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IACM-Bulletin of October 28, 2001


Holland β€” Dutch government wants to allow the medical use of cannabis

The Dutch government decided on 19 October to change the law to allow doctors to prescribe cannabis and pharmacists to supply it with "pharmaceutical quality". Parliament is expected to vote in the next few months on the proposal to put medicinal marijuana on the national health care plan. Most users would then have the cost of their joints paid by the government as long as it is prescribed by a doctor.

The Bureau for Medicinal Cannabis of the Health Ministry will supervise the growing of marijuana, its quality control and distribution. No exact date has been set for the program's launch as it was not yet clear how long preparations will take.

The law is needed to remove an "undesirable" contradiction between practice and law "despite lack of scientific evidence" of the effects of marijuana use, a government statement said. Many patients using the drug without professional assistance have had successful results, it added. "Experiences are positive: less pain, less nausea after chemotherapy, less stiffness with MS," the statement said.

Although the sale of cannabis is technically illegal, Dutch authorities tolerate the sale of small amounts in hundreds of so-called "coffee shops". "People with painful diseases such as AIDS are going to coffee shops, but there is no doctor who is controlling the use," Health Ministry spokesman Bas Kuik said.

(Sources: Reuters of 19 October 2001, AP of 19 October 2001, dpa of 19 October 2001)

Science β€” News at the 2001 congress of the IACM

At the 2001 meeting of the International Association for Cannabis as Medicine (IACM) from 26 to 27 October in Berlin (Germany) a number of interesting new research results were presented. Some are presented below.

(1) The effects of an extract of cannabis in animal tests of depression, spasticity and analgesia were examined. The cannabis extract did not produce an anti-depressive effect in mice. However, the extract produced a decrease in spastic behaviours and showed analgesic properties. These data suggest that THC extracts will be useful for spastic conditions and for pain. (Source: Abstract by Richard Musty and Richard Deyo)

(2) Patients and rats with liver cirrhosis have low blood pressure. In rats the low pressure can be elevated by a CB1 receptor antagonist, which also reduces the elevated blood flow in the arteries of the intestine (Aa mesenteriae). Compared with non-cirrhotic controls, in cirrhotic human livers there was a three-fold increase in CB1 receptors on isolated endothelial cells of the blood vessels. The results indicate a novel approach for the treatment of the vasodilated state of advanced liver cirrhosis. (Source: Abstract by Jens Wagner)

(3) Research in rats show that CB receptor agonists exerts an inhibitory influence on bladder motility but an excitatory influence on uterus motility. This inhibitory effect was greater in rats with inflamed bladders than in rats with uninflamed bladders, suggesting that inflammation increases effectiveness of cannabinoids in the bladder. The effect on the uterus was reduced in rats with inflamed bladders. This research supports the positive effects on the hyperactive bladder in patients with multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury. (Source: Abstract by Karen Berkley and Natalia Dmitrieva)

(4) In a patient with multiple sclerosis a cannabis extract with a THC/CBD ratio of 1:1 was better tolerated than THC alone. Her main pain problems were severe urethral pain and a pain deep within her pelvis. She achieved almost total pain control from the cannabis extract. Psychological side effects were predominantly seen during the periods when she used THC alone. During the periods when she used a 1:1 mixture of THC and CBD, the incidence of side-effects fell dramatically, although she was using the same overall amount of THC. (Abstract by William Notcutt)

Abstracts will be published in the Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics.

(Source: Program and abstracts of the IACM 2001 congress on cannabis and the cannabinoids)

News in brief

Science β€” Nausea

Cannabinoids inhibit vomiting through CB1 receptors in the brainstem of the ferret. Endocannabinoids are a novel neuroregulatory system involved in the control of emesis. (Source: Van Sickle et al. Gastroenterology 2001 Oct;121(4):767-74)

Science β€” Cannabidiol

The non-psyotropic plant-cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) might exert some effects by activation of the vanilloid receptor type 1 or by increasing the levels of anandamide. (Source: Bisogno T, et al. Br J Pharmacol 2001 Oct 4;134(4):845-852)

Science β€” Cocaine relapse

In cocaine dependent rats the selective CB1 receptor antagonist, SR141716A, attenuated the relapse to cocaine seeking induced by re-exposure to cocaine. Data reveal an important role of the cannabinoid system in the neuronal processes underlying relapse to cocaine seeking. (Source: De Vries TJ, et al. Nat Med 2001 Oct;7(10):1151-4)

USA β€” Marijuana arrests

Police arrested an estimated 734,500 persons for marijuana violations in 2000, according to a report by the FBI released on 22 October 2001, the highest ever recorded by the FBI. (Source: NORML of 22 October 2001)