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IACM-Bulletin of September 13, 2009


Holland — Government wants to ban foreigners from coffee shops

The Dutch government wants to maintain its tolerant policy towards cannabis and keep so-called coffee shops where cannabis is sold open, but they should no longer be tourist attractions, Dutch ministers wrote in a letter that was leaked to the press on 8 September. The ministers of justice, home affairs and health wrote that reducing the number of coffee shops and keeping foreigners out should make it easier to reduce crime and other nuisances the coffee shops are now causing.

A government memorandum on altering the coffee shop policy and other drug-related issues is expected this fall. The government wants to implement a members-only system to keep tourists out. The Netherlands has been tolerant about the use and sale of cannabis for three decades. Cultivation and wholesale of the drug are prohibited however. An advisory committee said in July that the policy has gotten out of control in the past 15 years and needs to go back to small, private shops for local users. The ministers want municipalities to implement a members-only system, where members can by up to three grammes of cannabis each with their (Dutch) bank card. The ministers will also allow experiments where coffee shops can have larger quantities of cannabis stocked. Currently, a coffee shop can have a maximum of 500 grammes in store.

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(Source: NRC Handelsblatt of 9 September 2009)

Science — Successful reposition of a dislocated shoulder in a rock climber after inhalation of cannabis

Doctors of the University of Zurich and the Kantonsspital Zug, Switzerland, reported of the use of cannabis to facilitate the reposition of a dislocated shoulder in a rock climber. Without cannabis the athletic 22-year-old patient had very high muscular tone, and after 20 minutes the shoulder still could not be relocated. Another climber who was present mentioned that he was carrying cannabis with him. With the intention to induce muscular relaxation, the patient agreed to inhalational administration of cannabis. He took several deep inhalations and after approximately 5 minutes, the pain and muscular tone decreased considerably, and the shoulder was relocated easily on the first try.

Doctors wrote that in the "described case the muscle relaxant effect of cannabis was quite remarkable, as repositioning the dislocated shoulder was accomplished with ease after cannabis administration." They concluded that "cannabis ingredients may be effective in certain circumstances as an emergency muscle relaxant."

(Source: Schweizer A, Bircher HP. Reposition of a dislocated shoulder under use of cannabis. Wilderness Environ Med 2009;20(3):301-2.)

Science — Controversy on the existence of CB2 receptors on nerve cells in the brain

The journal "The Scientist" published a report on the controversy of the existence of cannabinoid-2 receptors on nerve cells in the brain, citing several scientists active in the field. For example, Dr. Keith Sharkey, a neurobiologist at the University of Calgary, Canada, said: "My sense is that there is not very much [CB2] in the brain under baseline conditions," but that the receptor expression gears up during trauma or inflammation. Sharkey and colleagues found a low density of CB2 receptors on a few nerve cells in the brain stem and the cerebellum, as well as on immune cells like microglia in the brain, consistent with the idea that CB2 receptors are mostly absent from brain tissue.

But one researcher's findings disagree. Microbiologist Dr. Emmanuel Onaivi at William Paterson University in Wayne, USA, and his colleagues detected a widespread presence of CB2 receptors on nerve cells. To date, no other labs have been able to reproduce Onaivi's findings. The discussion on this issue in the journal centred around the appropriate detection method. The presence of CB2 receptors could have important implications for the treatment of for example autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis.

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(Source: The Scientist of 10 September 2009)

News in brief

USA — California

According to a press release of the San Diego County District Attorney's Office police raided 14 "illegal marijuana dispensaries" and six associated residences and 23 people have been arrested. The press release calls the dispensaries "nothing more than for-profit storefront drug dealing operations run by drug dealers hiding behind the state's medical marijuana law." The Marijuana Policy Project stated that the press release "attempts to justify the actions using an extremely narrow interpretation of state law." (Sources: Press Release of the San Diego County District Attorney's Office of 10 September 2009, MPP of 10 September 2009)

Science — Detection of cannabis use

According to researchers from New York it may not always work to differentiate the use of isolated THC (dronabinol) and cannabis by looking for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV). The detection of THCV in urine has been suggested to allow for discrimination between isolated THC use as medicine and illegal cannabis use. In a study with 117 cannabis users all produced a positive urine test for THC-COOH, a metabolite of THC, but 50 per cent had an undetectable level of THCV-COOH, a metabolite of THCV in urine. (Source: Levin FR, et al. Drug Alcohol Depend 2009 Sep 2. [Electronic publication ahead of print])

Science — Colitis

According to researchers at the University of Barcelona, Spain, the endocannabinoid system is changed in the tissue of the colon of patients suffering from ulcerative colitis. They concluded from their studies that "endocannabinoids signalling pathway, through CB2 receptor, may reduce colitis-associated inflammation suggesting a potential drugable target for the treatment of inflammatory bowel diseases." (Source: Marquéz L, et al. PLoS One 2009;4(9):e6893.)

Science — Pain after injury

According to research at the University of Munich, Germany, patients with complex regional pain syndrome after traumatic injury have significantly higher blood concentrations of the endocannabinoid anandamide than healthy subjects. They concluded that the peripheral endocannabinoid system is activated in complex regional pain syndrome. (Source: Kaufmann I, et al. Eur Surg Res 2009;43(4):325-329.)

Science — Cannabis dependence

Scientists at the University of South Carolina in Charleston, USA, investigated the efficacy of buspirone (maximum 60 mg daily) in a placebo controlled 12-week trial with fifty cannabis dependent people. Participants receiving busprione reported not using cannabis in 45.2 per cent of days and participants receiving placebo reported not using it in 51.4 per cent of days. (Source: McRae-Clark AL, et al. Drug Alcohol Depend 2009 Aug 20. [Electronic publication ahead of print])