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IACM-Bulletin of April 26, 2009


Canada β€” Supreme Court ends the government's monopoly on the growing of cannabis for medicinal purposes

Canadians who are legally permitted to use cannabis for medicinal purposes will be allowed in the future to choose cannabis from other suppliers than the government after the Supreme Court on 23 April refused to hear an appeal of a ruling that put an end to the federal government monopoly. A three-judge panel, without giving reasons, rejected the Justice Department's application to challenge a Federal Court of Appeal decision that gave licensed producers the right to grow cannabis for more than one patient.

The Supreme Court's decision to stay out of the matter effectively upholds the 2008 ruling, which dismissed the government's argument that the industry would be thrust into deregulation if the court loosened federal restrictions. A group of patients had challenged the federal regulations, arguing that the government-issued cannabis is too weak and that they should have the option to find their own supply. The appeal court decision struck down government regulations that authorized patients who cannot grow their own cannabis to designate a grower, who is allowed to grow only for one patient, or obtain government-issued cannabis. There are about 2,000 people legally allowed to use cannabis for medical purposes.

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(Source: Ottawa Citizen of 23 April 2009)

USA β€” Number of patients who use cannabis for medical purposes significantly increased in recent months

According to a report by the news channel MSNBC there is a significant increase of patients who use cannabis to treat their illnesses in the 13 states that allow its use. It would be difficult to compare states and numbers. MSNBC cites numbers of the state of Colorado. Colorado registers medical cannabis users since implementing its law on 1 June 2001. As of the end of 2008, there were 4,720 applications received, almost all of which had been approved. But as of 28 February of this year, that number stood at 6,796, an increase by about 30 per cent in just two months.

Several possible reasons are given. Among them is the signal by Barack Obama not to use federal cannabis laws to ignore state laws as the Bush administration did. Another reason may be the economic crisis as more people without insurance are seeking alternatives to costly medications. Another factor contributing to the spike may also be simply that people who had contact with cannabis in the 1960s and 1970s, when they were young, and now suffer from different diseases as older people, are more likely to seek it out for health reasons than the generation before them.

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(Source: MSNBC of 15 April 2009)

News in brief

Science β€” Obstructive lung disease

According to Canadian researchers, who surveyed a sample of 878 people aged 40 years or older in Vancouver, Canada, smoking both tobacco and cannabis increased the risk for the development of respiratory symptoms and obstructive lung disease more than the use of tobacco alone. However, the use of cannabis alone was not associated with an increased risk of respiratory diseases. (Source: Tan WC, et al. CMAJ 2009;180(8):814-20.)

Science β€” Aging

According to basic research at the Ohio State University, USA, a synthetic cannabinoid (WIN 55,212-2), which acts similar as natural dronabinol, protected against some aspects of normal and pathological aging in animals, namely brain inflammation and the decline in the new formation of nerve cells. (Source: Marchalant Y, et al. Neurobiol Dis 2009;34(2):300-7.)

Science β€” Medical use by teens

According to researchers from the University of British Columbia, Canada, who interviewed 63 adolescents who used cannabis many of them may use it to treat health problems. Twenty said they used cannabis for the treatment of pain, sleep difficulty, and problems with concentration. (Source: Bottorff JL, et al. Subst Abuse Treat Prev Pol 2009, 23 April [Electronic publication ahead of print]).

Science β€” Obesity

According to research at the University of Aberdeen, UK, a natural cannabinoid (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabivarin, delta-9-THCV), which acts as a cannabinoid receptor antagonist, reduced weight in mice. A cannabis extract rich in delta-9-THCV was not effective, probably because of the presence of small residual amounts of THC. (Source: Riedel G, et al. Br J Pharmacol 2009;156(7):1154-66.)

Science β€” Stroke

According to research at the Medical University of Xi'an, China, pretreatment with electroacupuncture reduced negative consequences of cerebral ischaemia in animals (reduced infarct size, improved neurological function). These effects were due to an increased production of the endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoyl glycerol and its activation of CB1 receptors. (Source: Wang Q, et al. Stroke 2009 Apr 16. [Electronic publication ahead of print])

Science β€” Epilepsy

Basic research at the Virginia Commonwealth University, USA, suggests a role for dysregulation of the endocannabinoid system in the development of epilepsy. (Source: Falenski KW, et al. Brain Res 2009;1262:64-72.)