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IACM-Bulletin of 21 January 2001

Belgium: Legalization of cannabis for personal use

Belgium's government effectively decriminalized the possession of cannabis for personal use on 19 January. The legislation is expected to be approved by parliament early this year.

Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt said a royal decree would be issued instructing prosecutors not to pursue people for possession. The production, supply, sale and ownership of larger quantities will remain actively prosecuted, as will the use of cannabis which leads to unsociable behaviour. "We are not penalizing individual users of cannabis, but we are concentrating on production, distribution or problematic use," he told reporters.

"The criminal judge won't interfere any more in lives of people who use cannabis on a personal basis and who do not create harm or do not become dependent," Health Minister Magda Alvoet said. The new regulations would bring Belgium in line with Italy, Spain and Portugal, which are all easing their regulations on the personal use of cannabis.

The new regulations treat cannabis on a par with alcohol and nicotine in terms of the health risks it poses. The royal decree which will formalize the announcement will not contain any indication of what quantities of cannabis are considered for personal use.

(Sources: AP of 19 January 2001, Reuters of 19 January 2001)

Science: Study shows vaporizers reduce toxins in cannabis smoke

Medical marijuana patients may be able to protect themselves from harmful toxins in marijuana smoke by inhaling their medicine using an electric vaporizer, according to initial results of a study by California NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) and MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies).

The study showed that it is possible to vaporize medically active THC by heating marijuana to a temperature short of the point of combustion, thereby eliminating or substantially reducing harmful toxins that are normally present in marijuana smoke.

The tested vaporizer produced THC at a temperature of 185° Celsius (365° Fahrenheit) while completely eliminating three measured toxins (benzene, toluene and naphthalene). Carbon monoxide and smoke tars were both qualitatively reduced by the vaporizer, but additional testing is needed to quantify the extent of the decrease.

Significant amounts of benzene began to appear at temperatures of 200° C (392° F), while combustion occurred around 230° C (446° F) or above. Traces of THC were in evidence as low as 140° C (284° F).

(Source: California NORML of 7 January 2001)

Science: Clinical trial with MS patients started in the UK

Participants in a clinical trial in Great Britain looking at the effects of cannabis on multiple sclerosis sufferers have been given their first dose of the drug. Twenty patients have begun the tests at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth.

The 20 patients are part of the initial stage of the three-year study. A third gets capsules containing cannabis OIL, another third gets THC, and the rest gets a placebo. The 20 MS sufferers will be closely monitored over the next three months before the study is rolled across the country to include 660 participants in 40 different centres.

The cannabis OIL is being produced in Switzerland especially for the trials. Participants will be started off on low doses, which will be gradually increased week by week.

(Source: PA News of 18 January 2001)

News in brief

Cameroon:
Cameroon, a major cannabis grower, is to allow people suffering from HIV/AIDS and cancer to use the drug. But the drug is to be imported from Canada. This decision of the government is being criticized by people who claim the drug should to be cultivated in Cameroon. The Health Ministry should supervise the cultivation and so control the amount grown and provided to the hospitals. But law enforcement officers believe the cultivation of cannabis that promotes uncontrolled consumption. (Source: BBC News of 8 January 2001)

USA:
Bills allowing for the medical use of marijuana have been introduced in the House of Representatives in the states of Texas and Connecticut. Bill 513 in Texas would protect against prosecution for the use of marijuana for patients who have a recommendation from a licensed physician. Bill 5666 of Connecticut would establish a state registry of patients with a doctor's recommendation. (Source: NORML of 18. January 2001)

Science:
On 10 January Pharmos Corporation announced that its clinical phase III trial of dexanabinol for severe traumatic brain injury has commenced in EURope. Approximately 40 centres in EURope and 30 in the U.S. are expected to participate in the study. EURopean countries participating in the study include Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Belgium and the U.K., along with Israel. The Company expects total study enrolment of about 860 patients. Dexanabinol is a non-psychotropic derivative of THC. (Source: PR Newswire of 10 January 2001)

USA:
Nevada state officials try to limit a voter-endorsed initiative in November 2000 allowing use of marijuana by cancer, AIDS and glaucoma victims. According to the voters decision the legislature has to set up a distribution method so people with such medical conditions can use marijuana therapeutically. But a task force of medical experts instead recommended a research program to permit limited marijuana distribution and avoid a confrontation with the federal government's anti-marijuana laws. (Source: Associated Press of 11 January 2001)

USA:
The DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) has now officially announced that it intends to ban most HEMP products in the United States, including food made from sterile (non-psychoactive) HEMP seeds and HEMP-based personal-care products such as shampoo. More at: www.SaveHEMP.org. (Source: Coalition to Save HEMP)

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