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IACM-Bulletin of January 19, 2003


USA — DEA attacks single patients who use cannabis under state laws

A quadriplegic man sued the U.S. government on 13 January, saying the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) illegally seized cannabis that he used medicinally and grew under a license from the state of Oregon.

The suit was filed in federal court on behalf of Leroy Stubblefield and two of his caregivers. Stubblefield was one of the first Oregon patients to get a license to grow marijuana for medical use. He has been confined to a wheelchair for 33 years by a spinal cord injury that also causes seizures and muscle spasms.

Though the Oregon marijuana law allows Stubblefield and his caregivers to grow up to seven cannabis plants each, DEA officials seized 12 plants from Stubblefield's home in September. Police officers in Linn County, Oregon, had decided the plants were legal, but a DEA agent who followed the officers seized the plants.

Until now the DEA mainly focused its activities on Cannabis distribution centers in California (Cannabis Buyers’ Clubs) but not on single patients. Eight U.S. states permit the medicinal use of marijuana: California, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada and Colorado. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, ruled in 2001 that there is no exception in federal law for people to use marijuana – even in case of medicinal use.

(Source: Reuters of 14 January 2003)

Canada — Ontario court gives the government six months to change regulations on medical marijuana

An Ontario judge ruled on 9 January that Canada's medical marijuana program was unconstitutional for failing to provide a legal source of cannabis to patients authorized to possess and use it. The ruling from Superior Court Justice Sidney Lederman gives the federal government six months to solve the problem.

While the ruling applies to the medical marijuana program that took effect in July 2001, it is the latest signal in Canada that possession of small amounts of cannabis could be decriminalized as soon as this year.

Justice Minister Martin Cauchon said he intends to propose legislation in the next few months that would make the penalty for possession of small amounts - probably less than an ounce (28 grams) - similar to a traffic offence. Two Parliament committees also have recommended easing marijuana laws.

(Sources: Associated Press of 9 January 2003, Canadian Press of 9 January 2003)

News in brief

Science — Anti-cancer action

Cannabinoids were effective in inhibiting the formation of blood vessels of malignant gliomas in mice, thus reducing the blood supply of the cancer. This may be an important mechanism of the anti-tumour effects of cannabinoids. (Source: Blazquez C, et al. FASEB J 2003 Jan 2)

USA — Ed Rosenthal

A trial in the court of U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer (California) against marijuana author Edward Rosenthal is scheduled to begin on 21 January. He is accused of growing more than 1,000 cannabis plants. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison. Rosenthal said that he grew the plants to help seriously ill patients under the state's medical marijuana law. (Source: SF of 14 January 2003)

Science — Nausea

The cannabinoids THC and HU-210 were effective in a rat model of nausea. The anti-nausea effects were mediated by CB1 receptors. (Source: Parker LA, et al. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 2003 Jan 15)

Science — Glaucoma

CB1 receptors in the eye have been shown to be involved in the reduction of intraocular pressure by cannabinoids. This article shows that a CB2 receptor agonist did not reduce intraocular pressure. (Source: Laine K, et al. Life Sci 2003 Jan 3;72(7):837-42)