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IACM-Bulletin of October 15, 2000


Europe โ€” Governments soften line on cannabis

Many European governments are shifting from harsh soft-drug penalties towards a more tolerant approach to drugs such as cannabis.

The most dramatic change in policy is likely to come from Portugal, where hard and soft drugs alike are expected to be decriminalised within weeks. Earlier this October, the Swiss government came out in favour of legalising cannabis and is expected to put its recommendations to parliament next year. It said its proposals would include measures to protect young people and to ensure that Switzerland is not flooded with drug tourists.

According to the legal advisor to Lisbon-based European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), Danilo Ballotta, these measures typify a broader European shift towards a softer legal stance on cannabis usage. "Belgium and France are two more countries that have taken to issuing cautions for first-time cannabis use offenders, perceiving cannabis use as normal or mundane rather than deviant," said Ballotta to CNN.

The move towards greater tolerance of drugs has not, however, swept through all of Europe.

The zero-tolerance policy in place in Sweden has broad cross-party political support. Swedish cannabis-smokers are theoretically liable to jail sentences of up to six months for minor possession offences. More usual, however, is a small fine. The British laws are more Draconian, with possession of small quantities of marijuana punishable by up to five years' imprisonment. But offences relating to cannabis possession are routinely dismissed with a caution, or at the most a small fine.

(Source: of 9 October 2000, Press release of the Swiss Bundesrat of 3 October 2000)

Science Spain โ€” Anti-tumour effect of THC cannot be investigated in humans

A research group at the Complutense University of Madrid will not be able to investigate the effectiveness of THC against a fatal type of brain tumour in humans due to lack of financial means.

Earlier this year the Spanish team led by Dr. Manuel Guzman had demonstrated that THC and a synthetic cannabinoid (WIN-55,212-2) induced a remarkable regression of glioblastoma when tested on laboratory rats. Malignant gliomas, a quick-killing cancer for which there is currently no effective treatment, were induced in the animals. Within 18 days the untreated rats died. But the two cannabinoids completely destroyed the tumours in a third and prolonged the life of another third by up to six weeks.

Guzman's team tried to get economic support to conduct clinical trials in humans, but more than seven months later their efforts are still not successful, possibly due to distrust concerning the preclinical results or conservatism towards this area of research.

(Sources: Europa Press of 8 October 2000; Galve-Roperph I, et al.: Antitumoral action of cannabinoids: involvement of sustained ceramide accumulation and ERK activation. Nature Medicine 6, 313-319 (2000))

News in brief


According to an agreement between Haworth Press (Binghamton, NY) and the IACM the Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics (JCT) will be the official journal of the IACM. Members of the IACM will get the JCT at a reduced rate of $35 for subscribers from the USA and $50 for subscribers from other countries instead of the regular rates of $48 for US and $69.60 for foreign subscribers. The first issue is expected to be published by years end.


The first federally sanctioned cannabis harvest took place when Jim Wakeford gathered in his 19 marijuana plants. Wakeford, who has AIDS, is among the first of 71 chronically ill Canadians granted exemptions from the government that allow them to use marijuana to treat their symptoms. (Source: Toronto Star of 30 September 2000)


Ann Widdecombe, criminal justice spokeswoman of the British conservative party (Tories), demanded a new "zero tolerance" policy on drugs in early October at a Tory conference. Thereupon seven members of Tory leader William Hague's shadow cabinet admitted to have used cannabis, among them shadow foreign secretary Francis Maude and Lords leader Lord Strathclyde. Than a former Labour minister, Jon Owen Jones, and Public health minister Yvette Cooper also said they had taken the drug. The British government's drugs tsar Keith Hellawell said that a zero tolerance policy on cannabis was both unrealistic and impracticable. (Sources: PA News of 8, 9, 10, and 13 October 2000)