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IACM-Bulletin of October 12, 2003


Canada — Cultivation of medical cannabis by private persons facilitated

The Ontario Court of Appeals ruled on 7 October that businesses and individuals be allowed to grow and supply large amounts of medical marijuana. The ruling makes it easier for medical marijuana users to safely get a good supply of the drug. But the court reinstated the law against everyone else possessing small amounts of cannabis for recreational use.

"What is going to change in Canada is that one person or one company can grow for an unlimited number of people ... and in terms of supply and cultivation, you can now pay people to grow for you," said York University Law Professor Alan Young, a legal counsel to medical cannabis patients.

The decision resolved a dilemma faced by the federal government: how to follow a court order to enable patients to get cannabis for treatment while also keeping the possession of cannabis by others illegal. In 2001 the government started registering qualified patients and authorizing them or other designated people to grow cannabis for medicinal use. Several hundred people have registered with the federal government to use marijuana for medical purposes. The government this summer also started supplying marijuana to registered patients.

The Ontario Court of Appeals now declared unconstitutional those provisions in the federal Marijuana Medical Access Regulations restricting licensed growers of medical cannabis from receiving compensation, from growing the drug for more than one qualified patient and from pooling resources with other licensed producers. Since the government medical marijuana program was now valid, the ruling said, marijuana prohibition laws also were constitutionally valid.

(Sources: Reuters of 7 October 2003, Associated Press of 7 October 2003, Ottawa Citizen of 8 October 2003)

Australia — Doctors in New South Wales will be able to prescribe cannabis

Citizens of New South Wales (NSW), Australia’s most populous state, will be able to register to use cannabis for medical conditions starting next year. Legislation is due to be released within weeks.

The scheme will include both a clinical trial and a plan to offer several categories of gravely ill people, among them Aids, cancer and multiple sclerosis sufferers, immediate access to cannabis. "The NSW proposal would involve two parallel initiatives, namely clinical research trials and a compassionate access scheme," Trish Worth, Parliamentary Secretary to the Federal Minister of Health said.

The NSW Government plans to create an Office of Medical Cannabis in the NSW Department of Health. Ms Worth confirmed that the Federal Government supported the scheme as long as it complied with medical guidelines and international narcotics agreements.

(Source: The Australian of 28 September 2003)

News in brief

Science — CT-3 effective in pain patients

The study by Dr. Udo Schneider and colleagues of the Medical School of Hannover on CT-3 in pain patients presented at the IACM conference in September has now been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. CT-3, a synthetic derivative of the non-psychotropic THC metabolite THC-COOH, was effective in reducing chronic neuropathic pain in 21 patients in a placebo controlled crossover study. (Source: Karst M, et al. JAMA. 2003 Oct 1;290(13):1757-62.)

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UK — GW Pharmaceuticals

GW intends to get licenses in other European countries. "Our intention, once we have a product license application in the U.K., is to use the mutual recognition procedure to obtain approvals in other European Union member states, probably during 2004," says GW's spokesperson Mark Rogerson. "We will also be seeking to market the product in Commonwealth countries such as Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. The U.S. market is a longer-term objective." (Source: The North Bay Bohemian of 9 October 2003)

Italy — Drugs laws

The government wants to toughen the country's drug laws and make possession of hard and soft drugs a criminal offence again. Ten years ago, Italians voted in a referendum to decriminalize the use of drugs, whether cocaine or cannabis, which meant drug takers ran no risk of going to jail although sellers and traffickers could still be punished. Now Deputy Prime Minister Gianfranco Fini wants to get tough again. "We will start from the principle that it is not drug abuse but drug use that needs to be penalized," he said. (Source: Reuters of 22 September 2003)