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IACM-Bulletin of 20 January 2002

UK: GW expands trials to effects in cancer pain

GW Pharmaceuticals said on 16 January it was expanding clinical trials to ease the pain of cancer patients. Trials involving patients with multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury had already proved successful, the company said.

GW said more than 100 patients who have terminal cancer and who are suffering pain that is not responding to current therapy, will take part in trials at more than 20 centres throughout the UK. Patients will receive a cannabis extract as an under-the-tongue spray.

Executive Chairman Dr. Geoffrey Guy said: "We remain confident of being able to present data to the UK regulatory authorities in 2003, and - subject to approval - bring the first cannabis-based prescription medicine to market in early 2004."

(Source: Reuters of 16 January 2002)

USA: Californian cannabis club seeks new court ruling

Lawyers of the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative (OCBC) asked a U.S. district court to modify its 1998 injunction ordering the club to stop distributing marijuana to seriously ill patients. The move comes eight months after the highest federal court said the cooperative could not distribute cannabis to patients.

The OCBC argues that the 1998 injunction of the district court is unconstitutional because the OCBC's distribution of marijuana involves commerce intrastate (within the state), not interstate commerce.

Furthermore, the OCBC asks the court to decide whether the federal government may properly interfere with state sovereignty or has a compelling interest to restrict the exercise of fundamental rights, such as the amelioration of pain or the prolongation of life.

Lawyers expect the new case to reach the Supreme Court again. In May 2001, the Supreme Court determined that medical marijuana dispensaries may not raise the defence of medical necessity against federal charges of manufacturing and distributing marijuana. Other issues regarding the constitutionality of the federal marijuana laws were not decided by the court in that case.

(Sources: Associated Press of 8 January 2002, NORML of 10 January 2002)

News in brief

France: Debate on legalisation
Minister of Justice Marylise Lebranchu wants to initiate a debate on the legalisation of cannabis. According to the recent national drug report the image of cannabis has changed, approaching the image of accepted drugs such as alcohol and tobacco. In the year 2000, for the first time more than 50 percent of the French adults had used cannabis at least once in their life. (Source: dpa of 17 January 2002).

Science: Heart attack
Six cases of possible death due to heart attack following cannabis use in young adults were observed in a Norwegian study. They presented with 2 to 22 ng/ml THC in their whole blood. In 35 cases of a total of 10,000 autopsies THC was the "major toxicological finding", most of them dying due to an accident or suicide. Six of the 35 died of an unknown cause, most of them presenting with signs of heart disease in the autopsy. (Source: Bachs L, Morland H. Forensic Sci Int 2001 Dec 27;124(2-3):200-3)

Canada: Distribution of marijuana
It will probably be two or three months before people with medical exemptions will have access to cannabis because Health Canada has yet to decide how the marijuana will be packaged and distributed, said Brent Zettl, president of Prairie Plant Systems that grows the drug. (Source: Edmonton Sun of 10 January 2002)

Science: Birth weight
According to a study published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, cannabis use during pregnancy may result in decreased birth weight. About 5 percent of the 12,000 women included in the study admitted using cannabis before pregnancy, and a slightly smaller proportion said they used it while they were pregnant. Cannabis use accounted for a small average redution of birth weight by 90 grams in the study. (Source: BBC News of 7 January 2002)

Germany: Cannabis Campaign
A Cannabis Campaign was started by "akzept" (Federal Association for Accepting Drug Work and Human Drug Policy) in 2001. It aims at bringing together groups and people in support of decriminalisation of cannabis use and possession. (Source: www.DieCannabisKampagne.de/)

Science: Immune function
THC was shown to induce the production of the immunosuppressive cytokine TGF-beta by human peripheral blood lymphocytes. This ability of THC was blocked by a CB2 receptor antagonist but not by a CB1 specific antagonist. (Source: Gardner B, et al. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 2002 Jan 11;290(1):91-6)

Science: Pain
In an animal model for neuropathic pain the effect of nerve injury on cannabinoid receptor activation was investigated. Injury of a spinal nerve in rats resulted in functional changes, reducing the effects of a potent cannabinoid (HU-210). (Source: Chapman V. Neuropharmacology 2001 Dec;41(7):870-7)

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