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Marijuana News Roundup: Medical Marijuana Could Cost Big Pharma $4 Billion

Paul Ausick

If medical marijuana were legal in all 50 states and if marijuana were used to treat just nine conditions for which it has shown to be effective, the pharmaceutical industry would have lost $4.41 billion in 2016 and that total could rise to $4.86 billion by 2019.

According to a report from analytics firm New Frontier Data, the eight conditions for which cannabis is an effective treatment generated $168.34 billion in sales for the pharmaceutical industry last year. These conditions were identified in a report from the National Academies of Sciences as chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sleep disorders, anxiety, epilepsy, nerve pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, Tourette's Syndrome, and glaucoma. The three on which Americans spent the most last year were chronic pain ($14.3 billion), PTSD ($10.6 billion), and sleep disorders ($6.13 billion).

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The report is based on research reported last February from the University of Georgia that showed Medicare spending on opioid painkillers like OxyContin, Hydrocodone, and Fentanyl could have been reduced by $220 million if medical marijuana were legal in all 50 states. Total savings would amount to around 11% of Medicare costs for opioids.

New Frontier Data used that 11% figure to extrapolate from the total spending on prescriptions for the nine conditions for which cannabis may be substituted. The Cannabist has a table that shows the potential impact on prescription medication for each condition for the years 2016 through 2019.

GW to File Cannabis Drug as Journal Confirms Epilepsy Success
GW Pharmaceuticals is set to file its cannabis-derived drug with U.S. regulators imminently, following publication of detailed data on its success in fighting severe childhood epilepsy.

GW first reported in March 2016 that Epidiolex cut monthly convulsive seizures by 39 percent in children with Dravet syndrome, but full results of the 120-patient study were only published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday.

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The journal article also showed that 5 percent of patients stopped having seizures altogether and 43 percent saw their seizures cut by half.

GW's medicine, which is given as a syrup, is a purified form of cannabidiol, one of the active ingredients found in marijuana. It contains less than 0.1 percent of tetrahydrocannabinol, the substance that makes people high.

Stephen Wright, GW's chief medical officer, said the company would submit its application to the Food and Drug Administration by mid-year, with a filing in Europe following a little later in 2017.

Read more at Reuters.

Regulations for Sale of Recreational Marijuana in Nevada Revealed
Now that Nevada has approved an early start to recreational cannabis sales, existing medical marijuana companies in the state are readying for a burst of new business that could equate to tens of millions of dollars in additional revenue this year.

With Las Vegas alone drawing 40 million-plus visitors in 2016, the overall recreational cannabis industry is set to take another big step forward.

The early rollout will make Nevada the fifth state with an operational recreational market and the first to launch since last November’s election, when voters in four states approved adult-use programs. Nevada will also be the first new recreational state to go live under the Trump administration.

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"It's great news for everybody," said Ben Sillitoe, the CEO and co-founder of Oasis Cannabis, a medical marijuana dispensary in Las Vegas.

Nevada's recreational marijuana industry got the thumbs-up for an "early start" program Monday, when state tax authorities approved temporary regulations that allow licensed medical marijuana companies to begin adult-use sales July 1.

The recreational program isn't expected to fully launch until 2018 because the tax commission has until January to finalize rules for the industry.

According to Marijuana Business Daily estimates, Nevada's recreational market could generate $75 million or more in sales this year and $450 million-$550 million annually down the road. Tourist spending is expected to account for a heavy portion of sales.

Read more at Weed Weekly.

California's Legal Pot Law Helps Reduce, Erase Convictions
Jay Schlauch's conviction for peddling pot haunted him for nearly a quarter century.

The felony prevented him from landing jobs, gave his wife doubts about tying the knot and cast a shadow over his typically sunny outlook on life.

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So when an opportunity arose to reduce his record to a misdemeanor under California's voter-approved law that legalized recreational marijuana last year, Schlauch wasted little time getting to court.

"Why should I be lumped in with, you know, murderers and rapists and people who really deserve to get a felony?" he said.

This lesser-known provision of Proposition 64 allows some convicts to wipe their rap sheets clean and offers hope for people with past convictions who are seeking work or loans. Past crimes can also pose a deportation threat for some convicts.

It's hard to say how many people have benefited, but more than 2,500 requests were filed to reduce convictions or sentences, according to partial state figures reported through March. The figures do not yet include data from more than half of counties from the first quarter of the year.

Read more at the Associated Press.

Older Women and Medical Marijuana: A New Growth Industry
Jeanine Moss never expected to get into the cannabis industry. But that was before her hip-replacement surgery.

Ms. Moss, 62, of Marina Del Ray, Calif., had quit her job as a marketing consultant before she had her hip done in 2014. As she left the hospital, her doctors handed her a "shopping bag filled with opiates," she said. The drugs made her disoriented and woozy.

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So she switched to medical marijuana, which is legal in California and was familiar to her, having grown up in the nearby Venice section of Los Angeles. Within a week, she had tossed away her pharmaceuticals.

As it turned out, Ms. Moss was in good company: Many of her friends were also using cannabis to manage their ailments. Slightly embarrassed about carrying around a drug associated with naughty high school students, the older women would lament that they had nowhere to stash their drugs.

Read more at The New York Times.

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