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IACM-Bulletin of 12 May 2002

Canada/USA: U.S. authorities refused to provide Canada access to cannabis seeds

Last year U.S. drug-enforcement authorities refused to provide the Canadian government access to their research-quality supply of marijuana seeds, it emerged on 7 May for the first time. A Canadian cannabis program was intended both for research reasons and to allow patients access to legal cannabis. Former health minister Allan Rock announced details of the program in April 2001, saying the marijuana was supposed to be available by January 2002.

But now it emerged at a committee meeting that U.S. authorities refused last year to supply Canada with seeds from the U.S. National Institute of Drug Abuse. The U.S. decision wasn't announced at that time, nor was it mentioned by Rock. That left Health Canada to use seeds police had confiscated, which have produced cannabis containing at least 185 different varieties. It will take some time now to establish a standardized supply of cannabis that is eligible for research.

"We remain committed to ensuring that eligible Canadians have access to a standardized supply of research-grade marijuana for medical purposes," Anne McLellan, the new health minister, told the Commons health committee. "While our policy has not changed, our time lines have."

(Sources: The Canadian Press of 7 May 2002, Ottawa Citizen of 8 May 2002)

USA: Medical cannabis club has no right to distribute the drug, federal judge says

A federal judge ruled on 3 May that the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative (California) has no constitutional right to distribute cannabis to the sick. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that the group had no right to sell marijuana to patients under California's 1996 voter-approved medical marijuana law.

The cooperative had sought to reopen the 5-year-old case under new legal arguments, but U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer rejected them at the government's urging. "With or without medical authorization, the distribution of marijuana is illegal under federal law," Breyer wrote.

Robert Raich, the club's attorney, said he would appeal the decision to the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

(Source: Associated Press of 3 May 2002)

Science: Dexanabinol effective in brain trauma

All six Israeli neurosurgical intensive care units were involved in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study to evaluate the safety of intravenous dexanabinol in severe head injury. 67 patients aged 16-65 years received a single administration of dexanabinol (48 or 150 mg) or only the vehicle.

A highly significant reduction in the percentage of time with pressure within the head of above 25 mmHg, perfusion pressure within the brain of below 50 mmHg, and systolic blood pressure of below 90 mm Hg was observed in the drug-treated group. A trend toward faster and better neurological outcome on the Glasgow outcome scale at 3 and 6 months was also observed.

The nature and incidence of adverse medical events were similar in the two groups. Dexanabinol is a non-psychotropic THC-derivative with neuroprotective properties.

(Source: Knoller N, et al. Dexanabinol (HU-211) in the treatment of severe closed head injury: A randomized, placebo-controlled, phase II clinical trial. Crit Care Med 2002;30(3):548-554)

Canada: Negative health effects of cannabis are weak, a Senate committee says

The Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs is planning to hold a series of public hearings across the country in May and June to ask Canadians if they think the government should decriminalize marijuana, says a report released on 2 May.

After studying the effects of cannabis use for 14 months, the committee said scientific evidence suggests that marijuana "may have some negative effects on the health of individuals," but that these effects would be "relatively benign" and that it is no gateway drug to the use of hard drugs. Only approximately 10 percent of the users would become chronic users and 5 to 10 percent would become addicted.

A final report will be released in August. The preliminary report is available at the web site of the parliament:
www.parl.gc.ca/illegal-drugs.asp.

(Source: Xinhua News Agency of 2 May 2002)

News in brief

Germany: Bionorica manufactures dronabinol
On 3 May the phytopharmaceutical company Bionorica announced that it manufactures dronabinol (THC) that is available from now on for pharmacists to produce dronabinol based medicines. Bionorica is the second manufacturer of dronabinol in Germany. The Frankfurt firm THC Pharm manufactures dronabinol since 1998. (Source: Press conference of 3 May 2002)

Italy: Northern region back medical cannabis
The council of Italy's northern region of Lombardy approved on 30 April a motion in favour of cannabis-based medicines, asking the Italian government and the parliament "to regulate the medical use of cannabis and its derivatives." (Source: Reuters of 1 May 2002)

World: Million Marijuana March
About 160 cities in more than 30 countries participated in this year's Million Marijuana March on 4 May. (Source: PA News of 4 May 2002)

Science: Teenage use of drugs
A caring mother is the single most important factor in preventing teenagers from abusing illegal drugs and alcohol. This is the result of a survey among 4000 pupils aged 14-15 years from cities in England, Ireland, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands. (Source: McArdle P, et al. Addiction 2002 Mar;97(3):329-36)

USA: Hunger strike in Montana
A 45-year-old woman from Missoula is on a hunger strike since 20 April protesting her inability to have legal access to cannabis in Montana to treat her immunological disorder. Her illness does not have a name. Robin Prosser cannot go out in the sun anymore and suffers from symptoms similar to multiple sclerosis. (Source: Missoula Independent of 9 May 2002)

Science: Huntington's disease
In an animal model of Huntington's disease the administration of an endocannabinoid uptake inhibitor (AM404) reduced motor hyperactivity. Huntington's disease results from genetically determined degeneration of nerve cells in the brain, which causes uncontrolled movements and emotional disturbance. (Source: Lastres-Becker I, et al. Synapse 2002 Apr;44(1):23-35)

Science: Effects on cytochrome P450 enzymes
Blood plasma levels of the antipsychotic medications clozapine and olanzapine are lower in smokers of tobacco and cannabis than in non-smokers, which is mainly due to induction of CYP1A2, an enzyme of the cytochrome P450 complex, by some smoke constituents. Cessation of smoking may result in an unexpected increase of plasma levels and stronger effects. The clinical implication of these observations is that smoking patients treated with medication, that use CYP1A2 for metabolism, should be monitored with regard to their smoking consumption in order to adjust doses. (Source: Zullino DF, et al. Int Clin Psychopharmacol 2002;17(3):141-143)

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