Monday, July 22

Panelists smoke out pros and cons of marijuana legalization


Panelists at the event said they are optimistic the cannabis industry will be integrated into society, but are unsure of how it will develop in Los Angeles. (Liz Ketcham/Daily Bruin)

Panelists at the event said they are optimistic the cannabis industry will be integrated into society, but are unsure of how it will develop in Los Angeles. (Liz Ketcham/Daily Bruin)


Experts said the legalization of recreational cannabis could increase tax revenue and facilitate discussion between patients and doctors about marijuana use.

Politicians, medical researchers and economic analysts reviewed economic and medical implications of California’s recent legalization of marijuana at an event at UCLA on Thursday. The panelists said they are optimistic the cannabis industry will be integrated into society, but are unsure of how it will develop in Los Angeles.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed the California adult-use marijuana law Jan. 1, making Los Angeles’ cannabis market the largest of any city in the world. However, federal law still classifies cannabis as a Schedule I drug, along with other illegal addictive substances such as heroin and LSD.

Several experts said they think legalizing marijuana will increase the state government’s tax revenue.

Fiona Ma, a former California State Assembly member, said only 25 percent of medical marijuana dispensaries paid taxes in 2014. It is difficult for the government to collect taxes from dispensaries because the process operates largely in cash, she said.

Ma said many banks refuse to offer services to marijuana dispensaries.

“No bank wants to tell you that they are banking the industry because they don’t want be on the front of the Wall Street Journal,” she said.

Ma said she is advocating for a bill to allow banks and financial institutions to provide services to the cannabis industry, which is estimated to be an $8 to 20 billion market.

Cat Packer, executive director and general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Cannabis Regulation, said she thinks it is hard to estimate how many jobs legal cannabis will create in California because of the large number of people already employed in the black market for marijuana.

Experts added the effect of cannabis use on crime rates continues to be unclear.

Jeffrey Chen, executive director of the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative, said studies that measure the change in property crime rates around dispensaries conflict with each other.

“Obviously crime rates relating to cannabis will go down, but the evidence connecting cannabis to other crimes like property and alcohol-related crimes is a mixed bag,” he said.

Medical specialists said they are cautious about cannabis’ health benefits because researchers have conducted relatively few studies on its effects.

Shaun Hussain, an assistant clinical professor of pediatric neurology at UCLA, said he thinks more research is needed to gauge cannabis’ safety.

“Right now, we have a lot of guesses about the safety of marijuana, and that is really the issue,” he said. “We need to figure out what are the medical benefits, who are those benefits for.”

Chen said it is difficult for researchers to acquire cannabis for research because it is classified under federal law as a Schedule I substance with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. He added there is also less grant funding for studies on the therapeutic effects of cannabis.

“For studies that focus on the harm of cannabis, there are huge funds,” he said. “For therapeutic studies, there is significantly less funding.”

Rashmi Muller, an assistant clinical professor at UCLA, said social stigma has made it difficult for doctors to document and collect data on cannabis use because patients are often unwilling to disclose their cannabis usage.

Howard Padwa, a researcher at the UCLA Integrated Substance Abuse Program, said he hopes legalizing marijuana will help dispel the social stigma surrounding cannabis.

“(Legalization) will shift the way we talk about cannabis, making it something that physicians are willing to talk to patients about, in terms of potential medical treatment, and also in terms of something that can cause problems,” he said.

Chen said he thinks the public must be informed about cannabis research, and added he thinks Los Angeles has an important role to play in the cannabis industry.

“(People) should be very skeptical of things that they read … on both sides. There are competing agendas and money at stake,” he said. “I think Los Angeles is going to play the biggest role in how cannabis is regulated, researched, and utilized by the public.”

 

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Share on Reddit

Comments are supposed to create a forum for thoughtful, respectful community discussion. Please be nice. View our full comments policy here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chuck.anziulewicz Chuck Anziulewicz

    “Federal law still classifies cannabis as a Schedule I drug, along with other illegal addictive substances such as heroin and LSD.”

    Do your research. LSD is indeed illegal, but it is not addictive.

  • chris9465

    These “experts” are the biggest group of con artists on the planet. There is no research on the medical uses. No research on the safety blah blah blah Snore.

    Anytime you read that know its a huge lie.
    This is just more lazy journalism.

    Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties, unrelated to NMDA receptor antagonism. This new found property makes cannabinoids useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV dementia. Nonpsychoactive cannabinoids, such as cannabidoil, are particularly advantageous to use because they avoid toxicity that is encountered with psychoactive cannabinoids at high doses useful in the method of the present invention. A particular disclosed class of cannabinoids useful as neuroprotective antioxidants is formula (I) wherein the R group is independently selected from the group consisting of H, CH.sub.3, and COCH.sub.3. ##STR1##

    http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=6630507.PN.&OS=PN/6630507&RS=PN/6630507

    HOW MUCH MORE RESEARCH TO YOU IGNORANT QUACKS NEED?

  • chris9465

    Lazy journalism.

    These “experts” are such liars.

    Safety study done over 20yrs about cannabis at UCLA! How do you consider these quacks anything other than frauds?

    “Shaun Hussain, an assistant clinical professor of pediatric neurology at UCLA, said he thinks more research is needed to gauge cannabis’ safety.” Quack Quack

    Study done at UCLA.

    Study: Smoking Marijuana Not Linked with Lung Damage
    Marijuana smokers performed better on tests of lung function compared to nonsmokers and cigarette smokers

    The study was “well conducted” and is “essentially confirmatory of the findings from several previous studies that have examined the association between marijuana smoking and lung function,” says Dr. Donald Tashkin, professor of medicine at UCLA and a leading scientist in the area. He was not associated with the new research.

    “The major strengths of this study are that it included a far larger number of subjects followed for longer than any of these previous studies,” he adds

    http://healthland.time.com/2012/01/10/study-smoking-marijuana-not-linked-with-lung-damage/

  • chris9465

    It doesn’t cause brain abnormalities.

    reading the news last week I came across multiple reports claiming that even casually smoking marijuana can change your brain. I usually don’t pay much attention to such articles; I’ve never smoked a joint in my life. In fact, I’ve never even smoked a cigarette. So even though as a scientist I’ve been interested in cannabis from the molecular biology point of view, and as a citizen from a legal point of view, the issues have not been personal. However reading a USA Today article about the paper, I noticed that the principal investigator Hans Breiter was claiming to be a psychiatrist and mathematician. That is an unusual combination so I decided to take a closer look.

    I immediately found out the claim was a lie. In fact, the totality of math credentials of Hans Breiter consist of some logic/philosophy courses during a year abroad at St. Andrews while he was a pre-med student at Northwestern. Even being an undergraduate major in mathematics does not make one a mathematician, just as being an undergraduate major in biology does not makes one a doctor. Thus, with his outlandish claim, Hans Breiter had succeeded in personally offending me! So, I decided to take a look at his paper underlying the multiple news reports:
    https://io9.gizmodo.com/does-researching-casual-marijuana-use-cause-brain-abnor-1565519493