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IACM-Bulletin of June 23, 2002


Science — THC reduces sleep apnoea in animal research

Researchers at the Center for Sleep and Ventilatory Disorders at the University of Illinois in Chicago investigated the effects of THC and the endocannabinoid oleamide on sleep, respiratory pattern and sleep apnoea in rats. Professor David W. Carley and colleagues found that THC and oleamide each stabilized respiration during all sleep stages and decreased apnoea.

Authors conclude from their results that the study suggests an important role for endocannabinoids in maintaining autonomic stability during sleep, that it further demonstrates potent suppression of sleep apnoea by both THC and endocannabinoids, and that this observation may be relevant to the medicinal treatment of sleep-related breathing disorders.

Sleep apnoea (American English: apnea) is a breathing disorder characterized by brief interruptions of breathing during sleep. These breathing pauses are almost always accompanied by snoring between apnoea episodes, although not everyone who snores suffers from apnoea. The frequent interruptions of deep, restorative sleep often leads to excessive daytime sleepiness and may be associated with irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.

The reduction of sleep apnoea by cannabinoids may be related to their interaction with the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin can increase sleep-related apnoea. Cannabinoids are known to inhibit the stimulating effects of serotonin on nodose ganglion cells. The nodose ganglion is a set of nerve cells outside the spinal cord, which transport information about blood pressure, carbon dioxide concentration, and other information on the state of the body via the spinal cord to the brain.

(Source: Carley DW, et al. Functional role for cannabinoids in respiratory stability during sleep. Sleep 2002;25(4):391-398)

USA — Californian medical marijuana clubs bared from distributing the drug

A federal judge in California has ruled in favour of a request of the Federal Justice Department to block three northern California medical marijuana clubs from distributing the drug to patients with a permanent injunction.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer of San Francisco ruled against the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative, the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana and a dispensary located in Ukiah. Attorneys for the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative said they would appeal Breyer's ruling to a higher court, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In his ruling on 13 June, Breyer said, "In the absence of an injunction, the defendants (the clubs) are likely to resume distributing marijuana in violation of the Controlled Substances Act."

California is one of eight states that allow individuals to grow or use small amounts of cannabis for medical purposes as long as the use is ordered and supervised by a physician.

(Source: NORML of 13 June 2002, of 14 June 2002)

News in brief

Science — Appetite of rats

THC and the endocannabinoid anandamide reduced the time until rats started to eat. Apart from its rapid onset, cannabinoid-induced eating retained the normal, species-typical characteristics. Data suggest that cannabinoids promote eating by increasing the incentive value of food. (Source: Williams CM, Kirkham TC. Physiol Behav 2002 Jun;76(2):241-50)

Science — Comparison of THC and marijuana effects

Two studies were conducted to compare the subjective effects of pure THC to whole-plant cannabis containing an equivalent amount of THC in normal healthy volunteers. In one study with 12 participants the substances were administered orally in cookies and in the other with 13 participants they were administered by smoking. In both studies all participants received all five substances one after the other, a low and a high dose of THC, a low and a high dose of marijuana, and placebo. In both studies, THC and marijuana produced similar subjective effects, with only minor differences. (Source: Wachtel SR, et al. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 2002 Jun;161(4):331-339)

Germany — World Conference Ethnotherapies

The World Conference Ethnotherapies will take place on 11-13 October 2002 at the University of Munich. On the 14th of October there will be a workshop for therapists. More information at

UK — GW Pharmaceuticals

GW Pharmaceuticals has reported increased interim losses. But the company said it will have cannabis-based medicines ready for launch by 2004. Pre-tax losses hit 5.7 million British pounds. GW has increased its staff numbers from 85 to 102. (Source: PA News of 13 June 2002)

Europe — Report on medical cannabis

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) published a report on the legal situation of medical cannabis in the European Union. It can be found together with other comparative studies, at