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IACM-Bulletin of August 17, 2003


New Zealand — Report of a parliamentary committee on cannabis

On 8 August the Health Committee of the New Zealand Parliament issued an 80-page report on health strategies related to cannabis and its appropriate legal status. In its recommendations it advocates a relaxation of cannabis laws and that clinically tested cannabis based medicines should be made available in New Zealand.

“Following its inquiry, the Health Committee makes the following recommendations to the Government: (…)

- that the Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs give a high priority to its reconsideration of the classification of cannabis. (Page 49)

- that it pursue the possibility of supporting the prescription of clinically tested cannabis products for medicinal purposes. (Page 57)”

With regard to medical use the report states: “We believe that the issue of medicinal use should be dealt with independently from the legislation regulating general use. (…) We are aware that natural and synthetic cannabinoids are being developed and trialled overseas as medicinal products. We think that this development has potentially useful implications for people suffering from a range of both acute and chronic illnesses.”

With regard to the development of psychosis the report says: “The Royal College of Australian and New Zealand Psychiatrists recognises that cannabis psychosis is a contentious issue, and is difficult to prove. While extant research does not appear to substantiate a link between cannabis use and psychosis, the college notes that there are reports of distinct psychosis occurring in heavy cannabis users, commonly paranoid ideation and marked aggression. The psychosis is always brief, however, and there is no evidence that a chronic psychosis is induced by cannabis. The New Zealand Medical Association stated that in susceptible individuals, excessive cannabis use can cause psychosis and other mental illness.”

(Source: Report of the Health Committee: “Inquiry into the public health strategies related to cannabis use and the most appropriate legal status”;

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Canada — Hearing before the Ontario Court of Appeal started

A battle to determine whether the federal government should have to provide medicinal cannabis to patients with an appropriate permission began on 29 July, proceedings that could alter Canada's cannabis possession laws.

Government lawyer Croft Michaelson argued in the Ontario Court of Appeal that a ruling by an Ontario Superior Court in January 2003 that the federal government is required to set up a distribution scheme for medicinal marijuana should be overturned. Michaelson said Canada's global reputation is at stake. "The consensus in the international community is that marijuana should not be used as a therapeutic product," he said.

Judge Sidney Lederman of Ontario Superior Court had ruled it was unfair for the federal government to allow people to smoke medicinal marijuana but force them to buy it from drug dealers, because there is no legal source. On 9 July 2003 the Canadian government announced an interim plan that will provide cannabis on a regular basis to 582 people who are authorized by the government to use the drug for medical reasons, but Health Minister Anne McLellan indicated the distribution will end if her department wins its appeal before the Ontario Court of Appeal.

Lawyer Alan Young, who is arguing in the name of the patients expressed his aversion against the government position. "The government is trying to defend forcing people into the black market," Young said.

(Source: Canadian Press of 29 July 2003)

News in brief

USA — Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics

Patients Out of Time announced to co-host along with the University of Virginia School of Nursing and other institutions The Third National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics to be held on 20-22 May 2004 in Charlottesville, Virginia. The conference is designed for physicians, nurses, healthcare professionals, legal professionals and patients. The conference theme is "Cannabis Use Throughout the Life Span". More information by Al Byrne, (Source: Press release of Patients Out of Time of 11 August 2003)

USA — Oakland mayor ordered an investigation

The Mayor of Oakland (California), Jerry Brown has ordered an investigation of medical marijuana clubs in the northern downtown area becoming known as "Oaksterdam." Brown said he wants to ensure dispensaries are observing the "spirit" of the state's medical cannabis laws. "No one is questioning the availability of medical marijuana," the mayor said on 8 August. Brown said a city official looked in on the clubs. Since a journal article reported the clubs were not regulated by the city, a few nearby businesses and some city politicians have voiced their frustration. (Source: Oakland Tribune of 9 August 2003)