ptsd?fbclid=IwAR0kAgqtnQ5K4Lz6WJ1ygrzYHJ30mBJJ-CtOfdLG7toa1m6yr-BuOdGsBLQ
Restrictive Massachusetts guidelines on selling CBD products worry hemp farmersBy Shira Schoenberg | email@example.com
June 19, 2019 5:48 PM
BOSTON — Jonathan MacDougall of Baygrown Farms in Rochester refurbishes cranberry bogs to grow hemp, an attempt to rejuvenate a struggling industry.
His company recently worked with a local produce farm to create a new line of CBD-infused strawberry jam. But after the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources last week released a policy statement banning the sale of CBD-infused food, MacDougall expects to lose the thousands of dollars he put into developing the jam.
“We just invested in a whole line of edibles we can’t even sell,” MacDougall said.
Massachusetts lawmakers are taking steps to make it easier for farmers to grow hemp, which was legalized in Massachusetts in 2016 and federally in 2018. But at the same time, the state agency charged with regulating agriculture put out new guidelines that could severely limit the size of the state’s hemp market by banning the sale of certain products.
Farmers, retailers and manufacturers said the new rules could make it impossible for small farmers to enter the hemp industry.
“Massachusetts farmers just aren’t going to be able to compete with these regulations,” said Julia Agron, an Amherst farmer and outreach coordinator for the Northeast Sustainable Hemp Association.
The new policy statement says growers and manufacturers can sell hemp seed and its derivatives, clothing, building materials and fibers. A grower can sell flower to another grower or processor.
But growers cannot sell flower meant to be used by the consumer — such as for smoking. Growers cannot sell CBD-infused food, animal feed with hemp products, hemp as a dietary supplement or any CBD product for which they make medicinal claims.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a part of the cannabis plant that is thought to produce relaxation, but cannot get someone high.
The prohibition on food stems from a Department of Public Health statement prohibiting adding CBD to food, based on federal rules by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The problem, farmers say, is that CBD is the most lucrative part of the hemp market.
Agron, who runs a small hemp farm, said the market for industrial hemp is already dominated by large farms in agricultural states. The only way for a small Massachusetts farm to be viable is to sell artisanal, craft products — such as high-quality flower for smoking. Although someone cannot get high smoking hemp, it is smoked, sometimes by people looking to stop smoking cigarettes.
While Agron’s farm can produce cosmetics or topical creams, she said the market significantly shrinks if farmers cannot sell their crop for edible products.
“If we can grow artisanal product and get top dollar, we can survive as a micro-farm,” Agron said. “If we have to sell to a processor and process it into hemp oil, we won’t make enough to cover our costs of getting licenses and plants.”
Business owners say the timing of the new statement is also problematic, since farmers already started growing this season. The Department of Agricultural Resources has issued 102 licenses to grow or process hemp in 2019.
Linda Noel of Terrapin Farm in Franklin is in her second year of growing hemp. She had a contract to sell flower to a company that wanted to infuse it in herbal tea. But MDAR denied that company a license, so she has been unable to sell her crop.
“This is a completely misguided policy,” Noel said.
Zach McInnis, vice president and co-founder of the Healing Rose in Newburyport, sells cosmetics and body care products. The company had hoped to expand into foods and tinctures, but the new MDAR rules “trampled on those dreams a bit,” McInnis said.
McInnis said he worries that out-of-state companies will import products that Massachusetts companies are not allowed to develop. If he were allowed to manufacture things like CBD capsules or tinctures, McInnis said, “We could easily triple our revenue right now.”
Kirby Mastrangelo, who owns Hempire, which sells hemp products in Methuen and Amesbury, said the guidelines are also confusing. For example, it is unclear whether CBD-derived tinctures or capsules are prohibited.
State officials say the state guidelines are partially dependent on federal rules.
Brendan Moss, a spokesman for Gov. Charlie Baker, said in a statement, “The Baker-Polito Administration recently issued policy guidance regarding the sale of hemp-derived products in the Commonwealth consistent with previously announced federal policy and looks forward to working with the FDA, state agencies and local boards of health to ensure all products in Massachusetts comply with applicable federal and state laws and regulations.”
Massachusetts House votes to let farmers grow hemp on agricultural land
If the bill becomes law, it could vastly expand the amount of land that can be used to grow hemp in the state.
Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli, D-Lenox, chairman of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, introduced a bill, which passed the House Wednesday, to allow farmers to grow hemp on agricultural land.
Pignatelli said he thinks part of the issue with CBD is the lack of scientific evidence on its effects. “There’s a lot of unanswered questions, there’s a lot of science we need to delve into,” Pignatelli said.
Pignatelli said he thinks MDAR is trying to “hit the pause button” to allow time for a “more thorough analysis” of the pros and cons of CBD oil.
Rep. David Rogers, D-Cambridge, chairman of the Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy, said lawmakers will take a careful look at the new guidelines, and the Legislature could consider passing a new law regulating or allowing CBD products.
He said it is a complex issue because of the intersection of state and federal law. At the same time, Rogers said, “It’s one more product in commerce that could generate revenue and jobs for farmers.”
Original article: https://www.masslive.com/news/2019/06/restrictive-massachusetts-guidelines-on-selling-cbd-products-worry-hemp-farmers.html?fbclid=IwAR0a6a65WiyoWpqmjMqd4YgDhJfWrFTKk8xjMnt7jqjjYi_kXOBV8jyq3yA
MASSACHUSETTS HEMP COALITION PRESS CONFERENCE
PRESS RELEASE - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MONDAY, 7:00 AM JUNE 17, 2019
C3RN Press Contact; Josh Milne: 617-501-1620, firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo Courtesy: MA Hemp Coalition 2nd Meeting, Worcester MA June 18, 2019
June 19, 2019: By Dr. Marion McNabb, CEO Cannabis Community Care and Research Network (C3RN)
The Massachusetts hemp farming community (including small MA farmers), manufacturers/processors, retailers, consumers, healthcare providers, patients, and citizens engaged in the hemp industry will hold a press conference June 24, 2019 2 PM at the MA State House Steps concerning a policy statement issued by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR). This statement refers to the state and local regulations regarding hemp and hemp-derived products and the community will give input.
FROM WHO: THE MASS HEMP COALITION: A recently formed coalition of Massachusetts hemp businesses, advocates, industry leaders, academics, healthcare providers, consumers, patients, and engaged stakeholders; organized by the Northeastern Sustainable Hemp Association (NOSHA) and Cannabis Community Care and Research Network (C3RN).
WHAT: MASS HEMP COALITION community press conference re: MDAR Policy Statement
WHEN: Monday, June 24, 2 PM – 4 PM
WHERE: Massachusetts State House Steps, 24 Beacon St, Boston, MA 02133
WHY: The MASS HEMP COALITION has recommendations related to the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) policy statement entitled “Sale of Hemp-Derived Products in the Commonwealth” issued on June 12, 2019. The MASS HEMP COALITION will hold a press conference to provide these recommendations and looks forward to working with MDAR and other stakeholders to shape a hemp industry that is supportive of existing and future MA hemp businesses, upholds public health and safety, and educates stakeholders across the Commonwealth to ensure the new hemp industry succeeds and thrives locally. Community comments will be related to the below (and other aspects) of the MDAR statement:
HEMP PRODUCTS NOT APPROVED FOR SALE
The following products are NOT approved for sale in the Commonwealth pursuant to M.G.L. c. 128, Section 117(c) and are likewise prohibited for sale under FDA and DPH guidance:
For more information about the press conference, please visit www.cannacenterofexcellence.org/hemp
By Naomi Martin Globe Staff,June 12, 2019, 6:36 p.m.
Dozens of cannabis advocates rallied at the Massachusetts State House on Wednesday to refute a public health group’s criticisms of the state’s newly regulated marijuana industry.
The crowd held signs that read: “Weed’s not new,” “Empower our communities,” and “Cannabis equity is non-negotiable.” The audience cheered as researchers, clinicians, a state regulator, and people harmed by the war on drugs spoke in support of the current regulations and new ones they hope will be approved this summer, such as the creation of cannabis cafe licenses.
“If we had social consumption lounges, I wouldn’t have to do this,” advocate Peter Bernard said as he lifted a joint to his lips with a showman’s flair, sparked it, and inhaled. “Damn, that’s good.”
“If we had social consumption lounges, I wouldn’t have to do this,” advocate Peter Bernard said as he lifted a joint to his lips with a showman’s flair, sparked it, and inhaled. “Damn, that’s good.”(SUZANNE KREITER/GLOBE STAFF)
The rally was organized by the Cannabis Community Care and Research Network in response to a statement issued recently by the Massachusetts Prevention Alliance, which was signed by 40 local doctors and scientists. The letter said marijuana is far more harmful than many people believe and can increase consumers’ risks for psychosis, schizophrenia, and other mental illnesses. It called for an indefinite delay to social consumption and home delivery — two license types that state regulators are considering adding.
The statement also called for a pause of licensing new pot stores to review the state’s social equity program, which the group described as targeting minority neighborhoods for pot shops. But, as regulators replied, the program aims to help entrepreneurs from communities with high rates of marijuana arrests start their own businesses anywhere in the state.
“Entrepreneurs like myself who have been arrested for weed in our youth intend to employ dozens of oppressed people [hurt] by the war on drugs,” said Chauncy Spencer, a social equity applicant from Dorchester. This, he said, “will be a small start to addressing the lack of true self-determination denied to our community.”
Cannabis activists, including Jesse Daniels (left), and supporters smoked marijuana in front of the Massachusetts State House on Wednesday.
Cannabis activists, including Jesse Daniels (left), and supporters smoked marijuana in front of the Massachusetts State House on Wednesday.(SUZANNE KREITER/GLOBE STAFF)
Cannabis Control Commissioner Shaleen Title, who helped craft the social equity program, thanked the crowd for showing “when prohibitionists try and have a big publicity stunt, that it doesn’t work.”
“Everything is going to be evidence-based,” Title said, of the commission’s approach to regulating cannabis. She said she has consulted with faculty at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital who aren’t interested in publicity or “Prohibition 2.0,” and who “want patients and consumers to be treated like the legal, normal people that we are.”
Doctors who have found cannabis helpful for their patients criticized the prevention alliance’s narrow stance on the drug, which they said can pose risks to people with family histories of mental illness, but offers far more people life-changing benefits.
Dr. Eric Ruby, a Taunton pediatrician, said he has recommended cannabis — and seen positive results — for more than 300 children since 2014 for conditions such as anxiety, pain, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, nausea, anorexia, and muscle spasticity. One boy with autism, he said, finally enjoys going outdoors. (Minors in Massachusetts can only obtain medical marijuana if two doctors, including a pediatrician, recommend it.)
Ruby’s interest in cannabis grew after his son found relief from severe neuropathic pain resulting from a car accident. He had previously been on opioids and suicidal.
“Cannabis saved my son’s life,” Ruby said. Doctors on both sides want public health improvements and should unite to pressure the federal government to fund research, he said. “Dogma on either side do not further the cooperation needed to encourage scientific inquiry.”
Original article: https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/marijuana/2019/06/12/cannabis-advocates-rally-rebuttal-prohibition/uExEIEqxHNtnw3uHx1OJtL/story.html
Pot Advocates Push Back on Concerns Raised by Some Health Professionals
The Take with Sue O'Connell
Earlier this month, over three dozen Massachusetts doctors and researchers warned that the state could be headed toward a public health crisis because of its policy around recreational marijuana. Advocates for marijuana are pushing back, questioning the science and motives of the researchers. Dr. Marion McNabb, CEO and co-Founder of Cannabis Community Care & Research Network and Stephen Mandile, President/Founder of Veterans Alternative Healing Inc. join Sue to discuss.
(Published Wednesday, Jun 12, 2019)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - June 5, 2019
CONTACT: Joshua Milne, email@example.com, 617-501-1620
C3RN EVENT IN RESPONSE TO STATEMENT OF CONCERN ISSUED BY PEDIATRICIANS, MENTAL HEALTH, ADDICTION CLINICIANS & SCIENTISTS IN MASSACHUSETTS
Event to be held on Wednesday, June 12th at 2 p.m. in front of the Massachusetts State House
BOSTON, MA – JUNE 5, 2019 – Cannabis Community Care and Research Network (C3RN) is network of Massachusetts, national, and international academics, healthcare providers, policy makers, consumers, and patients, who work towards balanced cannabis research, education, and social justice in Massachusetts.
C3RN is organizing a press conference on June 12, 2019 at 2 p.m. on the steps of the Massachusetts State House in response to a Statement of Concern regarding cannabis policy and the social equity program issued by the Massachusetts Prevention Alliance (MAPA) and endorsed by 40 Massachusetts pediatricians, mental health, addiction clinicians, and scientists.
C3RN and interested academics, public health professionals, health care providers, cannabis community advocates, industry experts, policy makers, consumers, and medical patients will share their positions on the “Statement of Concern” during the press conference.
C3RN, among many other issues that will be presented at the press conference, is particularly concerned with recommendation number one, “Temporarily suspend licensing and conduct a Public Health Impact Assessment, by public health professionals, of the Social Equity Program with all associated components to avoid worsening health inequities and disparities among vulnerable populations and communities.”
“This social equity recommendation is academically un-founded, not cited by peer-reviewed literature, and is steeped in ethnic and racial biases,” said Dr. Marion McNabb, CEO of C3RN. “As a trained and well experienced global public health professional who has worked in health inequities for nearly two decades, I strongly disagree with this recommendation.”
An academic response to the Statement of Concern will be presented at the press conference including: literature on public opinion on drug laws and cannabis legalization and a review of health inequities in Massachusetts, and specifically those areas disproportionately impacted by the drug war in Massachusetts.
About Cannabis Community Care and Research Network (C3RN)
Cannabis Community Care and Research Network (C3RN) is a public benefit corporation (B Corp) based out of Worcester, MA that specializes in providing high-quality research and analytic services related to the impacts of medical and adult-use recreational cannabis. C3RN is currently establishing a nonprofit research entity to house a virtual Cannabis Center of Excellence and all academic research activities. As a social justice-oriented research and analytics company, C3RN specializes in designing, monitoring, and evaluating models of integrating adult-use and medical cannabis to positively impact social, clinical, and public health outcomes. C3RN runs and national anon cannabis consumer and patient survey in addition to a veterans health and medical cannabis research study in Massachusetts. Learn more at: www.cannAcenterofexcellence.org
By Susan Spencer
Telegram & Gazette Staff
Posted May 30, 2019 at 7:06 PM
Updated May 30, 2019 at 7:06 PM
Marijuana cafes and other places to partake in public are coming closer to being allowed in Massachusetts, but don’t plan to stop in for some weed just yet. The state Cannabis Control Commission on Thursday pushed back draft regulations for a pilot program, which would be followed by a public comment period, at least into June.
Central Massachusetts officials and those in the local marijuana industry reacted for the most part with cautious concern and some optimism about the prospect of social use.
Under the pilot, approved by the commission in concept two weeks ago, up to 12 communities across the state would be authorized to host marijuana establishments in which adults age 21 and older could consume cannabis on-site.
Licenses for primary-use locations and events where marijuana could be served would be exclusively available for the first two years to licensed microbusinesses and craft marijuana cooperatives as well as certified economic empowerment applicants from communities including Worcester, Fitchburg, Southbridge and Spencer, and social equity applicants, according to a news release from the commission. Social equity applicants are those that have been disproportionately harmed by previous drug laws.
Also Thursday, Gibby’s Garden in Uxbridge was the first marijuana microbusiness to receive final license approval in the state. A microbusiness, besides being potentially eligible to participate in a social consumption pilot, allows cultivation of up to 5,000 square feet of cannabis in a year and allows the business to manufacture product and transport it to other marijuana establishments.
“At this point, we’ve been incredibly busy,” said Fred Gibson, Gibby’s manager and husband of owner Kimberly Gibson.
He said his family hasn’t really considered pursuing a marijuana cafe, if it would ever be allowed. “We want to see what they say about it,” he said.
Worcester hosts a private members-only cannabis club, The Summit Lounge, which through loopholes in the law allows consumption on-site of marijuana legally brought in by members.
Video: Worcester By Bike
“We’d have to play out different situations and see what our members want,” said General Manager Kyle Moon, about the prospect of opening a cafe. “We’re definitely looking to expand.”
He was watching the changing regulatory landscape closely.
“I think Worcester is doing an amazing job, taking this industry and running with it,” he said.
“At this point we are still gathering information and better understanding the regulations before making any policy recommendations locally,” Mike Vignieux, media relations specialist for the city manager’s office, wrote in an email.
Although members can’t buy marijuana products on-site, The Summit Lounge provides a glimpse of what a social consumption venue might look like.
Four industrial smoke eaters circulate the air inside the 116 Water St. club, clearing it within five minutes, Mr. Moon said.
Employees are TIP certified and won’t let anyone drive away intoxicated. They have Lyft and Uber numbers on their company phones, to call a ride for a member if necessary, but haven’t had to use it since the club opened in February 2018.
“I used to bounce at a nightclub in Boston,” Mr. Moon said. “We haven’t had any issues like that.”
He said, “It’s a responsible community.”
A Worcester Police Department spokesman confirmed that they have not had any disturbance calls or DUIs related to The Summit Lounge.
Public safety issues are the main sticking point for policymakers, including Cannabis Control Commissioner Jennifer L. Flanagan, a former state senator and state representative from Leominster.
Ms. Flanagan and Commissioner Britte McBride voted against the proposal.
“I really think that it’s too early to be opening up the facilities for social consumption,” Ms. Flanagan said in an interview. “We still need to educate people around the state about what the law is, about the effects of consumption of cannabis.”
She said she is concerned about substance abuse, driving while impaired and the placement of marijuana cafes. Under the proposed pilot, the 29 communities of disproportionate impact, which could be eligible sites, include several college towns.
“For me, I just think we need to vet this more,” Ms. Flanagan said.
State law would also have to change to allow communities to accept social consumption.
State Rep. Stephan Hay, a Fitchburg Democrat, co-sponsored one of the bills, H.3541, that would clear this legal roadblock. S.1125 also takes on the issue.
Mr. Hay said that most Massachusetts residents wanted legal adult-use marijuana. “Our job is to give it to them and make sure it’s as safe and healthy as we can make it,” he said.
Fitchburg is one of the economic empowerment areas that could qualify to participate in the pilot program. Mr. Hay said his focus locally was to make sure residents could participate in the process and have access to jobs.
Other officials in the region, such as Uxbridge Police Chief Marc Montminy, said the department’s main concern was impaired driving.
Chief Montminy said there’s still no way to determine if someone is driving under the influence of cannabis.
“Other than that, the concept alone doesn’t really disturb me,” he said.
David Genereux, town administrator of Leicester, which hosts one of the first two retail marijuana businesses to open in the state, said the Planning Board wrote regulations prohibiting on-site consumption.
“It’s just something they weren’t interested in,” Mr. Genereux said. “It’s a bit of a fear thing. Theoretically, you could have people driving impaired from a site.”
Cannabis entrepreneurs have still other ideas about the potential for social use.
Marion McNabb, co-founder of Cannabis Community Care and Research Network, or C3RN in Worcester, said she’s “in preliminary discussions to create a ‘cannabis mansion,’ including social use, and use cannabis profits to renovate and restore Bull Mansion, a national historic landmark, to its original valor.”
Ms. McNabb said, “I’m trying to see in Worcester if there’s interest in becoming one of the pilot sites.”
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Original Article found here: https://www.telegram.com/news/20190530/no-green-light-yet-on-marijuana-cafe-regulations
Veterans health study seeks to expand awareness, access to medical marijuana
Posted May 25, 2019 at 7:41 PM
Daniel Stack will never forget being medevaced out of Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, surrounded by servicemen with far more devastating injuries than his skin condition.
“I saw firsthand the suffering of those guys who were really wounded,” said Mr. Stack, 67, an Uxbridge resident who served in the U.S. Air Force.
He committed himself then to helping his fellow disabled veterans. Now he serves as Massachusetts department adjutant and CEO of Disabled American Veterans, a nonprofit organization that assists and advocates for veterans.
A generation later, another Uxbridge resident, Stephen Mandile, 41, ruptured six disks in a Humvee collision while deployed in Iraq with the Army National Guard in 2005. He suffered traumatic brain injury, radicular nerve damage, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
Mr. Mandile’s Veterans Affairs doctors put him on 57 medications, including nine opioids, over the ensuing decade. “It killed my pain but also killed all my feeling for anything good or bad,” he said.
In 2013 he attempted suicide.
An ultimatum from his wife in 2014 caused Mr. Mandile to wean off prescription drugs by using marijuana, which had been legalized for medical use in Massachusetts in 2012, something he accomplished in five months.
Problem was, while medical marijuana is legal in several states, it is still illegal under federal law. And because of that, the VA will not recommend or pay for medical marijuana for disabled veterans.
Mr. Mandile founded a nonprofit in 2016, Veterans Alternative Healing Inc., to support veterans’ access to alternative therapies, including marijuana.
Mr. Stack and Mr. Mandile joined forces last year with another medical cannabis supporter, Marion McNabb, a researcher with a doctorate in public health.
Ms. McNabb co-founded with Randal MacCaffrie a company based in Worcester called Cannabis Community Care and Research Network, known as C3RN, to promote social justice, research and education in the cannabis sphere.
The coalition formed a new nonprofit, Alternative Treatment for Veterans, to gather data on medical marijuana use by veterans and to use that research to push for policy change.
“If you want to deal with the VA, you need a study that just deals with veterans,” Mr. Stack said.
To get the VA to include marijuana as a therapy for PTSD, pain and other conditions, Congress has to change the law, he explained. That’s a high bar for medical marijuana advocates to meet.
“I know a large number of veterans use it,” he said. “They might say it’s recreational, but I see from them they use it for PTSD and the stress. It’s less harmful than alcohol. They’ll drink themselves to sleep.”
Working with C3RN and partners in the cannabis industry, the group launched a veterans health and medical cannabis research study in March. The study is based on a similar survey done last year with University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth researchers, which looked at patient and consumer marijuana use.
Mr. Stack said, “We believe once this study is done, we’ll have concrete information to get Congress to change the law.”
DAV and Revolutionary Clinics, medical marijuana dispensaries in the Boston area, each provided $6,000 as seed money for the ongoing survey. Ms. McNabb serves as principal investigator.
Preliminary results of the anonymous survey will be released at a Cannabis Advancement Series forum from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. June 20 at Bull Mansion, 55 Pearl St., Worcester.
The forum, “Medical Cannabis, Veterans Health and the Opioid Epidemic: What Are Models We Can Embrace?” will feature a keynote video by U.S. Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, a keynote speech from state Cannabis Control Commissioner Kay Doyle and a panel discussion. The program is free. Information is available at www.cannacenterofexcellence.org/veteran.
There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence but not a lot of solid research on marijuana because research institutions risk losing federal funding, the source of most grants, for work on the federally illegal substance.
Ms. McNabb said the study’s goal was to document how cannabis is used by veterans and how it helps them.
“The study highlights how cannabis can be a harm reduction to many medications people are on that they don’t want to be on,” she said.
Last year’s study on Massachusetts marijuana consumers and patients found 59% were using cannabis to reduce prescription medication use. Among veterans, the proportion is even higher, 67%, or two-thirds of marijuana users, according to early results from the current study.
Marijuana is most frequently used by general consumers to substitute for antidepressants (42%), nonopioid painkillers such as ibuprofen (32%), and narcotics/opioids (28%).
But veterans who opt for medical marijuana instead of prescription drugs do so at a cost. The study has found that veterans pay an average of $39 a week, compared to $112 a week for marijuana.
One in five veteran respondents reported that money to purchase products was a barrier to using medical marijuana.
The cost of marijuana comes on top of veterans having to pay $200 to $300 for a civilian physician to qualify them for a medical marijuana card, even if their VA paperwork describes their condition as one that would meet state medical marijuana requirements.
That information supported a state Senate budget amendment that would have allowed VA diagnoses to be used to qualify a veteran for medical marijuana. The amendment was rejected, but Ms. McNabb said her group will keep trying.
Ms. McNabb said that from a public health perspective, she wants to make sure veterans not only have better access but also better information about marijuana, especially when they’re using other medications too.
“On their own, they’re trying to substitute and their (VA) provider is not allowed to talk about it with them,” she said.
Mr. Mandile said there was a lot of misunderstanding among veterans - and providers - about VA policy.
A VHA directive says providers should discuss with their patients use of state-approved medical marijuana to treat medical or psychiatric symptoms, including “how marijuana may impact other aspects of the overall care of the veteran.”
Veterans won’t lose benefits, but the impact on other aspects of care often results in having physicians cut off the veteran’s medication, Mr. Mandile said.
“Without a solid policy, physicians are still able to use how they feel about cannabis as part of their decision process,” he said.
The veterans health and cannabis study has found so far that only 62% said their VA or other health care provider was aware of their medical cannabis use. Another 9% weren’t sure. Nearly one-third, 29%, said their provider was not aware they used cannabis.
Veterans are three times more likely to die from an opioid overdose, with many addictions taking root in prescribed painkillers, according to Ms. McNabb. She’s frustrated that safer alternatives including marijuana aren’t being fully considered.
“They are really missing one large harm-reduction strategy that I think can be beneficial,” she said.
Despite cost barriers, “a good 20%” of patients that come to Canna Care Docs, a group of physicians who provide medical marijuana certification, are veterans, according to Kathleen McKinnon, vice president of operations.
“We see a lot of PTSD with veterans,” she said.
Canna Care Docs, which has an office in Worcester as well as other locations in Massachusetts and 11 other states, works with veterans to educate them so they’re using the right strain. Too much THC, the hallucinogenic component of marijuana, could cause anxiety and exacerbate symptoms.
The company started holding events with veterans in 2014, including offering free evaluations on Cape Cod, where more than 70 veterans received services in one day.
Veterans typically receive a 10% discount off the $200 standard fee, Ms. McKinnon said.
The company was offering a Memorial Day special price of $100 for veterans, something Canna Care is considering offering year-round.
Canna Care Docs also gives out vouchers, called scholarships, for free or reduced price certification visits. Mr. Mandile’s organization, Veterans for Alternative Healing, distributes $2,000 worth of scholarships a month.
“Our goal is to bring cannabis into mainstream medicine,” said Ms. McKinnon. “We see veterans as a group that has done a lot for us and our country. It is saving lives. We see that day in and day out.”
A number of dispensaries are also working with veterans to make medical marijuana more affordable.
The Botanist in Worcester has become a partner of C3RN.
“We fell in love with their program,” said Ross Riley, outreach manager.
The Botanist gives 40% discounts every day to veterans who are deemed 100% disabled, a program called the Veteran Care Program. Ten medical marijuana dispensaries in the state participate in VCP, according to Mr. Mandile.
The Botanist is donating a percent of profits May 22-25 to DAV and is looking at other ways to offer support.
Matthew Huron, CEO of Good Chemistry in Worcester, wrote in an email: “We provide an ongoing daily discount for veteran medical patients, and we also offer special holiday discounts for medical patient veterans around Memorial Day and Veterans Day. This Memorial Day, we’re offering our veteran medical patients 25% off their purchase. We’re also in ongoing discussions with Veterans Alternative Healing and C3RN/UMass Dartmouth about how to best support their Cannabis Advancement Event Series. We’re incredibly grateful for veterans and their service to our nation. We’re proud to hire veterans and we are proud to serve them every day.”
Besides making an argument for veterans health policy to include medical marijuana as a harm-reduction strategy, advocates hope that more research and education will reduce the stigma many veterans feel.
“There are a lot of veterans that won’t even put they’re a veteran on applications for work,” said Mr. Mandile. “They’re ashamed; they’ll think, ‘Oh, you’re a veteran, you have PTSD, you’re crazy.’ ”
“We want to increase the access, create a sustainable pathway to using medical cannabis,” he continued. “Whatever pathway to healing should never be stigmatized.”
Original Article Link: https://www.telegram.com/news/20190525/veterans-health-study-seeks-to-expand-awareness-access-to-medical-marijuana
South Coast Today
BACKERS OF VETERANS MARIJUANA SURVEY HOPE TO CHANGE POLICY
March 3, 2019
DARTMOUTH - Veterans Affairs health care providers cannot legally recommend medical marijuana to their patients because the drug is classified federally as a Schedule One Controlled Substance, according to their website. Organizations in Massachusetts are working to change that with a study that explains how and why veterans use the drug to deal with things like chronic pain and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
UMass Dartmouth, Cannabis Community Care and Research Network and Veterans Alternative Healing Inc. launched an online survey in March to collect data for the study.
The anonymous survey is available for veterans nationally, but since the organizations behind it are all based in Massachusetts, the CEO of Worcester-based C3RN Dr. Marion McNabb said she expects a good percentage of the respondents will be from the Bay State.
McNabb wants to use the data, she said, to change state policies to make medical cannabis more accessible to veterans, creating a model to do the same on the federal level.
Current barriers to veterans’ medical marijuana use stem from the federal policy barring the VA from recommending or prescribing the drug. If a veteran wants to use marijuana they have to either go outside the VA to get a medical marijuana card, which can cost up to $350 a year with the necessary referral, or buy recreational marijuana if that is an option in their state, according to C3RN and Veteran’s Alternative Healing.
But, recreational marijuana has its limits, there is a “100 milligrams edible limit for adults per transaction for recreational use as opposed to 283 ½ grams every sixty days for medical use,” said Ann Brum of Joint Venture & Co, another partner in the study. In both cases veterans are responsible for covering their own costs.
That is one of the main things C3RN and Veterans Alternative Healing are trying to change.
“We think every veteran should have free access to medical cannabis just as a right for their service,” said McNabb.
Stephen Mandile, founder of Veterans Alternative Healing, is an Iraq veteran and approached C3RN about doing the study when, he said, he realized he needed data to back up the stories veterans told him about using marijuana to get over their opioid addictions and for mental health issues.
“We have to put numbers to these stories,” said Mandile. “I thought it would be the best way to change policies.”
The numbers are already coming in. On April 18, the groups released a report with their initial findings. According to that report, of the 138 veterans who completed the survey, 67 percent reported they use medical marijuana and 57 percent report using marijuana recreationally.
Of the veterans that use medical marijuana, 34 percent use it to manage chronic pain, 25 percent for PTSD, and 12 percent for depression. 67 percent of those that use it also reported using medical marijuana to reduce over the counter or prescription medication use.
UMass Dartmouth is involved in the study not just to use these numbers to change policies, but to study one of the fastest growing industries in the nation, said Dr. Stephen White, a professor of marketing and international business.
UMD partnered with C3RN last year to perform a broader open cannabis consumer and patient research study.
Bask, a medical marijuana dispensary in Fairhaven and a partner is the study, is offering veterans who take the survey discounts on their products, according to CEO Chapman Dickerson.
The data from the study will be shared with Dickerson and he said he hopes to use it to make products that are more tailored to veterans needs.
The study will continue for at least the next year, but both C3RN and UMass Dartmouth said they would continue their research as long as there is interest. They will be sharing their data, as it comes in, at various events across the state, including one in the SouthCoast in October.
Veterans who are interested in taking the study can find it here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/C3RN_VAH
Original Article Link: https://www.southcoasttoday.com/news/20190503/backers-of-veterans-marijuana-survey-hope-to-change-policy
MASS LIVE Researchers studying veterans’ use of medical marijuana; early results presented in Holyoke
By Anne-Gerard Flynn | Special to The Republican
April 18 HOLYOKE — How much do veterans in Massachusetts use cannabis, and why do they use it?
Those questions are at the center of the Veterans Health and Cannabis Citizen Science Study. The anonymous online survey, which is still seeking participants, is designed to help advance understanding of the drug in terms of its use for medical and behavioral health conditions.
The study’s organizers say it seeks input on veterans’ current health status, treatment regimens and medications and their current marijuana use. Other questions ask about quality of life issues, access to insurance options, service history and demographics.
Preliminary results from the study, launched in early March, were shared Thursday evening during the presentation, “Cannabis Equity: Big business and small business working together" at Gateway City Arts in Holyoke. The Cannabis Community Care and Research Network, Veterans Alternative Healing and Joint Venture & Co. hosted the event; Steven Hoffman, chair of the state’s Cannabis Control Commission, was the keynote speaker.
Other participants scheduled included Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse and study organizers.
Early study results are said to show that, to date, 67% of the veterans who have completed the survey reported using medical marijuana, while 57% reported using it for recreation.
Thirty-six percent of respondents reported chronic pain as their top health condition; 28%, post-traumatic stress disorder; 11%, anxiety; and 11%, depression.
Medical marijuana use was reported by 37 percent to be most helpful in managing chronic pain.
Twenty-five percent said it was most helpful in managing PTSD while 9% found it most helpful with anxiety and three percent with cancer.
Among those who use medical marijuana, 67% reported using it to reduce over-the-counter or prescription medication use. When asked about healthcare provider acceptance, 62% of respondents were said to report their VA or healthcare provider knew about their cannabis use.
Fifty-nine percent of those same people were said to report not being sure if their provider supported their medical cannabis use.
Qualifying medical conditions in Massachusetts for medical marijuana include cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or other debilitating conditions.
Can Massachusetts become a leader in marijuana research?
Conducting marijuana research is challenging because of legal and financial barriers, since marijuana remains illegal federally.
The Cannabis Community Care and Research Network launched a national — as well as Massachusetts-focused — cannabis consumer and patient study last June in collaboration with the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, and has held related forums in the area.
Among the 950 participants from Massachusetts to date in that study, 33% were said to use medical cannabis for chronic pain; 26% for anxiety and 14% for depression.
Those results were said to prompt the launch of the second study whose partners also include AmeriCann, which is developing the Massachusetts Cannabis Center, a one-million-square-foot sustainable cannabis cultivation and processing facility in Freetown.
Other study partners include the Massachusetts Chapter of Disabled American Veterans as well as Healing Rose and number of the state’s 49 registered dispensaries for medical marijuana including Revolutionary Clinics, Bask Cannabis, The Botanist, Insa, and Central Ave Compassionate Care.
The study will continue through the end of the year. Veterans taking the online survey will receive cannabis-related discounts.
The third presentation in the six-part Cannabis Advancement Series promoting the survey and having a focused on veterans, medical cannabis and the opioid epidemic, will be June 20 at Bull Mansion in Worcester.
According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, some 68,000 veterans had opioid use disorder in 2015, a threefold increase in 12 years. They are twice as likely as non-veterans to die from accidental opioid overdoses, according to a U.S. Department of Veterans 2014 report.
The Cannabis Community Care and Research Network was founded in 2017 by Marion McNabb, who holds a doctorate in public health from Boston University, and cannabis community advocate Randal MacCaffrie, both of whom participated in the April 18 forum.
C3RN specializes in providing research and analytic services related to the impacts of medical and adult-use recreational cannabis and is a public benefit corporation based in Worcester and operates the developing virtual Cannabis Center of Excellence.
Massachusetts voters approved marijuana for medical use in 2012, and in November 2016 approved a ballot question legalizing recreational marijuana.
Original Article: https://www.masslive.com/news/2019/04/researchers-studying-veterans-use-of-medical-marijuana-early-results-presented-in-holyoke.html
Dr. McNabb on Morning Edition WBUR/NPR with Bob Oakes Discussing the MA Vape Ban November 7, 2019
Worcester, MA 01608
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