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IACM-Bulletin of 25 April 2004

USA: Judge ordered federal government to leave medical cannabis centre alone

A federal judge ordered the federal government on 21 April not to raid or prosecute a California group that grows and distributes marijuana for its sick members. The decision, by Judge Jeremy Fogel of Federal District Court in San Jose, was the first interpretation of an appeals court's ruling in December 2003 that federal prosecutions of medical cannabis users were unconstitutional if the cannabis was not sold, transported across state lines or if it was used for medicinal purposes.

Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington State have laws similar to California's statute, which has been the focus of federal drug interdiction efforts. Agents have raided and shut down several clubs that grow medical marijuana. Judge Fogel ruled that the government could not raid or prosecute the 250 members of the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana. The group asked Judge Fogel to issue the injunction after the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ordered the federal government in December not to prosecute a sick Oakland woman who smoked cannabis with a doctor's recommendation.

The court of appeals decided that it was unconstitutional to use the 1970 federal law to prosecute sick people with medical recommendations in states with medical marijuana laws. "The intrastate, noncommercial cultivation, possession and use of marijuana for personal medical purposes on the advice of a physician is, in fact, different in kind from drug trafficking," Judge Harry Pregerson wrote for the court.

That decision was a blow to the Justice Department, which argued that state medical marijuana laws were trumped by the federal Controlled Substances Act, which outlaws marijuana, heroin and other drugs nationwide. The department appealed that Ninth Circuit decision on 20 April to the Supreme Court.

(Sources: Associated Press of 21 April 2004, New York Times of 22 April 2004, Los Angeles Times of 22 April 2004)

News in brief

Science: Pain
The results of 34 single case studies in patients with chronic pain and associated symptoms who received standardized cannabis extracts were presented. Three extracts (rich in THC, rich in Cannabidiol (CBD) and a 1 : 1 mixture of them both) were given over a 12-week period. Extracts which contained THC proved most effective in relieving symptoms. They were generally well tolerated. (Notcutt W, et al. Anaesthesia 2004 May;59(5):440-52)

Science: Inflammation of the large intestine
Many patients with chronic bowel inflammation (e.g. Crohn's disease) report that their condition improves with cannabis. Basic research of scientists of the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich, Germany, supports this experience. It demonstrates that the cannabinoid system plays an important role in inflammation of the large intestine (colon). A synthetic cannabinoid and endocannabinoids prevented experimental inflammation of the colon in mice. Authors write that "the endogenous cannabinoid system represents a promising therapeutic target for the treatment of intestinal disease conditions characterized by excessive inflammatory responses." (Source: Massa F, et al. J Clin Invest 2004;113(8):1202-9.)

USA: Oregon
There are now about 9,000 registered medical cannabis patients in Oregon, with recommendations issued by about 1,300 doctors. More than 75 per cent of patients use cannabis to treat pain. More information at: www.dhs.state.or.us/publichealth/mm/data.cfm

Switzerland: Police officers for decriminalisation
In a press release the Association of Swiss Police Officers (Verband Schweizerischer Polizei Beamter) asked the National Council (Swiss Lower House of Parliament) to support the reform of the narcotics act approved by the Council of States (Upper House of Parliament), that would decriminalize cannabis. The association demanded a "speedy and courageous handling" of the measure and opposed "aggressive publications in the media on addiction and drug issues" intended to persuade the public "that the Swiss drug policy was a failure, that there was a need of more repression even against users." (Source: www.vspb.org)

Science: Tremor
A British group conducted a placebo controlled study with a standardized oral cannabis extract in 14 patients with multiple sclerosis who suffered from tremor. There was no significant objective improvement in tremor with the cannabis extract compared to placebo. However, there was a non-significant trend for subjective improvement. (Source: Fox P, et al. Neurology 2004;62(7):1105-9.)

Science: Inhalation of THC aerosol
The pharmacokinetic properties of pulmonal THC administered as a liquid aerosol were compared to intravenous THC in eight healthy subjects. The bioavailability of the inhaled THC was 29 percent on average (standard deviation: 8 percent). (Source: Naef M, et al. J Pharm Sci 2004;93(5):1176-84.).

Science: Skin patch
Results of a study carried out in order to develop a therapeutic skin patch for delta-8-THC were presented. In permeability studies of THC in human skin a mean steady-state level of 4.4 ng/ml in blood plasma was reached within 1.4 hours and was maintained for at least 48 hours. (Source: Valiveti S, et al. J Pharm Sci 2004;93(5):1154-64.)

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