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IACM-Bulletin of December 20, 2009


USA — President Obama signed a law that lifts the ban on the medical use of cannabis in Washington D.C.

On 16 December President Barack Obama signed a bill into law that was past on 13 December by the U.S. Senate that clears the way for the government of the District of Columbia (Washington D.C.) to allow the medical use of cannabis. In 1998, voters of the District overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure that would allow for the possession, use, cultivation and distribution of cannabis if recommended by a physician for serious illnesses.

The law passed with 69 percent of the vote in 1998, but before it took effect, the U.S. Congress passed legislation banning the practice in the District. The District would join Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington in allowing medical cannabis. It is expected that the use of cannabis by patients may be allowed by the end of 2010.

Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington or the District, is the capital of the United States, and should not be confused with the state of Washington. The District of Columbia does not belong to a state but is a single entity.

(Sources: Washington Post of 14 December 2009, MPP of 17 December 2009)

The Czech government approved a list of illegal plants, substances and mushrooms, including cannabis and coca, and decided that people would be allowed to grow up to five pieces of such plants. The new Penal Code, which will take effect on 1 January, is designed to specify the government's directive.

According to the Justice Ministry's proposal the possession of below 15 grams of dried cannabis, 5 grams of hashish, or below two grams of methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin will be tolerated. It will also be allowed to grow up to five plants of cannabis. The Czech government had approved the decriminalisation law late last year, but failed to set precise quantities covered by it, instead leaving it to police and prosecutors to determine what constituted a "larger than small" amount of drugs. Possession of "larger than a small amount" of cannabis can result in a jail sentence of up to one year.

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(Sources: Ceske Noviny of 7 December 2009, Prague Monitor of 15 December 2009)

USA — Next year the citizens of California may decide on whether to legalize cannabis for personal use

With California teetering perpetually on the edge of financial ruin, cannabis activists have seized the moment, claiming that legalizing and taxing cannabis could help the state. But critics are slamming the proposal, saying the social costs of legalization outweigh the money it would bring in. Voters are likely to confront the issue next year. Cannabis advocates say they have collected more than enough signatures, over 680,000, that such a bill will be on the ballot in November 2010. According to this proposal California would become the first U.S. state to legalize possession and cultivation of cannabis for recreational use.

Under this initiative, simple possession of an ounce (28.5 grams) or less of cannabis would be legal for anyone at least 21. It also would be lawful to grow limited amounts in one's own home for personal use. The state tax board found that California could collect 1.4 billion Dollars (about 1 billion Euros) a year in taxes from a legalization bill proposed by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, a San Francisco Democrat.

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(Source: Reuters of 18 December 2009)

News in brief

Science — Inflammation of the kidneys

Cisplatin is an important agent used in cancer chemotherapy; however the damage it causes to the kidneys is limiting its clinical use. Basic research at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Bethesda, USA, demonstrated that a CB2 receptor agonist attenuated the cisplatin-induced inflammatory response, oxidative stress and cell death in the kidney and improved renal function. (Source: Mukhopardhyay P, et al. Free Radic Biol Med, 2009 Dec 4. [Electronic publication ahead of print])

Science — Essential oils of cannabis

According to research by Italian scientists essential oils from three hemp varieties significantly inhibited the growth of microbes. They noted that "essential oils of industrial hemp, especially those of Futura, may have interesting applications." (Source: Nissen L, et al. Fitoterapia, 2009 Dec 4. [Electronic publication ahead of print])

Science — Cancer of the colon

According to cell experiments at the University of Salerno, Italy, the CB1 receptor antagonist

rimonabant acted synergistically with the chemotherapeutic agent oxaliplatin to reduce the growth of a colon cancer cell line. (Source: Gazzerro P, et al. Oncol Rep 2010;23(1):171-5.)