Policy News Roundup: August 25, 2022

    Key reads

    Marijuana and hallucinogen use among young adults at record rates

    The Monitoring the Future panel study found that young adults aged 19-30 were using marijuana and hallucinogens at record rates in 2021. Rates of vaping also significantly increased, despite leveling off in 2020. Rates of daily marijuana use nearly doubled over the past decade to more than 1 in 10 young adults in 2021. Past-year use increased nearly 50% to 43%. Rates of nicotine vaping (16% past-month use) were nearly triple what they were five years ago, and rates of marijuana vaping (12%) were about double. After holding steady for decades, use of hallucinogens among young adults started to increase dramatically during the pandemic. Young adult hallucinogen use reached a record high in 2021, with 8% reporting hallucinogen use, compared to just 3% in 2011. Non-medical use of opioids and cigarette use decreased. Binge drinking returned to pre-pandemic levels, and high-intensity drinking reached record highs in 2021.

    Source: Marijuana, hallucinogen use among young adults jump to record-high rates in 2021 (CNN)

    Newsom vetoes legislation to allow supervised consumption sites

    California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed legislation that would have allowed a supervised consumption site pilot in three cities. In the veto message, Newsom expressed concern about unintended consequences of allowing an unlimited number of sites without additional safeguards. He directed state health authorities to work with local officials to come up with a more detailed and limited pilot program. San Francisco may open a safe consumption site despite the veto, after City Attorney David Chiu said that a program operated by a nonprofit organization, as is done in New York, would be welcome.

    Source: Newsom vetoes bill to allow supervised drug use in 3 California cities (Politico)

    Federal news

    FDA issues warning to company selling flavored nicotine gummies

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning letter for marketing illegal flavored nicotine gummies, the first warning letter for this type of product. The gummies are of particular concern because of their resemblance to kid-friendly food or candy products and the potential to cause severe nicotine toxicity or even death among children. VPR Brands LP (Krave Nic) markets gummies that have one milligram of nicotine and are available in Blueraz, Cherry Bomb and Pineapple flavors. The packaging claims that the products contain tobacco-free nicotine. The tins contain 12 gummies each. Ingesting one to four milligrams of nicotine could be severely toxic to a child under six years old. The company has not submitted a premarket tobacco product application to the FDA and does not have a marketing authorization order to manufacture, sell or distribute the products.

    Source: FDA Warns Manufacturer for Marketing Illegal Flavored Nicotine Gummies (Food and Drug Administration)

    Vaping industry continues to sell prohibited products despite FDA orders

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has explicitly ordered hundreds of vaping products off the market, but a STAT investigation found that vape companies are regularly flouting the orders. Retailers continue to sell flavored products not yet approved by the FDA (and therefore illegal), as well as explicitly banned products, including certain flavors and devices. The FDA has ordered more than 100 vape manufacturers to stop making more than 250 specific flavors and vapes, but scores of companies across the country are defying the orders. The FDA has sweeping legal authorities to crack down on vape companies that ignore its bans, ranging from levying seven-figure fines to physically pulling products off the shelves, but the FDA has never used those powers. In several cases, it even dropped cases against companies it knows are selling illegal products.

    Source: The FDA stands by as the vaping industry flouts its orders (STAT)

    Federal government can eliminate methadone restrictions that limit access

    Experts argue that the benefits of methadone as an addiction treatment substantially outweigh risks related to misuse, and that federal officials should, and have the authority to, eliminate restrictions surrounding it. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) could allow patients to pick it up at a pharmacy instead of daily at an opioid treatment program (OTP) and reclassify it as Schedule III to make it easier for physicians to prescribe directly. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) could eliminate its requirement that patients have opioid use disorder for a year before beginning methadone and requirements that force patients to undergo regular testing for illicit opioids. President Joe Biden has called for “universal access” to medications for addiction treatment by 2025. The head of SAMHSA supports continuing expanded take-home doses after COVID, and the DEA has allowed methadone clinics to operate mobile facilities.

    Source: Biden administration has simple way to cut overdose deaths, experts say: expand methadone access (STAT)

    HHS announces actions to strengthen physical and behavioral health care for children

    The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced three key actions to strengthen and expand access to high-quality, comprehensive health care for children. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued new guidance reminding states of their mandate to cover behavioral health services for children in Medicaid and urged states to leverage every resource to strengthen mental health care for children. HHS is issuing a second guidance document that urges states to expand school-based health care, including mental health. HHS issued a proposed rule that, for the first time, would require states to report certain quality measures to strengthen Medicaid and CHIP to ensure that the millions of children and families enrolled have access to the highest quality care.

    Source: As American Families Prepare for Back-to-School, Biden-Harris Administration Strengthens Access to High-Quality, Comprehensive Health Care for Children (Department of Health and Human Services)

    ONDCP announces funding for Drug-Free Communities

    The Office of National Drug Control Policy announced approximately $12.4 million in grants for 99 new coalitions across the country as part of the Drug-Free Communities (DFC) Support Program’s new awards for FY 2022. The grants will provide funding to new community coalitions working to prevent youth substance use. Community coalitions receiving awards are raising awareness about the dangers of prescription drugs, marijuana, tobacco and alcohol. They are also working to educate communities about illicit fentanyl and counterfeit pills, which have been linked to increases in youth overdoses. In FY 2022 a total of 745 community coalitions in all 50 states received over $93 million in grant funding through the DFC Support Program.

    Source: White House Announces New Funding for Youth Substance Use Prevention Groups Across the Country as Part of President Biden’s Strategy to Beat the Overdose Epidemic (Office of National Drug Control Policy)

    State and local news

    States reach opioid settlement with Endo

    State attorneys general reached an agreement in principle with opioid maker Endo and its lenders. The agreement would provide up to $450 million to participating states and local governments, ban promotion of Endo’s opioids and require Endo to turn over millions of documents related to its role in the opioid crisis for publication in a public online archive. The agreement resolves allegations that Endo boosted opioid sales using deceptive marketing that downplayed the risk of addiction and overstated the benefits. Endo also filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The resolution is contingent on final documentation and Bankruptcy Court approval.

    Source: State Attorneys General Reach $450 Million Nationwide Settlement as Part of Opioid Maker Endo’s Bankruptcy (Office of the Attorney General of Connecticut)

    Pharmacies ordered to pay $650.6 million in Ohio opioid case

    U.S. District Judge Dan Polster ruled that CVS, Walmart and Walgreens must pay a combined $650.6 million to Lake and Trumbull Counties in Ohio to address the damage done by the opioid crisis. The order marks the first time pharmacy chains have been ordered to pay money in an opioid lawsuit. The order comes after a jury last November concluded that the companies helped create a public nuisance in the counties by over-supplying opioids, many of which ended up on the black market. The pharmacies, which have argued they cannot be liable for filling legal prescriptions from doctors, have said they will appeal. The sum must be paid over 15 years, with $86.7 million to be paid immediately. The companies were also ordered to implement new procedures to combat illegal diversion of opioids.

    Source: CVS, Walmart and Walgreens ordered to pay $650.6 million to Ohio counties in opioid case (Reuters)

    NYC launches new initiative to support the cannabis industry

    New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Department of Small Business Services Commissioner Kevin Kim announced the launch of Cannabis NYC, a first-of-its-kind initiative and suite of services to support the equitable growth of the cannabis industry in New York City. Cannabis NYC will support cannabis entrepreneurs and their workers as the industry develops. It will work with industry stakeholders to create good jobs, successful small businesses and sustainable economic opportunities, while also addressing the harms of cannabis prohibition. The first phase will focus on ensuring that justice-involved New Yorkers are able to apply for and secure retail licenses from the state. It will expand to include a suite of business and technical support services tailored to the industry, as well as networking opportunities and efforts to establish Cannabis NYC as a global brand. NYC is also exploring how to best connect cannabis entrepreneurs who struggle to access traditional business capital with financial support.

    Source: Mayor Adams, Department of Small Business Services Announce new Initiative to Equitably Grow Cannabis Industry in NYC (New York City Office of the Mayor)

    Other news in addiction policy

    Brief explains parity and policy to address its inadequate implementation

    Kaiser Family Foundation released a brief explaining federal parity requirements and key policy issues. It outlines the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) and who it applies to, requirements under MHPAEA and behavioral health benefits versus medical benefits. The brief explains parity standards, the Wit v. United Behavioral Health case and MHPAEA enforcement. It also includes and policy issues such as simplifying standards, taking a closer look at medical management criteria, assessing how parity can address network adequacy challenges and evaluating enforcement tools.

    Source: Mental Health Parity at a Crossroads (Kaiser Family Foundation)

    Advocate for Change

    We have seen how alcohol and tobacco ads have harmed youth. Let’s not repeat the same mistakes with marijuana. Send a letter to your senators urging them to oppose the SAFE Advertising Act, which would allow marijuana ads on TV and radio in states that have legalized marijuana.

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    August 2022