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IACM-Bulletin of 29 February 2004

Canada: Proposals to make cannabis available in pharmacies

Medicinal marijuana may soon be available in pharmacies, according to proposals being examined by a variety of special interest groups in consultation with Health Canada. Officials from Health Canada on 18 February met with pharmacists, medical experts, police and medicinal cannabis users behind closed doors to discuss access to medicinal cannabis.

Ray Joubert, of the Saskatchewan College of Pharmacies, said that there was a lot of support for bringing marijuana into local pharmacies. "I think there's growing interest."

Richard Viau, an official of Health Canada, said findings from those meetings will be examined and a series of recommendations will be published later this year. He expects the proposals to land in cabinet for final approval by the end of this summer. After that, a pilot project to get marijuana distributed through pharmacies could begin.

However, the process of getting all Canadian pharmacies on board could take some wrangling because the provinces are responsible for health care. "If the pilot proved to be successful, then the provinces and territories would have to look at it and modify their legislation to allow for this to happen," he said. Viau said that as of early February, there were 710 registered medicinal marijuana users in Canada.

(Source: Calgary Herald of 19 February 2004)

USA: International conference on drug-impaired driving calls for zero tolerance

An international conference entiteled "Developing Global Strategies for Identifying, Prosecuting, and Treating Drug-Impaired Drivers" was held in Tampa, Florida on 23-24 February 2004 sponsored by The Walsh Group, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).

The conference was used to promote a zero tolerance strategy and "per se" laws that say that the presence of any illegal drug or drug metabolite in body fluid (blood, urine, saliva, sweat) is regarded as driving under the influence of a drug. This proposal was developed by a consensus group in 2002. It reads that "states should consider per se laws which prohibit driving, operating, or being in actual physical control of a motor vehicle when any amount of a drug is present as measured in blood, urine, saliva, or other bodily substance."

Since THC metabolites can be found in urine for many days or weeks after last consumption this proposal is not intended to increase road safety but to detect drug users. "America's experience with workplace drug testing has prepared us for drugged driving testing," former NIDA director Robert DuPont said at the conference. "We must move away from the concept of 'You can't drive impaired by drugs' to 'You can't drive on drugs at all'."

PDF of the 2002 consensus group:
www.walshgroup.org/FINAL%20CONSENSUS%20with%20inside%20cover%20text.pdf

(Sources: www.walshgroup.org, NORML of 26 February 2004)

News in brief

USA: No new court ruling
A federal appeals court in Californa has refused to reconsider its ruling that allows Californians to grow and use cannabis medicinally. The Bush administration had asked the court, for the Ninth Circuit, to hold a new hearing on that ruling, issued by three judges in December on a lawsuit filed by two women with chronic illnesses. But in an order of 26 Februay, the court denied the request. The ruling allows tens of thousands of people in California and six other Western states with laws that permit the medical use marijuana to continue it without fearing federal prosecution. (Source: New York Times of 27 February 2004)

Jamaica: Parliamentary committee for decriminalisation
The Parliamentary Committee considering the report of the National Commission on Ganja agreed on 17 February to support the decriminalisation of ganja for private personal use. It recommends, "that the relevant laws be amended so that the private, personal use of ganja be no longer an offence." The Ganja Commission, headed by Professor Barry Chevannes, had recommended in 2001 that the personal use of ganja be decriminalised. This report is available at:
www.cannabis-med.org/science/jamaica.htm. (Source: The Jamaica Gleaner of 18 February 2004)

Spain: Catalonia
The health ministry of the regional governement of Catalonia (capital: Barcelona) announced that it intends to make a cannabis extract available to patients, since "we cannot deny the possibility of the medical value of some cannabis extracts." Today, only the synthetic THC derivative nabilone, which is imported from the UK, is available in Spain. (Source: azprensa.com of 28 February 2004)

Science: Anti-inflammatory activity of CBD
Italian researchers of the University of Milan-Bicocca demonstrated that cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive constituent of cannabis, was effective in reducing acute carrageenan-induced inflammation in the rat paw. CBD reduced the levels of prostaglandin E2, the activity of cyclooxygenase and the production of nitric oxide and free radicals that were elevated after inflammation. Researchers concluded that "cannabidiol has a beneficial action on two symptoms of established inflammation: edema and hyperalgesia." Hyperalgesia denotes increased sensitivity for pain. (Source: Costa B, et al. Naunyn Schmiedebergs Arch Pharmacol 2004 [Electronic publication ahead of print])

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