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IACM-Bulletin of January 23, 2000


USA β€” Development of a cannabinoid patch funded by cancer society

Albany College of Pharmacy researcher Audra Stinchcomb was awarded a $361,000 three-year grant on 21 January by the American Cancer Society to study whether cannabinoids can be absorbed effectively through the skin.

The research could led to the development of a cannabinoid patch for therapeutic use. It could ease the pain, nausea and vomiting that chemotherapy patients can suffer, said Gail Tyner-Taylor of the American Cancer Society of New York and New Jersey.

Stinchcomb is an assistant professor who specializes in transdermal delivery or the study of transmitting drugs through the skin. She said transdermal delivery can be tricky because the skin is a good barrier. Patches are currently used as painkillers, seasickness medication, to quit smoking (nicotine) and to treat menopause (estrogen).

The researchers will use leftover human skin from "tummy tuck" operations to see if and at what rate the active ingredients in marijuana reach the bloodstream through the skin. "It could take a decade before a marijuana patch would be available," said Stinchcomb. "If the initial tests prove successful, animal tests and later human tests would have to be completed."

The patch could give a continuous, steady dose over a period of days. "Smoking can provide a high immediate dose and make some patients high," said Stinchcomb. "However, a marijuana patch could work better than a pill because people suffering from the effects of chemotherapy have trouble keeping pills down."

The grant for the marijuana patch is the first the American Cancer Society has awarded for marijuana research. "Some people may not approve," said Don Distasio, of the American Cancer Society, "but we are going to stick to our guns because we see this as an issue of helping patients suffering from unnecessary pain."

(Sources: UPI of 21 January 2000, AP of 21 January 2000)

Malta β€” Cancer patient avoids jail for growing cannabis

Saratoga prosecutors let a confessed cannabis grower off easy. John Chestnut who claimed that he grew marijuana to treat discomfort from cancer was allowed to plead guilty in Malta Town Court to a non-jail sentence in a plea-agreement with the Saratoga County District Attorney's office.

He faced up to four years behind bars but was given three years probation and ordered to undergo any drug treatment recommended by the court. Police seized 25, six-foot-tall plants. The prosecutor's office agreed to reduce Chestnut's felony charge "in the interest of justice," citing Chestnut's lack of criminal record and his poor health.

Chestnut said that 75 percent of his stomach was lost to cancer and only marijuana proved effective in stimulating his appetite. He was arrested on 8 September after state police in a helicopter spotted marijuana growing in a swamp not far from his home.

(Source: AP of 14 January 2000)

News in brief


The council of the Australian Medical Association's (AMA) Victorian branch will next month consider a proposal to support rescheduling cannabis for medical use. The branch president, Dr Michael Sedgley, said the proposal was likely to be passed. "It (cannabis) does apparently have some place in easing suffering and pain," he said. The New South Wales Premier, Mr Bob Carr, established a working party last year to investigate the medical potential of cannabis after pressure was applied by the AMA's New South Wales branch. (Source: The Age (Australia) of 9 January 2000)


A Toronto AIDS patient who won the legal right to smoke marijuana is asking the federal government to supply him with the drug. Jim Wakeford and his lawyers launched a court action asking that Ottawa be ordered to give him a safe and clean supply of marijuana. A judge granted him a constitutional exemption last year allowing him to smoke pot to relieve nausea and other side-effects of AIDS treatment. But criminal charges can be laid against anyone selling or buying the drug on his behalf. (Source: Toronto Star of 21 January 2000)


A Police Foundation report is about to call next month for the decriminalisation of cannabis use and a fundamental shake-up of Britain's drugs laws. The findings of a committee set up by the Police Foundation, an independent research body partly funded by the Home Office, will put pressure on the government to rethink its approach to drugs. The committee is not an official body, but it is widely seen as a quasi-Royal Commission. The inquiry is chaired by Lady Runciman, a former member of the government's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. It has spent two-and-a-half years examining the current state of the law. (Source: The Economist of 15 January 2000)