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IACM-Bulletin of 01 September 2002

Canada: Confusion about plans of Health Minister

Health Minister Anne McLellan told the Canadian Medical Association on 19 August that she had "a certain degree of discomfort" with distributing the cannabis grown for the government program in an abandoned copper mine in Flin Flon, Manitoba, to patients. She said she wants to wait until scientific trials prove cannabis is safe before giving it to patients.

This led to assumptions that the government might significantly change their politics regarding the medical cannabis project. Trials have not begun and will take several years. Originally the cannabis grown in the mine was intended for clinical research and at the same time for the distribution to patients.

However, McLellan made it clear that the laws that allow people with certain medical conditions to apply for special exemptions that allow them to use cannabis to relieve their symptoms will stay in effect. "We have 855 of those people. More people continue to apply," McLellan said. These people may also apply for the right to cultivate cannabis for personal use.

(Sources: National Post of 29 August 2002, Toronto Star of 26 August 2002, Edmonton Sun of 21 August 2002)

Science: British survey on cannabis in multiple sclerosis

A survey of multiple sclerosis patients living in England found that 45 percent use cannabis either for relief of disabling leg spasms or to ease MS pain. The findings were presented at the 10th World Congress on Pain.

Neurologist Dr. M. Sam Chong of King's College Hospital, London, said the "use rate is actually higher than we expected." He said that about half of the patients started using cannabis only after MS was diagnosed. 74 percent either eliminated or controlled leg spasms while 54 percent said they used marijuana mainly for pain relief.

The 15-page surveys were mailed to 300 MS patients who are included in an MS patient database used by the neurology department and outpatient clinics. 258 questionaires were returned. He said that patients who reported more severe symptoms were more likely to use marijuana, than patients who had mild or moderate symptoms.

(Source: United Press International of 18 August 2002)

News in brief

Science: Pruritus/itching
Pruritus due to liver disease can be particularly difficult to treat and frequently is intractable to a variety of medical therapies. Three patients with intractable pruritus and significant decreases in their quality of life, including lack of sleep, depression, inability to work, and suicidal ideations, were administered THC (dronabinol). All patients were started on 5 mg of THC at bedtime. All 3 patients reported a decrease in pruritus and a marked improvement in sleep. The duration of antipruritic effect was approximately 4 to 6 hours. (Source: Neff GW, et al. Am J Gastroenterol 2002;97(8):2117-9)

USA: Mikuriya accused
Dr. Tod Mikuriya, a psychiatrist from Berkeley (California) and well-known supporter of the medical use of cannabis, who has sanctioned marijuana use by six thousand Californians in the past five years is being accused by the state Medical Board of "unprofessional conduct" in his handling of 18 cases. Not one of the 18 complaints was initiated by a patient, Mikuriya sais; all were sent to the Board by the police, sheriffs and drug agencies. (Source: Anderson Valley Advertiser of 14 August 2002)

Science: Pain
15 patients with chronic pain who indicated that they used cannabis therapeutically completed a questionnaire in Canada. The median frequency of use was four times per day (range: 1 to 16 times per day). Twelve patients reported improvement in pain and mood, while 11 reported improvement in sleep. Tolerance to cannabis was not reported. (Source: Ware MA, et al. Pain Res Manag 2002;7(2):95-9)

Germany: Majority against criminal sanctions
The majority of Germans object criminal prosecution of people who posses cannabis. According to a poll by Emnid 36.4 percent of the 1007 participants favoured the idea to handle cannabis possession similar to a traffic offence with a fine. 26.0 percent favoured legalisation of cannabis possession. 35.7 percent spoke out for the current mode of criminal sanctions. (Source: dpa)

Science: Addiction
The younger someone is when first trying marijuana, the more likely he or she is to become dependent on illegal drugs later in life, U.S. government researchers said on 28 August. The report, based on representative data (National Household Survey), found that 18 percent of adults who said they first tried pot before the age of 15 met the criteria for either dependence or abuse of alcohol or illicit drugs, compared to 2.1 percent of adults who said they had never used marijuana. (Source: Reuters of 28 August 2002)

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