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IACM-Bulletin of 13 April 2003

USA: Bill on "medical necessity defense" in House of Representatives

Some lawmakers have launched an effort that would allow defendants from states with legalized medical use of cannabis to use "medical necessity" as a defense against federal drug charges. The "Truth In Trials Act" introduced in the U.S. House on 10 April would give defendants accused of growing or distributing marijuana the right to inform juries that they were acting legally in their state.

Supporters of the bill touted the proposal as a way to protect the democratic process in states where voters or legislators approve measures backing the medical use of cannabis. The bill was motivated by the conviction of Ed Rosenthal who was found guilty in January of violating federal drug laws. The judge in his case prevented Rosenthal's attorney from informing the jury that the action was legal in that state (California).

The Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that "medical necessity" cannot be used as a valid defense against federal marijuana charges. The new bill would change a key part of the federal Controlled Substances Act to allow state laws to become a factor in federal drug cases.

Some Republicans have backed the bill on the grounds that it helps prevent the federal government from intruding on state laws. But it remained unclear on 10 April how many House members would support the bill.

(Sources: Reuters of 10 April 2003, Associated Press of 10 April 2003)

Science: Dexanabinol study in post-surgical cognitive impairment

Pharmos Corporation announced on 8 April it has begun a phase II safety study to determine the effectiveness of dexanabinol in reducing post-surgical cognitive impairment. This impairment is a condition that occurs in a significant percentage of patients undergoing coronary artery bypass surgery, and cognitive defects may persist in as many as 30%.

Dexanabinol is a derivative of THC, but does not bind to the cannabinoid-1-receptor, so it does not cause any psychic effects. Up to 200 patients will be enrolled in this new study in three medical centres in Israel. Dexanabinol is simultaneously tested as a neuroprotective treatment for traumatic brain injury in a multicenter Phase III study, patient enrollment for which is expected to be completed in 2003.

Clinical evidence of dexanabinol's therapeutic potential in preventing post-surgical cognitive impairment was demonstrated in a II trial on traumatic brain injury, completed in 2000. As an important secondary outcome oft this trial, patients treated with dexanabinol showed statistically significant improvement in cognition and orientation at three and six months after injury, compared to placebo.

(Source: PRNewswire of 8 April 2003)

News in brief

Science/UK: GW Pharmaceuticals
GW Pharmaceuticals said on 31 March it had submitted its first cannabis-based prescription medicine for approval by the Medicines Control Agency. A spokesman said the firm was still in talks with prospective marketing partners for the drug, which is sprayed into the mouth. A partner would be named during the first half of this year and UK approval of the drug was likely by the end of the year, the spokesman said. (Source: Reuters of 31 March 2003)

Science: Spasticity
A case report is presented. THC was effective in reducing spasticity and myocloni in a child suffering from neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis of the type Jansky-Bielschowsky. Lorenz R. Neuroendocrinol Lett 2002 Oct-Dec;23(5-6):387-90.

Science: Inflammation and pain
Researchers of GlaxoWellcome showed that the CB1 and the CB2 cannabinoid receptors are involved in the modulation of inflammatory pain. The cannabinoid HU210 acted anti-nociceptive and anti-inflammatory at the CB1 receptor and anti-inflammatory at the CB2 receptor. (Source: Clayton N, et al. Pain 2002 Apr;96(3):253-60)

Science: Allergies
In animal tests with mice THC and cannabinol (CBN) attenuated the increase of the interleukins IL-2, IL-4, IL-5, and IL-13 in reaction to sensitization with ovalbumin. In addition, the elevation of serum IgE and the mucus overproduction induced by ovalbumin was also markedly attenuated by the two cannabinoids. Authors conclude that their results suggest that cannabinoids "exhibit potential therapeutic utility in the treatment of allergic airway disease by inhibiting the expression of critical T cell cytokines and the associated inflammatory response." (Jan TR, et al. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol 2003 Apr 1;188(1):24-35)

Switzerland: Cannabis legal but more expensive
A commission of the Nationalrat (Swiss Lower House of Parliament) passed a bill that would change the narcotics act. Cannabis use is intended to become legal for private use by subjects above 16 years of age, but more expensive than today. A tax of 8 Swiss Francs (5.5 EURos) per gram with a THC content below 10% and 15 Francs (10 EURos) with a THC content between 10 and 15% is planned which is intended for use partly for addiction prevention purposes. The revision of the narcotics act will be discussed in the Nationalrat in May. (Source: SDA of 28 March 2003)

USA: Missouri
Voters in the town of Columbia, Missouri, rejected a proposition that would have allowed the medical use of the cannabis and reduced penalties for possession of the drug for recreational use. About 58 percent opposed Proposition 1 in the election of 8 April. The bill would have made Columbia the only place in Missouri where medical marijuana was declared legal for the seriously ill. (Source: Associated Press of 9 April 2003)

Jamaica: Legalisation expected
Attorney General Nicholson said on 29 March that legislation of cannabis for private use is now being prepared. He did not say when a bill will reach parliament, but stressed that decriminalising cannabis will be within a limited scope. "Yes, it will, for private use only," he told the Sunday Observer. Nearly two years ago, a National Ganja Commission, appointed by Prime Minister Patterson, recommended the decriminalisation of the drug. The report of the commission is available at: www.cannabis-med.org/science/jamaica.htm. (Source: The Jamaica Observer of 30 March 2003)

Science: Heart
Exogenous and endogenous cannabinoids that act on the CB1 receptor dose-dependently decreased contractile performance of the heart muscle. A CB1 receptor antagonist and indomethacin blocked these effects. (Source: Bonz A, et al. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol 2003 Apr;41(4):657-664)

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