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IACM-Bulletin of September 17, 2000


USA β€” California doctors can recommend marijuana, a federal judge ruled

The federal government can't prosecute doctors who recommend marijuana as a medical treatment for patients, a federal judge ruled on 7 September in California.

U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup issued an injunction permanently banning the government from revoking a physician's license to prescribe medicine "merely because the doctor recommends medical marijuana to a patient based on a sincere medical judgment."

He also wrote that his order applies even if "the physician anticipates that the recommendation will, in turn, be used by the patient to obtain marijuana in violation of federal law."

The ruling could have broad implications for several states with similar laws. It was the latest development in a conflict between federal narcotics laws and the California initiative approved by voters in 1996. The state initiative allows seriously ill patients to grow and use marijuana for pain relief, with a doctor's recommendation. Initiatives similar to California's have been passed in Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington state.

(Source: AP of 8 September 2000, of 8 September 2000)

Canada β€” Minister announces new approach for the use of marijuana for medical purposes

On 14 September Health Minister Allan Rock announced the Ministry's intention to develop a new regulatory approach for Canadians to access marijuana for medical purposes. This will address some of the issues that stemmed from the decision by the Court of Appeal for Ontario in the case of Terry Parker, rendered on 31 July.

The new regulatory approach will define the circumstances, and the manner in which the use of marijuana for medical purposes will be authorized. "We want to bring greater clarity to the process for those Canadians who may request the use of this drug to alleviate symptoms," said Minister Rock.

The matter of an appeal on the narrow legal issues raised by the Parker decision is still under consideration. Until the new regulatory approach is in place, Canadians can continue to apply for an exemption for medical purposes under Section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. An interim guidance document and application form are available online. To date, 71 Canadians have received exemptions.

(Source: Press release by the Canadian Health Ministry of 14 September 2000)

News in brief


The Tasmanian Government will conduct an inquiry into the medical use of cannabis and THC. The Community Development Committee has received a corresponding reference from the Attorney-General. The Committee is to consider the issues associated with the legal recognition of cannabis, or its derivative THC (Dronabinol), for medical purposes in conjunction with issues and consequences that may flow from such a decision. Submissions and enquires should be directed to: The Secretary, Community Development Committee, Parliament House, Hobart 7000, Australia;


Next spring there will be an European conference on the use of cannabis in Guetersloh (Germany). The gathering is an initiative of the Dutch Health Minister Els Borst, in cooperation with Germany and Switzerland. According to the Minister, in many European countries, thinking is getting more and more balanced about the harmfulness of cannabis, and this should be reflected in policies. Borst: "We see that in many countries in Europe people have reached the conclusion that moderate use of cannabis in particular by adults is not our biggest problem, that it isn't such a big health problem at all." (Source: Interview with Health Minister Els Borst, Radio 1 News of 6 September 2000; Transcript and translation by Harry Bego)