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IACM-Bulletin of 02 February 2003

Holland: Soon licenses for cultivation of medical cannabis

A change of the Dutch law on controlled substances (Opium Act) will take effect on 17 March 2003. It includes regulations for applications regarding the cultivation of cannabis for medicinal purposes and guidelines for cultivating cannabis.

Applications for an Opium Act exemption regarding cannabis will be handled by the Office of Medicinal Cannabis (BMC) of the Health Ministry. All cannabis cultivated by applicants has to be sold to the BMC. According to the regulations for opium act licences the task of the BMC is two-fold: "On the one hand, BMC must research or arrange for research regarding whether cannabis or cannabis products may be used as medicines; on the other hand, BMC must provide pharmacies in the course of 2003 with medicinal cannabis, so that patients can obtain this with a doctor's prescription."

The guidelines for cannabis cultivation have been derived from the general rules for Good Agricultural Practice of the Working Group on Herbal Medicinal Products of the EURopean Medicines Evaluation Agency (EMEA). They describe requirements for cultivation, harvesting and primary processing, ensuring that the cannabis is produced under conditions that ensure that the therapeutic properties of the end product are constant and reproducible.

An application form for an Opium Act exemption regarding cannabis may be obtained from the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, Office of Medicinal Cannabis, The Hague.

(Source: Willem Scholten, Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports, Office of Medicinal Cannabis of the Directorate of Pharmaceutical Affairs and Medical Technology)

News in brief

USA: : Bills for medical use
Bills to legalize the use of cannabis for medicinal use have been introduced in Connecticut, New Mexico, Vermont and Wyoming. In several other states they are expected to be introduced this year, among them Maryland, Missouri, New York and Wisconsin. In Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich (Republican) has publicly expressed in recent days that he would sign a medical marijuana bill. (Sources: Associated Press of 22 January 2003, Arbutus Times of 29 January 2003, NORML of 30 January 2003)

USA: Ed Rosenthal found guilty
On 31 January 2003 a federal jury found the author of marijuana books, Ed Rosenthal, guilty of marijuana cultivation and conspiracy. Under mandatory sentencing laws, Mr. Rosenthal faces a minimum of five years in prison. Rosenthal admitted to growing the plants for distribution under California's medicinal marijuana law. His lawyers said they would prepare motions for a new trial immediately. (Source: New York Times of 31 January 2003)

Science: Dystonia study
A study that investigates the efficacy of THC in patients with generalised dystonia is planned to start in April at the Medical School of Hannover under the guidance of Dr. Kirsten Mueller-Vahl. 24 patients will be included in this double-blind parallel study. (Source: Personal communication by Kirsten Mueller-Vahl)

Science: History of cannabis laws
A researcher at the University of Edinburgh, UK, analysed how cannabis came to be subject to international narcotics legislation. He writes: "Although cannabis (Indian hemp) was not on the agenda of the Second Opium Conference [in 1925], a claim by the Egyptian delegation that it was as dangerous as opium, and should therefore be subject to the same international controls, was supported by several other countries. No formal evidence was produced and conference delegates had not been briefed about cannabis. The only objections came from Britain and other colonial powers. They did not dispute the claim that cannabis was comparable to opium, but they did want to avoid a commitment to eliminating its use in their Asian and African territories." (Source: Kendell R. Addiction 2003 Feb;98(2):143-51)

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