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IACM-Bulletin of March 18, 2001


Switzerland โ€” Government wants to legalize the use of cannabis

The Swiss government on 9 March endorsed a draft law that would legalize the consumption of cannabis and allow a limited number of shops where the drug could be sold, similar to the Dutch coffee shop model.

Production and sale would be heavily regulated. Only Swiss-grown marijuana would be legal, exporting marijuana would remain a crime, purchases of marijuana would be limited to Swiss residents only, and sales to minors would be still prohibited.

"Decriminalizing the consumption of cannabis and the acts leading up to this takes account of social reality and unburdens police and the courts," the government said in a statement.

The cabinet agreed in principle in October 2000 to legalize cannabis use. It has now recommended that police be allowed to turn a blind eye to people growing and trading small amounts of soft drugs. The Swiss parliament still needs to approve reform later this year, but authorities believe the legislation will be approved in some form.

(Sources: Press release of the Swiss government of 9 March 2001, Reuters of 9 March 2001, Time Magazine of 16 March 2001)

News in brief


Researchers at the Bayer AG, a German pharmaceutical company, found that cannabinoid CB(1) receptors were upregulated in a rat model of chronic neuropathic pain. They write in the March issue of the European Journal of Pharmacology that this increase of cannabinoid receptors following nerve damage may be the reason for the increased pain-relieving effect of cannabinoids in chronic pain conditions compared to their low efficacy in acute pain. (Source: Siegling A, et al. Eur J Pharmacol 2001;415(1):R5-R7)


78 percent of the citizens of New Mexico support Governor Gary Johnson's proposal to legalize the medical use of marijuana, according to a poll released on 3 March. The poll also found generally broad support across the political spectrum for Johnson's proposal to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of cannabis. On 6 March the medical use of cannabis was approved by the Senate of New Mexico with a 29-12 vote. The bill now heads to the House of Representatives. (Sources: Associated Press of 3 March 2001, Albuquerque Tribune of 7 March 2001)


Young people with high self-esteem are more likely to take illicit drugs than those whose self-confidence is low, a survey of 15,000 British children aged 14 and 15 revealed. The results contradict the concept that drug use is most prevalent among anxious or insecure youth looking for an escape from poor conditions or a way to feel better about themselves. Heather Ashton, a professor of pharmacology at Newcastle University, said last week that the results of the survey did not surprise her: "Students all report they take drugs for pleasure and that it has nothing to do with anxiety or stress. Years ago young people who take drugs were seen as psychotic or low or risk-takers. Now that is not the case." (Source: Observer of 11 February 2001)


The Endocannabinoid system may be involved in the cardioprotection triggered by lipopolysaccharide (LPS). The cardioprotective effects of LPS treatment, in terms of infarction and functional recovery after ischemia in rat hearts, were abolished by a CB(2) receptor antagonist. A CB(1) receptor antagonist had no effect. "Our results suggest an involvement of endocannabinoids, acting through the CB(2) receptors, in the cardioprotection triggered by LPS against myocardial ischemia," researchers of the University of Montreal (Canada) write in the European Journal of Pharmacology. (Source: Lagneux C, et al. Eur J Pharmacol. 2001 Mar 9;415(1):R5-R7.)