Here’s the introduction to the report
Currently, 25 states and Washington DC have enacted full medical marijuana (MMJ) programs while 18 states allow limited access to MMJ products. Limited access states permit low (or zero) tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and high cannabidiol (CBD) products to treat specified conditions such as uncontrolled epilepsy. Although MMJ products are derived from the same plant species as recreational MJ, they are often selected for their unique cannabinoid constituents and ratios, not typically sought by recreational users, which may impact neurocognitive outcomes. To date, few studies have investigated the potential impact of MMJ use on cognitive performance, despite a well-documented association between recreational marijuana (MJ) use and executive dysfunction. The current study assessed the impact of 3 months of MMJ treatment on executive function, exploring whether MMJ patients would experience improvement in cognitive functioning, perhaps related to primary symptom alleviation. As part of a larger longitudinal study, 24 patients certified for MMJ use completed baseline executive function assessments and 11 of these so far have returned for their first follow-up visit 3 months after initiating treatment. Results suggest that in general, MMJ patients experienced some improvement on measures of executive functioning, including the Stroop Color Word Test and Trail Making Test, mostly reflected as increased speed in completing tasks without a loss of accuracy. On self-report questionnaires, patients also indicated moderate improvements in clinical state, including reduced sleep disturbance, decreased symptoms of depression, attenuated impulsivity, and positive changes in some aspects of quality of life. Additionally, patients reported a notable decrease in their use of conventional pharmaceutical agents from baseline, with opiate use declining more than 42%. While intriguing, these findings are preliminary and warrant further investigation at additional time points and in larger sample sizes. Given the likelihood of increased MMJ use across the country, it is imperative to determine the potential impact of short- and long-term treatment on cognitive performance as well as the efficacy of MMJ treatment itself.
Over the last several decades, although marijuana (MJ) users in the US have historically sought out MJ for recreational purposes, a growing number are exploring MJ for medical purposes. In fact, it is estimated that over 1.2 million medical MJ (MMJ) consumers are currently registered in the US (Procon.org1). According to Procon.org, although the majority of states have mandatory MMJ registration (CO, MA) other states have voluntary registration (e.g., CA, ME) or do not require registration (WA). While the number of current US MMJ consumers is only an estimate, it is likely that the number of certified patients will continue to grow as the public becomes increasingly aware of and open to the potential therapeutic effects of MMJ. Legal marijuana is considered the fastest growing market in the United States, with a current estimated value of $6.7 billion, which could reach 21.8 billion by 2020 (ArcView Market Research, 2016). In 1996, California became the first state to fully legalize MMJ and since then, another 24 states, and the District of Columbia have followed suit with full legalization for medical purposes, while an additional 18 states have limited MMJ laws, allowing only the use of products containing a specific non-psychoactive cannabinoid (cannabidiol [CBD]). Four states and the District of Columbia have also approved recreational MJ use, with several additional states pending legislation. Recent national surveys (Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, 2015; Johnston et al., 2015) report that MJ is retaining its status as the most widely used illicit drug for recreational purposes in the world; nearly 22.2 million Americans report use within the past month (Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, 2015). Further, while more than a million Americans are registered MMJ patients, this estimate does not include the unknown number of consumers currently taking hemp-derived products, marketed as high CBD-containing compounds (tinctures, oils, topicals), which are widely available from a number of vendors who do not require MMJ certification.