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IACM-Bulletin of July 8, 2001


Canada β€” New regulations will take effect at the end of July

New regulations expanding the legal medical use of marijuana will take effect on 30 July. "Today's announcement is a landmark in our ongoing effort to give Canadians suffering from grave and debilitating illnesses access to marijuana for medical purposes," Health Minister Allan Rock said on 4 July.

Special ID cards will be issued to people who are legally permitted to smoke, possess or grow cannabis for medical purposes. They would not require approval from a doctor, but need apply directly to the department, Rock said. The new regulations would make Canada the first country in the world to permit its citizens to legally use marijuana for medical purposes.

Those applying for the licenses will have to show clear symptoms associated with certain illnesses and with a prognosis of death within 12 months, symptoms associated with officially listed medical conditions, or with "symptoms associated with other medical conditions."

The regulations were drawn up after a court ruling last year that gave the government until July 31 to change criminal laws so that people requiring marijuana for medicinal purposes could legally obtain and possess it. 290 people have been authorized to possess and/or cultivate cannabis for medical purposes until now.

(Sources: Associated Press of 4 July 2001, United Press International of 5 July 2001)

Science β€” News at the 2001 meeting of the ICRS

At the annual meeting of the International Cannabinoid Research Society (ICRS) from 28 to 30 June in Spain a number of interesting new research results were presented. Some are presented below and in the next issue of the IACM-Bulletin.

(1) The effects of oral and rectal THC on bladder function were investigated in 15 patients with spinal cord injury at the REHAB in Basel (Swiss Paraplegic Centre). THC positively influenced a number of parameters of bladder function, indicating a decrease of overactivity of the bladder sphincter. (Source: Abstract by Ulrike Hagenbach et al.)

(2) A Spanish group demonstrated that cannabinoid receptors exist in the skin and that their activation inhibits the growth of skin cancer cells. CB1 and CB2 type receptors were found in several layers of the skin. In cell experiments a synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonist induced programmed cell death in skin cancers cells of mice. (Source: Abstract by M. Llanos Casanova, et al.)

(3) The case of a women with severe chronic abdominal pain following operations of the bladder and the colon 18 years ago was presented. Within a twelve week period she received four different preparations in a double blind manner: THC, CBD, 50-50 mixture of CBD and THC, and placebo. She received almost total pain control. During the period were she received the CBD/THC mixture psychoactive side effects were much lower than with THC alone despite the same amount of THC. (Source: Abstract by William Notcutt, et al.)

(4) Following traumatic brain injury in mice the level of the endocannabinoid 2-AG (2-arachidonoyl glycerol) was significantly elevated. High levels of 2-AG had a positive effect on recovery from brain injury. 2-AG and the cannabinoid system may play a neuroprotective role. (Source: Abstract by Raphael Mechoulam, et al.)

(5) Pre-treatment with two different synthetic cannabinoids was able to protect against two causes of nerve damage in cell cultures. The two neurotoxic chemicals were given after the cannabinoids had already been removed. The neuroprotection by cannabinoids was dose-dependent and CB1-receptor mediated. (Source: Abstract by Shou Yuan Zhaung, et al.)

(Source: Program and abstracts of the 2001 ICRS Symposium on the Cannabinoids)

News in brief

USA β€” Oregon

About 2.300 cards that allow the medical use of cannabis have been issued until now in Oregon. Since the overall population of Oregon is 3.4 millions this is about 700 in one million citizens or 0.7 in 1,000. (Source: American Medical News of 25 June 2001)

Science β€” New cannabinoid receptor

Experiments with mouse brain give evidence to the existence of a new cannabinoid receptor in the brain distinct from the CB1 receptor. (Source: Breivogel CS, et al. Mol Pharmacol 2001 Jul;60(1):155-163).

Portugal β€” Decriminalization of drugs

Cannabis-related offences, such as use are decriminalised from July 2001. Minor offences will no longer be treated as criminal but as administrative offences. The same applies to other drugs. (Source: European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction ?

UK β€” Warning instead of fine

A pilot program started on 2 July in a borough of London in which anyone caught with a small amount of marijuana is let off with a verbal warning. Authorities say the program, which will last for six months, is not about leniency, but about freeing officers from paperwork. (Sources: PA News of 2 July 2001, Associated Press of 5 July 2001)

Germany β€” Hamburg Minister of Justice

Minister of Justice of the state of Hamburg, Lore Maria Peschel-Gutzeit (Social Democratic Party), calls for a radical rethinking in the treatment of dying persons. Among others the use of cannabis use should be allowed for these patients. (Source: Berliner Kurier of 18 June 2001)