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IACM-Bulletin of 29 September 2002

Science: Cannabinoids inhibit mechanisms that result in Alzheimer's disease

Dr Nathaniel Milton of London's Royal Free and University College medical school found that cannabinoids were able to protect nerve cells from the toxicity of amyloid-beta. This could help to prevent the development of Alzheimer's disease.

The brain of an Alzheimer's sufferer contains abnormal deposits called "plaques" and "tangles". Associated with these deposits are proteins called amyloid-beta protein and tau protein. Increased brain levels of amyloid-beta are supposed to result in aggregation of this protein to form plaques which cause nerve damage.

In his research to be published in the journal Neuroscience Letters, and which Milton will also present at a conference on neurobiology of aging in Florida this October he reports that cannabinoids can stop amyloid-beta killing nerve cells. "My basic hypothesis," he says, "is that amyloid-beta is taken up into neurons, where it is phophorylated and kills them. It's this toxic action that cannabinoids prevent." Milton discovered this by incubating human nerve cells in culture, and then poisoning them with amyloid-beta. When he added cannabinoids, amyloid-beta was apparently no longer toxic.

Will we see in the future that cannabis users are immune to Alzheimer's disease? Milton says not, because his research shows not only the ability of cannabinoids to protect against brain cell death in Alzheimer's disease, but also that too much of them is toxic.

(Source: The Guardian Unlimited of 26 September 2002)

USA: Protests supported by city officials of Santa Cruz

Medical marijuana advocates - joined by city leaders of Santa Cruz (California) - passed out cannabis to about a dozen sick people at City Hall on 17 September. "Santa Cruz is a special place, and today we're letting the world know how compassionate we can be," Mayor Christopher Krohn said.

More than 1,000 community members jammed into the garden-like courtyard for a supportive demonstration during the giveaway to protest a recent U.S. government raid on a local cannabis growing cooperative. Californian cooperatives have been providing cannabis to patients since 1996, when Californian voters approved a medical marijuana initiative. But federal drug enforcement agents raided several such cooperatives.

The California law allowing the medical use of marijuana has always been in conflict with federal law. Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman Richard Meyer said he was appalled by the event, and feared the community is sending a dangerous message to its children.

(Sources: Reuters of 17 September 2002, AP of 17 September 2002, New York Times of 18 September 2002)

News in brief

Germany: Further liberalisation of cannabis laws?
The Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Greens will continue to form the federal government after the won election on 22 September. There may be a change in the resistance of the SPD against more liberal drugs laws as demanded by the Greens. In an internal paper the SPD dismisses complete legalisation of soft drugs but want to push ahead further decriminalisation of possession of small amounts. (Source: Dpa of 27 September 2002)

Science: Interaction of anti-inflammatory drugs and THC
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and indomethacin have been shown to decrease the analgesic effects of cannabinoids. Conversely chronic use of THC also decreases the efficacy of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs possibly by altering the cyclooxygenase system. (Source: Anikwue R, et al. J Pharmacol Exp Ther 2002 Oct;303(1):340-6)

USA: Washington D.C.
Efforts to legalize marijuana for medical purposes in the District of Columbia were blocked on 19 September when a federal appeals court overturned, without explanation, an earlier court ruling. The decision ends a 14-month campaign by the Marijuana Policy Project to put the marijuana initiative before the voters of Washington D.C. in November 2002 again. This is the second time that the measure has been blocked in the District. (Source: Washington Post of 20 September 2002)

UK: Mowlan says legalise drugs
Mo Mowlam is urging the British and US governments to fight the war on terrorism by legalising the international drugs trade rather than "bombing civilians in Muslim countries". Legalising drugs would cut off funding for terrorists and stop their practices, according to the former Cabinet minister who used to have responsibility for drugs policy. (Source: PA News of 18 September 2002)

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