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Marijuana Federally Decriminalized, Positive Drug Tests Hit Two-Decade High, and Heart Disease Risk Increases with Any Amount of Alcohol
Here is a recap of some of the top industry-related news stories of the week:
House passes bill to federally decriminalize marijuana
The House has voted with a slim bipartisan majority to federally decriminalize marijuana.
The bill, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, will prevent federal agencies from denying federal workers security clearances for cannabis use, and will allow the Veterans' Administration to recommend medical marijuana to veterans living with posttraumatic stress disorder, plus gains revenue by authorizing a sales tax on marijuana sales.
The bill also expunges the record of people convicted of non-violent cannabis offenses, which House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said, "can haunt people of color and impact the trajectory of their lives and career indefinitely."
"It can result in difficulty finding employment, difficulty finding housing, denial of access of federal benefits, denial of financial aid at colleges and universities, and denial of the right to vote," Hoyer said. "That's why we're dealing with this."
Positive drug tests among U.S. workers hit two-decade high
The percentage of working Americans testing positive for drugs hit a two-decade high last year, driven by an increase in positive marijuana tests, as businesses might have loosened screening policies amid nationwide labor shortages.
Of the more than six million general workforce urine tests that Quest Diagnostics Inc., one of the country’s largest drug-testing laboratories, screened for marijuana last year, 3.9% came back positive, an increase of more than 8% from 2020, according to Quest’s annual drug-testing index.
That figure is up 50% since 2017. Since then, the number of states that legalized marijuana for recreational use grew to 18 from eight, plus the District of Columbia.
Despite the increase last year, fewer companies tested their employees for THC, the substance in marijuana primarily responsible for its effects, than in recent years, said Barry Sample, Quest’s senior science consultant.
The shifting legal backdrop and changing cultural attitudes have prompted some employers to stop testing for marijuana while companies in some states are barred from factoring the test results into hiring decisions, according to Dr. Sample. Those trends accelerated last year amid the recent shortage of workers, especially in states where recreational marijuana is legal, Dr. Sample added.
Overall, the proportion of U.S. workers who tested positive for the various drugs Quest screened for in 2021 rose to 4.6%, the highest level since 2001, according to Quest, which analyzed nearly nine million overall urine tests last year on behalf of employers.
That percentage is more than 31% higher than the low of 3.5% a decade ago, in the early days of a resurgent heroin epidemic in the U.S..
Alcohol intake at any level may increase risk of heart disease, study suggests
Contrary to observational studies, alcohol consumption may not actually counter the risk of heart disease, according to a large study published in JAMA Network Open this week.
Previous observational studies suggested that consuming small amounts of alcohol may provide heart-related health benefits, but a team of researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard found in a recent study that alcohol intake at all levels was linked with higher risks of cardiovascular disease.
The investigators also found light to moderate drinkers tended to engage in healthier lifestyles that included less smoking and more physical activity and increased vegetable intake in their diets, as compared to those who did not drink. The investigators suggested that these lifestyle factors might play a more significant role in lowering the risk of heart disease, rather than the consumption of alcohol, according to the study.
"The findings affirm that alcohol intake should not be recommended to improve cardiovascular health; rather, that reducing alcohol intake will likely reduce cardiovascular risk in all individuals, albeit to different extents based on one’s current level of consumption," the study’s senior author, Dr. Krishna Aragam, a cardiologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and an associate scientist at MIT's Broad Institute, said in a news release.
The authors wrote in the release that there were "minimal increases in risk when consuming zero to seven drinks per week, much higher risk increases when progressing from seven to 14 drinks per week, and especially high risk when consuming 21 or more drinks per week."
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