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IACM-Bulletin of July 6, 2003


USA β€” Surplus in medical marijuana program of Oregon

Oregon's medical marijuana program is running a financial surplus, and will get rid of it by reducing fees for people with low income.

Since 1999 the state issued 5,500 medical marijuana cards to seriously ill people for $150 each. The popularity of the program has brought a $300,000 surplus over the past two years, said Mary Leverette, the program's director. Low-income people now can apply for a card for $50. Everybody else will continue to pay $150 for new applications. The annual renewal fee for everybody was reduced from $150 to $100.

The other eight states with medical marijuana laws are: California, Washington, Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Maryland and Colorado. Some state's charge only low fees, such as Hawaii's $25. There is no fee in California.

(Source: Associated Press of 25 June 2003)

Science β€” Cannabis does not cause permanent brain damage

The use of cannabis does not cause permanent brain damage, researchers from the University of California at San Diego (UCSD), who reviewed the available data on the issue, said on 27 June. "The findings were kind of a surprise. One might have expected to see more impairment of higher mental function," said Dr. Igor Grant, a UCSD professor of psychiatry and the study's lead author. Other drugs, including alcohol, can cause brain damage.

His team analyzed data from 15 previously published, controlled studies involving 704 long-term cannabis users and 484 nonusers into the impact of long-term, recreational cannabis use on the neurocognitive ability of adults. The results, published in the July issue of the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, show that marijuana has only a marginally harmful long-term effect on learning and memory. No effect at all was seen on other functions, including reaction time, attention, language, reasoning ability, and perceptual and motor skills.

Researchers said the problems observed in learning and forgetting suggest that long-term marijuana use results in selective memory defects, but said the impact was of a very small magnitude. Earlier reviews had come to similar results.

(Source: Reuters of 27 June 2003, dpa of 29 June 2003)

USA β€” Vaporizer study will be funded

The California Center for Medical Cannabis Research has agreed to fund a vaporizer research study by Dr. Donald Abrams of the University of California. To carry out the study it will be necessary to get approval by the Federal Drugs Administration (FDA).

The phase I study was granted 137,000 US dollars. It will compare subjective effects, cannabinoid blood levels and carbon monoxide levels in exhaled breath in subjects on six different conditions, three days smoking 400 milligrams of cannabis cigarettes containing 1.7%, 3.5%, or 7% THC, and three days vaporizing 400 milligrams of cannabis containing 1.7%, 3.5%, or 7% THC by the Volcano vaporizer.

(Source: Information by Rick Doblin, MAPS, of 24 June 2003)

News in brief

Germany β€” THC Pharm

THC Pharm announced its intention to start clinical trials to get pharmaceutical approval for its dronabinol. In 1998 the small Frankfurt firm started to manufacture dronabinol (THC) from fibre hemp by isomerization of cannabidiol (CBD). It is selling the drug to pharmacies in Germany and some other European countries, so that pharmacists can make dronabinol capsules or liquids thereof. In a press release the firm reports of negotiations with possible partners and its intention to start a first study this year. (Source: Press release of THC Pharm of 30 June 2003)

USA β€” American Nurses Association

On their annual meeting from 24-27 June in Washington the American Nurses Association overwhelmingly adopted a resolution stating that patients should "have safe access to therapeutic marijuana/cannabis under appropriate prescriber supervision" and that penalties for patients and prescribers of cannabis should be removed. (Source: Press release of Patients out of Time of 1 July 2003)

Science β€” Neuroprotection and hypothermia

Some of the neuroprotective effects of cannabinoids may be caused by lowered body temperature. Israelian researchers found that the body temperature of rats injected with a synthetic cannabinoid dropped from about 37 to 32 degrees Celsius. Brain infarction was induced by occlusion of a brain artery. Infarction size was smaller in rats that had received the cannabinoid, but this effect was completely abolished by warming the animals. (Source: Leker RR, et al. Stroke. 2003 Jun 26 [Electronic publication ahead of print].)

Science β€” CB2 receptors and neuropathic pain

It is known that the "brain" cannabinoid receptor (CB1) is involved in pain modulation and that the peripheral CB2 receptor seems to be also involved in pain modulation. Now researchers found that the CB2 receptor may also be involved in central pain modulation. In animals with peripheral nerve injury the number of CB2 receptors was found to be increased in some areas of the spinal cord. (Source: Zhang J, et al. Eur J Neurosci. 2003 Jun;17(12):2750-4.)

Science β€” Detection of THC use by urine test

Excretion of THC-COOH in urine was investigated after oral ingestion of different amount of THC. Seven individuals received 0, 0.39, 0.47, 7.5, or 15 mg THC per day for five days and concentrations of the metabolite in their urine was analysed for the following weeks. The two low doses typical of hemp oil THC concentrations were rarely found positive (<0.2%) in immunoassays at a cutoff of 50 micrograms per litre, while the two high doses typical for the treatment with dronabinol (Marinol) produced mean detection rates of 23-46%. Analysis by gas chromatography showed maximum metabolite concentrations of 5.4-38.2 micro g/L for the two low doses and 19.0-436 micro g/L for the two high doses. (Source: Gustafson RA, et al. Clin Chem. 2003 Jul;49(7):1114-1124.)