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IACM-Bulletin of 15 September 2002

Canada: Senate Committee on Drugs recommends legaliaztion of cannabis

The Special Committee on Illegal Drugs set up by Canada's Senate unananimously recommended on 4 September that the government should legalize the use of cannabis, saying it should be sold on a regulated basis like alcohol.

"Essentially the committee recommends from now on that marijuana be legalized and available for restricted use, so Canadians can choose whether to consume it or not," said committee chairman Senator Pierre Claude Nolin. "In a free society such as ours it is up to each person to decide whether they want to use cannabis or not. We do not want to encourage this consumption any more than we encourage the consumption of alcohol," he added.

The committee concluded in a 600-page report that cannabis was not a so-called gateway drug and was in fact much less dangerous than alcohol. It says that the "prohibition of cannabis jeopardizes the health and well-being of Canadians much more than does the substance itself."

With regard to the medical benefits the Committee noted that there are "clear, though non-definitive indications of the therapeutic benefits of marijuana in the following conditions: analgesic in chronic pain, antispam for multiple sclerosis, anticonvulsive for epilepsy, antiemetic for chemotherapy and appetite stimulant for cachexi."

The reports of the Special Committee on Illegal Drugs are available at: www.parl.gc.ca/illegal-drugs.asp

(Sources: Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs. Cannabis: Our Position for a Canadian Public Policy. Senate of Canada. September 2002; Reuters of 4 September 2002; Associated Press of 4 September 2002)

USA: City plans to protest with distribution of cannabis

City leaders of Santa Cruz (California) plan to join medical marijuana users at a marijuana giveaway at City Hall next week, hoping to send a message to federal authorities that, in this town, medical marijuana is welcome.

The invitation comes one week after agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) arrested the owners of a cannabis farm, Valerie and Michael Corral, and confiscated 130 plants that had been grown to be used as medicine. "It's just absolutely loathsome to me that federal money, energy and staff time would be used to harass people like this,'' said vice mayor Emily Reilly, who with several City Council colleagues plans to pass out medical marijuana to sick people from the garden-like courtyard at City Hall on 17 September.

DEA spokesman Richard Meyer was not amused. "I'm shocked that city leaders would promote the use of marijuana that way," he said. "What is that saying to our youth?"

(Sources: Associated Press of 6 and 11 September 2002)

Canada: Clinical trials could take five years

Clinical trials with inhaled cannabis required by federal Health Minister Anne McLellan could take more than five years to complete, according to Dr. Mark Ware of McGill University in Montreal.

In July 2001, the university announced that Dr. Ware had received federal approval for Canada's first clinical study on marijuana and pain. The year-long study was to have begun at Montreal General Hospital in January. "We haven't actually started yet," Ware said on 11 September. A "series of requirements," including an import license to bring cannabis from the United States, have to be acquired, he said. The study would involve 32 patients suffering from chronic pain. More studies would follow.

(Source: Montreal Gazette of 12 September 2002)

News in brief

Science: Pain
Researchers at the McGill University Health Center in Montreal (Canada) presented a case report, a "dramatic response to inahaled cannabis in a woman with central thalamic pain and dystonia." The woman suffered from severe pain and hemiplegic dystonia for more then ten years. Several brain operations have been conducted. Numerous additional treatments including opiates have also been unsuccessful. Smoking cannabis resulted in complete pain relief. Despite aprupt cessation of chronic high-dose of morphine therapy the woman also reported of no opioid withdrawal with cannabis use. (Source: Chatterjee A, et al. J Pain Symptom Manage 2002;24(1):4-6)

USA: Symposium
A symposium on Cannabinoids in Pain Management will be held on 28 September in Reno (Nevada) as part of the 13th Annual Clincial Meeting of the American Academy of Pain Management. Speakers will be Philip Robson, John McPartland, Ethan Russo, Mark Ware, William Notcutt, Petra Makela, and Igor Grant. (Source: www.aapainmanage.org)

Science: Effects on bladder and uterus
Researchers noted contrasting effects of a synthetic cannabinoid on motility of the rat bladder and uterus. The cannabinoid reduced the motility of the bladder while it increased the motility of the uterus, both probably through activation of CB1 receptors. (Dmitrieva N, Berkley KJ. J Neurosci 2002;22(16):7147-53)

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