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IACM-Bulletin of 05 January 2003

Canada: Cannabis laws no longer valid, judge ruled

The federal government’s failure to change its marijuana laws as ordered by an earlier court ruling caused a judge in Windsor, Ontario to drop a possession charge against a 16-year-old boy on 2 January. Judge Douglas Phillips ruled that Canada's law on possession of small amounts of cannabis is no longer valid.

In July 2000, the Ontario Court of Appeal struck down a federal law prohibiting the possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana. The court found in the case of epileptic Terry Parker of Toronto that the law violated the rights of sick people who use cannabis for medical reasons. The court gave the government a year to clarify its law on cannabis possession. The federal government responded with the Marijuana Medical Access Regulations, which went into effect 31 July 2001. The new rules allowed the use of marijuana for medical reasons, but they didn't address the issue of recreational use.

While the ruling involves only one case, it signals further momentum toward the possible decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana in Canada.

(Sources: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation of 2 January 2003, Canadian Press of 2 January 2003, Associated Press of 2 January 2003)

News in brief

USA: Connecticut and Maryland
The debate over the issue of medical marijuana is expected to again come up before the Connecticut legislature this coming session. Representative James Abrams will again propose legislation that would allow doctors to issue certificates recommending marijuana for their patients. A similar bill that gained strong support over the last three years in Maryland but was ultimately dismissed will be brought back in the next session by Senator David Brinkley. (Sources: Frederick News Post of 24 December 2002, Associated Press of 30 December 2002)

Austria: Acquittal
An AIDS patient from Marchtrenk in Upper-Austria who was convicted to two month in jail on probation by a lower court was acquitted by the district court of Wels. The judge ruled that the possibility for the man to treat symptoms of his disease was of greater relevance than the penalization of the possession of an illegal drug. (Source: Personal communication by Kurt Blaas, Austrian CAM)

USA: Application for a license to grow marijuana
On 16 December, two agents of the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) visited Prof. Lyle Craker of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. This is the first direct DEA response to Prof. Craker's application to the DEA for a license to grow marijuana for federally-approved research. The project of the University of Massachusetts is financed by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). The written response of the DEA is expected to be a rejection. (Source: Personal communication by Rick Doblin, MAPS)

Science: Inflammation and brain damage
Proinflammatory mediators such as TNF alpha (Tumour Necrosis Factor alpha) play an important role in inflammatory processes that cause brain damage. Cannabinoids were effective in reducing TNF alpha release by microglia, a special type of brain cells. This effect was not mediated by one of the known cannabinoid receptor types (CB1 and CB2), which suggests the existence of an unidentified cannabinoid receptor type in brain microglia. (Source: Facchinetti F, et al. Glia 2003 Jan 15;41(2):161-168)

Science: Neuropathic pain
Dronabinol (THC) was not effective in the treatment of neuropathic pain in a French pilot study with seven patients. Oral THC was titrated to the maximum dose of 25 mg/day (mean dose: 15 mg), during an average of 55 days. THC did not induce significant effect on pain, anxiety and depression. Side effects were observed in 5 patients out of 7, requiring premature discontinuation of treatment in 3 patients. (Source: Clermont-Gnamien S, et al. Presse Med 2002 Dec 7;31(39):1840-5)

Science: Interaction between THC and opioid antagonists
The opioid antagonist naltrexone increased the subjective effects of oral THC (15 and 30 mg) in heavy cannabis users. In earlier animal studies opioid antagonists had reduced several THC effects. (Source: Haney M, et al. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 2002 Dec 19)

Science: Tumour growth
The CB1 and the CB2 receptor are found in normal skin and skin tumours of mice and humans. Local administration of CB1 and CB2 receptor agonists induced a growth inhibition of malignant skin tumours in mice. (Source: Casanova ML, et al. J Clin Invest 2003 Jan 1;111(1):43-50)

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