In this week’s cannabis news round-up, the World Anti-Doping Agency’s cannabis policy remains unchanged; a new study says that young people at risk of psychosis show surprising improvement with cannabis use; cannabis tax revenue surpasses alcohol and cigarettes in Colorado; and Australia makes historical cannabis policy reform.
World Anti-Doping Agency: Cannabis “Opposes the Spirit of Sport”
At the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) recent meeting, the organization’s Executive Committee discussed priorities, decisions and recommendations, including the topic of THC and cannabis use by athletes.
In September 2021, due to requests from a few stakeholders, the committee decided to start reviewing the status of cannabis and THC’s effects on sports based on three criteria: It has the potential to enhance sport performance; It represents a health risk to the athlete; and It violates the spirit of sport (as defined by the Code).
Following the review, the committee supported the recommendation of the WADA Prohibited List Expert Advisory Group (LiEAG) to keep THC’s status unchanged on the Prohibited List, outlining the rationale for maintaining the ban on cannabis use by athletes in competitions, despite increasing calls to change the policy.
Scientific publications, athlete testimonials and surveys were considered and external experts evaluated the results. The Ethics Expert Advisory Group affirmed its position that current cannabis use “opposes the spirit of sport.”
THC remains banned in competition if urine concentration exceeds 150 ng/mL. The inclusion of ‘Substance of Abuse’ provisions reduced suspension periods for out-of-competition THC use. WADA Director General Olivier Niggli noted the global diversity of opinions and laws, affirming that maintaining cannabis on the list is supported by experts’ review and international regulations.
“The question of how THC should be dealt with in a sporting context isn’t straightforward,” Niggli said. “WADA is aware of the diversity of opinions and perceptions related to this substance around the world and even within certain countries. WADA is also mindful that the few requests for THC’s removal from the Prohibited List aren’t supported by the experts’ thorough review. We’re also conscious that the laws of many countries—as well as broad international regulatory laws and policies—support maintaining cannabis on the List at this time. WADA plans to continue research in this area in relation to THC’s potential performance-enhancing effects, its impact on the health of athletes and also in relation to perceptions of cannabis from athletes, experts and others around the world.”
Study: Young People at Risk of Psychosis Show Surprising Improvement with Cannabis Use
A recent study on teenagers and young adults at risk of developing psychotic disorders revealed that regular cannabis use over a two-year period didn’t lead to an early onset of symptoms, contrary to claims that cannabis causes mental illness. Instead, the study showed slight improvements in cognitive functioning and reduced use of other medications.
Conducted by researchers from Zucker Hillside Hospital, Stanford University School of Medicine, University of Michigan and University of California at Davis, the study followed 210 individuals aged 12–25 participating in an Early Detection and Intervention for the Prevention of Psychosis Program (EDIPPP). Comparing mental health and medication usage between regular cannabis users and non-users, the study found that continuous cannabis use over two years did not increase psychosis rates or worsen clinical symptoms, functioning or cognitive abilities.
“Recreational cannabis use has recently gained considerable interest as an environmental risk factor that triggers the onset of psychosis,” the study authors wrote. “To date, however, the evidence that cannabis is associated with negative outcomes in individuals at clinical high risk (CHR) for psychosis is inconsistent.”
Colorado: Cannabis Tax Revenue Surpasses Alcohol and Cigarettes
Data from the Colorado government reveals that state tax revenue from retail cannabis sales continues to outpace that from alcohol and cigarettes.
In the fiscal year 2022-23, cannabis tax revenue reached over $282 million, compared to more than $56 million from alcohol and approximately $234 million from cigarette sales. It’s worth noting that cannabis products are subject to higher excise tax rates than alcohol and cigarettes and also bear an additional 15% “special” sales tax rate.
Approximately $60 million of the cannabis-related tax revenue was allocated to public school construction and an additional $25 million contributed to the State Public School Fund. The report didn’t account for locally imposed tax revenue.
According to calculations by the Marijuana Policy Project earlier this year, tax revenues from licensed retail sales of legal adult-use cannabis products totaled some $3.8 billion in 2022. Since 2014, the year The Centennial State legalized adult-use cannabis, sales have generated more than $15.1 billion.
Australia Makes Historical Cannabis Policy Reform
Australia has achieved a significant cannabis policy reform milestone as Greens Senator David Shoebridge introduced the Legalising Cannabis Bill 2023. This historic move marks the first instance of a bill entering Australia/s Federal Parliament to legalize adult-use home cultivation and commerce of cannabis nationwide, pending approval from both chambers.
Senator Shoebridge emphasized the need for sensible reform and stated that it’s a matter of when, not if, cannabis will be legalized in Australia. The bill aims to seize opportunities such as generating $28 billion in public revenue over the first nine years and creating new jobs, businesses and economic growth.
Additionally, the bill emphasizes regulating cannabis quality and safety, reducing harm and keeping individuals out of the criminal justice system. The proposed legislation is built on contributions from numerous experts and stakeholders, aiming to pave the way for comprehensive cannabis legalization across the country.
“With just a sprinkling of political courage and collaboration mixed with a truckload of common sense, we can make this law and end the war on cannabis,” the senator said in a press release. “It’s time to stop pretending that consumption of this plant, consumed each year by literally millions of Australians, should still be seen as a crime. Everyone knows that it is not a matter of if we legalize cannabis in Australia, it’s a matter of when and today, we’re taking a huge step forward.”
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