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IACM-Bulletin of 16 March 2003

Canada: Survey on cannabis use among pain patients

A questionnaire survey was conducted among patients with chronic non-cancer pain at the McGill University Health Center in Montreal to estimate their dose size and frequency of cannabis use. 209 patients were recruited in an anonymous survey. 32 (15%) subjects reported having used cannabis for pain relief, and 20 (10%) subjects were currently using cannabis for pain relief. 18% reported using it recreationally.

The largest group of patients using cannabis had pain caused by trauma and/or surgery (51%). Of the 32 subjects who used cannabis for pain, 53% used four puffs or less at each dosing interval, 25% smoked a whole cannabis cigarette and 12% smoked more than one cigarette. 22% of these 32 subjects used cannabis more than once daily, 16% used it daily, 25% used it weekly and 28% used it rarely.

Pain, sleep and mood were most frequently reported as improving with cannabis use. Psychological effects and dry mouth were the most commonly reported side effects.

(Source: Ware MA, Doyle CR, Woods R, Lynch ME, Clark AJ. Cannabis use for chronic non-cancer pain: results of a prospective survey. Pain 2003;102(1-2):211-216)

USA: Federal courts may prosecute patients who are allowed to use medical cannabis under state law

A federal judge has refused to block the U.S. government from potentially prosecuting two women whose doctors say marijuana is their only effective medicine. In the first case of its kind, two California medical cannabis users sued Attorney General John Ashcroft, seeking a court order allowing them to use, grow or obtain marijuana without threat or fear of federal prosecution.

The case underscores the conflict between California's medical marijuana law, which allows people to grow, smoke or obtain marijuana for medical needs, and the federal government's refusal to respect these state laws.

One of the ill women seeking the court order against the government was Angel Raich, a 37-year-old Oakland woman suffering from a variety of ailments, including scoliosis, a brain tumour, chronic nausea, fatigue and pain. She and her doctor say cannabis is the only medicine that reduces her pain and keeps her eating to stay alive.

U.S. District Judge Martin Jenkins said he was sympathetic to the women's demand, but ruled federal law and the Food and Drug Administration, which does not recognize marijuana as a lawful drug, handcuffed him from issuing the injunction against the Justice Department.

(Source: Sarasota Herald-Tribune of 10 March 2003)

USA: Medical marijuana bill supported by the Senate of Vermont

Senators voted on 13 March to make Vermont the ninth state in the country to legalize using marijuana to treat pain and other symptoms of serious diseases. However, the bill still needs to pass the House of Representatives and Governor James Douglas said that he did not like the bill, although he refused to say he would veto it.

To qualify for an exemption from marijuana laws, someone would have to be suffering from cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, HIV, AIDS or a disease that produce ''severe, persistent and intractable symptoms,'' such as nausea or pain.

Currently, Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington have laws allowing the medical use of marijuana. Medical marijuana legislation is pending in several other states, including Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, and Rhode Island. In Arkansas, New Mexico and Missoula medical marijuana bills were blocked by legislators in recent weeks.

(Sources: Associated Press of 12 and 13 March 2003, Albuquerque Tribune of 7 March 2003)

News in brief

Holland: Licences for the cultivation of cannabis
A change of the Dutch law on controlled substances (Opium Act) takes effect in March (see: IACM-Bulletin of 2 February 2003). It includes regulations for applications regarding the cultivation of cannabis for medicinal purposes and guidelines for cultivating cannabis. Cannabis shall be available in the pharmacies in September 2003. The laws and regulations are available online at:
www.cannabis-med.org/dutch/regulations.htm

Science: Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics
The new issue of the Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics, issue 3(1), has been published, with articles by Dr. Franjo Grotenhermen on the pharmacokinetics of cannabinoids and Dr. Dale Gieringer on the acceptance of medicinal marijuana in the US as well as an interview with Markus Storz. Please find the abstracts at >www.cannabis-med.org/science/jcant.htm<.

Tahiti: Acquittal
The French newspaper Liberation reported recently that on 27 June 2002 a 55 year old man who used cannabis medicinally was acquitted by an appeals court in the capital Papeete, after being sentenced to 6 months in prison by a lower court before. He suffered from spinal cord injury from an accident and grew his own cannabis. Judge Brieuc de Mordant de Massiac based his ruling on article 122-7 of the penal code which says that a person that is “executing an action due to an acute danger that is necessary for the protection of the person” shall not be punished. Tahiti is the largest island of the French overseas territory French Polynesia in the Pacific Ocean. (Source: Liberation of 3 March 2003)

Canada/USA: Steve Kubby’s hearing
An American man who says he was persecuted in the U.S. for using medical marijuana began presenting his case at a refugee hearing in Vancouver on 5 March. Steve Kubby has been living in Canada for more than a year. He suffers from adrenal cancer and says he has to smoke marijuana several times a day to prevent blood pressure spikes, rapid heart beat and other problems. Police raided Kubby's home in California in January 1999 and found hundreds of cannabis plants. He fled to Canada to avoid prison. After Canadian immigration officials attempted to deport Kubby, he filed for refugee status. (Source: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation of 5 March 2003)

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