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IACM-Bulletin of 30 March 2003

IACM: Second call for papers - IACM 2nd Conference on Cannabinoids in Medicine

The International Association for Cannabis as Medicine in cooperation with the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy of the University of Cologne and the Department of Anaesthesiology of the University of Cologne invite to a conference on Cannabis and Cannabinoids in Medicine on 11-13 September 2003 in Cologne, Germany.

Among the speakers will be Donald Abrams, Rudolf Brenneisen, Franjo Grotenhermen Ester Fride, Raphael Mechoulam, Rik Musty, William Notcutt, Ethan Russo, Willem Scholten, Jens Wagner and many others.

Please submit your abstract to info@cannabis-med.org.
For more information visit www.Cologne2003.org.
Participants whose abstract has been accepted will have free accommodation during the congress in a four stars hotel near the meeting place.

It is intended to bring together scientists, clinicians, and physicians to share their knowledge and experience. We would also like to invite medicinal users of cannabis to present their experience at the workshops on neurology and pain. Please contact us at info@cannabis-med.org.

Belgium: Legalisation of cannabis for personal use

On 27 March lawmakers voted to make it legal for adults to possess small amounts of cannabis, although sale of the drug will remain illegal. A 30-19 vote in the Senate followed a similar approval in February by the House of Representatives.

The new law will allow adults to possess up to 5 grams of cannabis for personal use, so long as they don't smoke it in front of children or teen-agers or end up disturbing the peace in the process.

In January 2001 the Belgium government already issued a royal decree that instructed prosecutors not to pursue people for simple possession of cannabis, but the decree did not contain any indication of what quantities of cannabis were considered for personal use.

(Source: Associated Press of 28 March 2003)

Holland: Doctors may prescribe cannabis

According to a law that took effect on 17 March pharmacies may deliver cannabis and patients can get the cost covered by insurance. "The health minister said, look, doctors are prescribing marijuana to their patients anyway, and there are many medicinal users, so we may as well regulate it," said Bas Kuik, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health.

The government will license several official growers later this year. In the meantime, pharmacies will have to decide for themselves where to get the cannabis, Kuik says. Many pharmacies use marijuana distributed by Maripharm. Pharmacies typically leave it up to patients whether they want to smoke the weed or make tea from it, but Kuik said smoke-free "inhalers" are also under development.

The new laws and regulations are available online on the IACM web site at:
www.cannabis-med.org/dutch/regulations.htm

(Sources: Associated Press of 17 March 2003, Willem Scholten, Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports)

USA: Reduction of criminal penalties for medical cannabis users expected in Maryland

The state Senate of Maryland approved legislation on 26 March to substantially reduce criminal penalties for seriously ill people who use cannabis medicinally. The House of Representatives has approved a similar measure earlier. Governor Robert Ehrlich still has to sign the law.

Supporters believe they have an excellent chance of getting the bill signed by Ehrlich. When he served in Congress, Ehrlich supported the medical use of marijuana use and continues to say that he supports the concept, although he has not taken a position on this particular bill.

The Senate bill would set a maximum fine of 100 US dollars and no jail time for defendants who can convince a judge they need to smoke marijuana for medical reasons. Under current law, simple possession or use of cannabis can bring penalties of up to a year in prison or a 1,000 dollars fine.

(Sources: Associated Press of 17 and 26 March 2003, Washington Times of 27 March 2003)

News in brief

UK: Medical cannabis available this year
Cannabis-based prescription medicines will be available in pharmacies this year minister Bob Ainsworth revealed on 21 March. GW Pharmaceuticals, which was licensed by the Home Office to carry out clinical research trials on cannabis, has submitted "an extremely positive" report to the medicines control agency. "We could be in a situation where we are able to make cannabis-derived medicines available before the end of the year," Mr Ainsworth told members of parliament. (Source: The Guardian of 22 March 2003)

Science: Heroin addiction and methadone treatment
Many heroin addicts say that cannabis use helps them to avoid relapse. In two studies the effects of cannabis use on the treatment of opiate addiction were investigated. In one study cannabis use did not predict relapse to heroin use or impairments in psychosocial functioning in heroin-abstinent patients. In another study methadone treatment outcomes were mainly unaffected by cannabis use. (Sources: Epstein DH, Preston KL. Addiction 2003 Mar;98(3):269-79; Seivewright N. Addiction 2003 Mar;98(3):251-2)

Science: Cognitive performance in early users
Cannabis users who started their use before the age of 17 presented with poorer cognitive performance, especially verbal intelligence quotient (VIQ), compared to users who started later or non-users. According to authors possible reasons for this difference may be (1) innate differences between groups in cognitive ability, antedating first cannabis use; (2) a neurotoxic effect of cannabis on the developing brain; or (3) poorer learning of conventional cognitive skills by young cannabis users who have eschewed school and university. (Source: Pope HG, et al. Drug Alcohol Depend 2003 Apr 1;69(3):303-10)

Science: Pregnancy
A new study in rats suggests that prenatal exposure to marijuana may affect offsprings' behaviour and memory, Italian researchers announced on 24 March. The findings will be published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Vincenzo Cuomo and colleagues team injected pregnant rats with a synthetic cannabinoid. Among the exposed rats born to exposed mothers, the researchers identified memory and behavioural problems. (Source: Reuters Health of 24 March 2003)

Science: Alcohol addiction and the cannabinoid receptor
Researchers of the University of Bonn, Germany, have demonstrated in animal tests that the CB1 receptor plays a critical role in alcohol dependence. Genetically altered mice without the CB1 receptor did not show any alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Authors assume that CB1 receptor antagonists may be used in the treatment of alcohol addiction. (Source: Racz I, et al. J Neurosci 2003 Mar 15;23(6):2453-8)

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