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IACM-Bulletin of January 31, 2010


Science USA β€” Research into the medical benefits of cannabis is discouraged

According to an article in the New York Times the federal government discourages research into the medicinal uses of inhaled cannabis. The University of Mississippi has the only federally approved cannabis plantation. If they wish to investigate cannabis, researchers must apply to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to use the Mississippi cannabis and must get approvals from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But federal officials have repeatedly failed to act on cannabis research requests in a timely manner or have denied them, according to a 2007 ruling by an administrative law judge at the DEA.

"As the National Institute on Drug Abuse, our focus is primarily on the negative consequences of marijuana use," said Shirley Simson, a spokeswoman for the institute. "We generally do not fund research focused on the potential beneficial medical effects of marijuana." The drug agency DEA told the New York Times it was just following NIDA's lead. "D.E.A. has never denied a research registration for marijuana and/or THC if NIDA approved the protocols for that individual entity," a spokesman of the authority wrote.

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(Source: New York Times of 18 January 2010)

News in brief

Germany β€” State of approvals

On 25 January the Federal Ministry of Health reported to the Health Committee of the German Bundestag (federal parliament) on the state of the approval processes for dronabinol and Sativex in Germany. The company Bionorica has filed an application for approval of a dronabinol-containing medicinal drug. Target indications are weight loss, nausea and vomiting in AIDS, cancer and cancer chemotherapy patients. The report also says that a successful completion of the application procedure for the cannabis extract Sativex by the British company GW Pharmaceuticals would likely result in speedy reclassification of this medicinal product under the German narcotics law. (Source: Report of the Federal Health Ministry of 25 January 2010)

USA β€” New Jersey

Governor Jon Corzine has signed the legislation allowing the medical use of cannabis. Thus, New Jersey is the 14th state of the USA to allow patients with diseases such as cancer, AIDS, glaucoma and multiple sclerosis to use cannabis to alleviate their pain and other symptoms. (Source: Associated Press of 19 January 2010)

USA β€” California

The Los Angeles City Council approved an ordinance on 26 January that will close roughly 80 percent of the nearly 1,000 medical cannabis dispensaries in the city. Los Angeles has more of the outlets than any other city in the states that allow the use of cannabis for medical purposes. The measure would impose stringent rules on the location of the dispensaries - essentially moving them to industrial zones - and restrict their hours. (Source: New York Times of 26 January 2010)

USA β€” California

The California Supreme Court on 21 January rejected limits on medical cannabis imposed by state lawmakers, finding that people with prescriptions for cannabis can have and grow all they need for personal use. The high court ruled lawmakers improperly "amended" the voter-approved law that decriminalized possession of cannabis for "seriously ill Californians" with a doctor's prescription by limiting patients to eight ounces (227 grams) of dried cannabis and six mature or 12 immature plants. The Californian law of 1996 set no limits on how much cannabis patients could possess or grow, stating only that it be for personal use. (Source: Reuters of 21 January 2010)

The Copenhagen City Council plans to set up shops selling cannabis as a way to remove the market from the control of criminal gangs. However, it is not likely that the plan will get support in parliament, where the issue has to be decided. (Source: Copenhagen Post of 15 January 2010)

Science β€” Obesity

According to research at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, USA, a certain mutation of the enzyme (FAAH, fatty acid amide hydrolase) that degrades anandamide is associated with increased levels of this endocannabinoid and related substances. Obese subjects have a higher risk to carry this mutation. (Source: Sipe JC, et al. PLoS One 2010;5(1):e8792.)

Science β€” Immune system

Italian researchers demonstrated that anandamide suppresses the release of cytokines such as interleukin-2 and tumour necrosis factor alpha from T-lymphocytes. This effect was mediated by the CB2 receptor. Scientists noted that this may be of importance "for the rational design of new endocannabinoid-based immunotherapeutic approaches." (Source: Cencioni MT, et al. PLoS One. 2010;5(1):e8688.)

Science β€” Taste

According to research at Kyushu University, Japan, the administration of the endocannabinoids anandamide and 2-AG to mice enhance the sweet taste in a concentration-dependent manner without affecting responses to other tastes (salty, bitter, etc). This effect was mediated by the CB1 receptor and is thought to be relevant for intake of food. (Source: Yoshida R, et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2010;107(2):935-9.)

Science β€” Atherosclerosis

Chinese researchers demonstrated that the administration of the synthetic cannabinoid WIN55,212-2 reduced the development of atherosclerosis in mice. This effect was mediated by the CB2 receptor. (Source: Zhao Y, et al. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol. 2010 Jan 9. [Electronic publication ahead of print])