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IACM-Bulletin of 22 December 2002

Canada: Parliamentary committee urges to lax cannabis laws

A parliamentary committee urged the Canadian government on 12 December to relax its laws on possession of marijuana, an idea that Washington's drugs commissioner immediately branded as dangerous.

The special committee on the non-medical use of drugs said in a report that marijuana should be decriminalized, but not legalized. This means people possessing and cultivating cannabis in amounts less than 30 grams would be fined if caught, rather than getting a criminal record as at present. The report supports the intention of Justice Minister Martin Cauchon, who said he planned to introduce legislation early next year to decriminalize marijuana.

"We concluded that the possession of marijuana should remain illegal and trafficking in any amount of cannabis should remain a crime," committee chairwoman Paddy Torsney told a news conference. "Smoking any amount of marijuana is unhealthy but the consequences of conviction of a small amount of marijuana for personal use are disproportionate to the potential harm," she said.

But in the United States, officials condemned the idea that cannabis was not particularly dangerous. John Walters, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said the recommendations would lead to greater use of marijuana and other drugs, and if Canadian laws were relaxed the United States might have to increase security at the two nations' shared border to prevent trafficking.

The report is available at:
www.parl.gc.ca/InfoComDoc/37/2/SNUD/Studies/Reports/snudrp02-e.htm.

(Source: Reuters of 12 December 2002)

USA: Support for founders of cannabis club by City Council of Santa Cruz

Valerie and Michael Corral, founders of the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana, were unanimously deputized on 10 December by the City Council of Santa Cruz (California). They now have the authority to cultivate, distribute and possess medical marijuana under the city's ordinance.

Council members hope this will increase legal protections for the couple, who are wary of future prosecution. They were arrested and 130 of their plants were confiscated in a federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raid in September. "It's essentially a show of support for their professionalism and the really conscientious controlled system they've developed," said Councilwoman Cynthia Mathews.

"I don't know what kind of deputization they were given but that does not change the fact that it's illegal," said DEA spokesman Richard Meyer. "No one has a blank check to distribute marijuana."

(Source: Associated Press of 11 December 2002)

News in brief

Canada: Cannabis by internet
A Quebec judge ended a drug trafficking trial on 19 December, dropping all charges against two activists, Marc-Boris Saint-Maurice and Alexandre Neron, who dispensed the drug for medical use at a Montreal Compassion Club. Judge Gilles Cadieux said the absence of a legal source of marijuana for people who are allowed to use medical cannabis takes away their right to life and liberty. Shortly after the ruling the Marijuana Party started a web site to sell cannabis for patients over the internet at >www.marijuanahomedelivery.ca<. (Sources: Globe and Mail of 19 December 2002, Reuters of 19 December 2002)

Germany: Federal Drugs Commissioner
In an interview the Federal Drugs Commissioner Marion Caspers-Merk called for a reorganization of criminal persecution of cannabis possession. The practice of law should be unified according to the Dutch model. "We have to see that the most liberal country in EURope, the Netherlands, delivers five grams without punishment. I think the order of magnitude is right, but the coffee shops are wrong." At the same time the drugs commissioner warned against a belittlement of cannabis use. (Source: Dpa of 7 December 2002)

Science: Inflammation
THC was shown to modulate the immune response of T lymphocytes. It suppressed the proliferation of T cells and changed the balance of T helper 1 (Th1) and T helper 2 (Th2) cytokines. It decreased the pro-inflammatory Th1 reaction (e.g. the production of interferon-gamma) and increased the Th2 reaction. This may explain why THC is effective against inflammation with a strong Th1 reaction, e.g. in multiple sclerosis, CROHN's disease and arthritis. (Source: Yuan M, et al. J Neuroimmunol 2002 Dec;133(1-2):124-131)

Science: Vomiting
It is known that 5-HT3 antagonists are potent antiemetic drugs, and there are hints from clinical studies in children and experimental research that cannabinoids exert their antiemetic properties at least in part not by cannabinoid receptors. This new research shows that cannabinoids (among them delta-9-THC and anandamide) inhibited currents induced by 5-hydroxytryptamine (serotonin) in cells through 5-HT3A receptors independently of cannabinoid receptors. Authors conclude that this observation may be interesting for the development of new analgesic and antiemetic drugs. (Source: Barann M, et al. Br J Pharmacol 2002 Nov;137(5):589-96)

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