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IACM-Bulletin of June 24, 2001


USA — American Medical Association opposes criminalization of patients and physicians

A proposal to endorse the limited use of marijuana for seriously ill patients was rejected on 18 June at the American Medical Association's (AMA) annual meeting. The AMA preferred to allow individual doctors to make up their own minds about the issue.

While the 547 delegates declared that scientific evidence was lacking to prove marijuana's medical usefulness, it reasserted its opposition to criminalizing patients or doctors who use it in a resolution on 19 June. "Our plea again is that no criminal sanctions be applied to marijuana use, and to encourage our patients to discuss this freely with their doctors," Dr. Herman Abromowitz said of the resolution.

(Sources: Reuters of 19 June 2001, Associated Press of 19 June 2001)

Canada — Cannabis growers may get a license

Officials of the Canadian health ministry (Health Canada) say that by the end of July, marijuana growers will be able to apply for special licenses to produce small amounts of cannabis legally for people with chronic diseases.

Since 1999, more than 250 Canadians have received government permission to smoke marijuana for medical purposes, and many more will qualify when the new regulations take effect.

The government is under pressure to have the new regulations ready to take effect by the end of July. An Ontario court of appeals last year gave the government until 31 July to improve the possibilities for the medical use of marijuana.

(Source: Seattle Times of 17 June 2001)

Science — Cannabis use may rarely trigger heart attack in people with coronary disease

Smoking cannabis moderately increases the risk of a heart attack for middle-aged and elderly users during the first hour after using the drug, a study published in the recent issue of the journal Circulation says. A small portion of patients with heart attack (0.2%) had smoked cannabis shortly before the symptoms started.

Of the 3882 patients with heart attack, 124 reported smoking marijuana in the prior year, among them 9 within 1 hour of heart attack symptoms. The average age of the cannabis users was about 44, with 23% of them aged 50 to 69. The risk of heart attack onset was significantly elevated 4.8 times over baseline (95% confidence interval: 2.4-9.5) in the first hour after cannabis use. In the second hour it was 1.7 times greater, and returned to baseline afterwards.

Cannabis use increases heart rate by about 40 beats per minute. It may also cause the blood pressure to increase when the person is lying down, and to decrease when the person stands up. With regular use tolerance develops to these effects.

Dr. Murray Mittleman, a professor at Harvard Medical School and director of cardiovascular epidemiology at Beth Israel-Deaconess Medical Centre, and his colleagues wrote in their publication that smoking marijuana is "a rare trigger of acute myocardial infarction". He noted that cannabis was about as risky as taking a walk for an active person with heart disease, or as sex for a patient with sedentary life style.

(Source: Mittleman MA, et al. Circulation 2001;103:2805, United Press International of 11 June 2001, Reuters of 11 June 2001, Boston Globe of 12 June 2001)

News in brief

Holland — Health insurance Amicon

The health insurance Amicon thinks about paying for the medical use of cannabis. The drug would be delivered by the Association of Cannabis Users of Enschede (VEC, Vereniging van Enschedese Cannabisconsumenten), VEC distributes marijuana that is grown without chemicals to about 4.000 persons, among them about 250 patients. (Source: De Twentsche Courant Tubantia of 14 June 2001)

UK — GW at the stock market

GW Pharmaceuticals said on 19 June it had increased the size of an initial public offering size (IPO) following strong demand from investors. It raised 25 million pounds ($34.8 million), or nine million pounds more than originally expected. GW expects to seek approval from UK regulators for its first cannabis based medicines in 2003. (Source: Reuters of 21 June 2001)

Canada — Grant Krieger

Grant Krieger, activist for the medical use of marijuana, was justified in breaking the law and selling cannabis to chronically ill people, a court ruled on 20 June. Krieger, 46, who has multiple sclerosis and has been fighting for more than five years to have the drug legalized for medical purposes, had been charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking. (Source: Canadian Press of 21 June 2001)

USA — Nevada

Governor Kenny Guinn signed a law on the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes. It allows patients or their caregivers to have up to seven plants for their personal use. It is similar to laws in Oregon and Maine in that respect. (Source: American Medical News of 25 June 2001)

USA — Consequences of Supreme Court ruling

In the first month since the Supreme Court said that it is illegal for third parties to sell marijuana for medical use, the decision appears to be having little effect in the eight states with medical marijuana laws. The Bush administration has taken no public action to enforce the ruling and has been silent about its next move. (Source: Associated Press of 14 June 2001)

France — Medical use before the court

On 29 May the administrative court of Paris rejected the possibility to import cannabis for medical use. In the name of 10 persons with incurable diseases the movement for controlled legalisation (MLC, Mouvement de légalisation contrôlée) had applied for the importation of 10 kilograms of cannabis. (Source: AFP of 29 May 2001)