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IACM-Bulletin of December 23, 2001


Canada β€” Patients may get marijuana from the government

The first batch of federally approved marijuana is available for shipment, the Health Ministry said on 21 December. "Marijuana from Prairie Plant Systems will be made available to researchers and patients who have received licences to possess," a department official said.

The department signed a contract last year with Prairie Plant Systems to grow cannabis in an abandoned mine in Manitoba as part of a government policy to make the drug available to Canadians for medical purposes. The contract required that the first supply be ready by 1 January 2002 with a minimum THC content of five per cent.

The Health Ministry will now contact some 680 patients approved to use medical marijuana to find out if they are interested in receiving some. The department will begin distributing the product early in the new year. A final decision on a distribution mechanism will be made once the Health Department gets patient feedback.

(Source: Canadian Press of 21 December 2001)

Science β€” Cannabis no gateway drug

Cannabis does not lead to the use of hard drugs, according to a study to be published by the Centre for Economic Policy Research, London, the British Sunday Times said in an article. The survey is based on drug users in Amsterdam over a 10-year period.

The study by Jan van Ours of Tilburg University in the Netherlands shows that cannabis users typically start using the drug between the ages of 18 and 20, while cocaine use usually starts between 20 and 25. But it concludes that cannabis is not a stepping stone to using cocaine or heroin.

Four surveys, covering nearly 17,000 people, were carried out in Amsterdam in 1987, 1990, 1994 and 1997. The study found that there was little difference in the probability of an individual taking up cocaine as to whether or not he or she had used cannabis. Although significant numbers of people in the survey did use soft and hard drugs, this was linked with personal characteristics and a predilection to experimentation.

(Source: Sunday Times of 16 December 2001)

News in brief

Science β€” Parkinson's disease

The therapy of Parkinson's disease with levodopa may cause dyskinesia (a movement disorder). In a pilot study with seven patients a research group at the University of Manchester showed that nabilone, a synthetic THC derivative, significantly reduced levodopa-induced dyskinesia in patients with Parkinson's disease. (Source: Sieradzan KA, et al. Neurology 2001 Dec 11;57(11):2108-2111)

Germany β€” Discussion within government parties

Member of the German Bundestag Volker Beck (Green Party) stated in a press release that the intention of the Swiss government to legalize the use of cannabis might be a model for Germany. Federal Drugs Commissioner Marion Caspers-Merk (Social Democratic Party) strongly refused this idea. The Social Democrats and the Greens form the government. (Source: Taz of 15 December 2001)

USA β€” State initiatives

There are 22 states which in this legislative session debate bills on the medical use of cannabis, among them Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota. There are currently eight states with state laws that allow the medical use: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. (Source: The Daily Press of 12 December 2001)

Science β€” Epilepsy

Authors provide a review on the effects of alcohol and cannabis on epilepsy. They conclude: "There are currently insufficient data to determine whether occasional or chronic marijuana use influences seizure frequency. Some evidence suggests that marijuana and its active cannabinoids have antiepileptic effects, but these may be specific to partial or tonic-clonic seizures." (Source: Gordon E, Devinsky O. Epilepsia 2001 Oct;42(10):1266-1272)

Science β€” Vanilloid receptors

The endogenous cannabinoid anandamide but not 2-arachidonyl glycerol activated vanilloid receptors in the hippocampus. (Source: Al-Hayani A, et al. Neuropharmacology 2001 Dec;41(8):1000-1005)

Science β€” Hypotension/heart attack

The endocannabinoids anandamide and 2-arachidonyl glycerol were detected in monocytes and platelets after acute myocardial infarction in rats. They contribute to hypotension following heart attack through relaxation of the arteries. (Source: Wagner JA, et al. J Am Coll Cardiol 2001 Dec;38(7):2048-2054)

Europe/UK β€” Two politicians arrested

Two members of the European Parliament have been arrested and charged with possessing cannabis. Marco Cappato, a member of the Italian Radical Party, and Chris Davies, a member of the British Liberal Democrat Party, presented themselves outside the police station of Stockport with small amounts of cannabis in support of Colin Davis, who was arrested in November for supplying cannabis from his cannabis cafe. (Sources: PA News of 20 and 21 December 2001, Reuters of 15 and 20 December 2001).