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IACM-Bulletin of 04 September 2005

USA: NIDA rejects a study with vaporized cannabis

A scientific protocol to investigate the types of emissions produced by cannabis vaporization has been rejected by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) after an 18 month regulatory delay. In it's letter rejecting the protocol, NIDA claimed that the study would "not add to the scientific knowledge base in a significant way."

The protocol, submitted to NIDA in February 2004 on behalf of Chemic Laboratories in Massachusetts, sought to purchase 10 grams of marijuana from the agency so that researchers could conduct a chemical assessment of the cannabis vaporization process. Because NIDA controls the only legal supplies of cannabis in the U.S., its refusal effectively prevents the vaporizer study from proceeding. The vaporization study is aimed at developing a smokeless delivery system for medical marijuana patients.

In 1999 a review of marijuana and health by the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine moved the government to conduct research into non-smoked, rapid-onset delivery systems for cannabis, because studies have shown vaporization to suppress respiratory toxins by heating cannabis to a temperature where cannabinoid vapors form (typically around 180-190 degrees Celsius), but below the point of combustion where noxious smoke and associated toxins (i.e., carcinogenic hydrocarbons) are produced (near 230 degrees Celsius).

(Source: Press release of California NORML of 25 August 2005)

USA: Police allows Californian patients to carry cannabis in their cars

A new policy by the California Highway Patrol (CHP) now allows patients travelling on state highways to have as much as 8 ounces (about 225 grams) of cannabis if they have a certified user identification card or written approval from a physician.

A bulletin released to CHP officers states that an "individual is to be released and the marijuana is not to be seized" if the person qualifies under state law to possess marijuana for medicinal purposes. It also says that officers "shall not conduct traffic enforcement stops for the primary purpose of drug interdiction" involving the authorized use of medical cannabis. Though data on arrests is incomplete, medical cannabis advocates say the highway patrol had been responsible for more arrests of patients and caregivers than any other agency in the state.

CHP spokesman Joe Whiteford noted that law enforcement officials were initially confused about how to interpret a U.S. Supreme Court ruling. In June 2005, the court ruled that users of medical cannabis in a dozen states, including California, are not shielded from federal prosecution. However, the justices did not rule on the state's 1996 law that legalized medical cannabis.

At a news conference called by Americans for Safe Access, patients and their advocates described the policy change as a breakthrough and predicted other law enforcement agencies would follow.

(Sources: Associated Press of 28 August 2005, New York Times of 30 August 2005)

News in brief

USA: JAMA calls for reclassification
An editorial of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) calls for a reclassification of cannabis to legalize it for medical use. "Sound regulation of medical marijuana requires government oversight based on public health, a rigorous research agenda, a private physician-patient relationship, and respect for patients who seek relief from suffering," the commentary states. "A first step would be to reclassify marijuana as a schedule II drug because, like the schedule II substances cocaine and morphine, it fits well within the statutory definition of having ... 'a currently accepted medical use with severe restrictions.' This would allow for medical prescriptions subject to strict regulation without unduly interfering with federal drug policy." (Source: Lawrence O. Gostin, JD. JAMA 2005;294:842-844)

USA: Cannabis extract
On 25 August Brian Bayley, attorney of the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), noted during a hearing at DEA Headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, that Dr. Mahmoud ElSohly, head of the cannabis farm at the University of Mississippi, has been granted a DEA license to extract cannabinoids from NIDA-cannabis. He will work together with Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals. Bayley said that they intend to produce an extract, with which Mallinckrodt wants to do clinical research and "launch a product which for lack of a better term I'll term natural dronabinol." (Source: Transcript of the comments of Brian Bayley of 25 August 2005, in the Matter of Lyle E. Craker)

UK: Arrests of THC4MS
Three members of THC4MS, a group that supplied a cannabis preparation to people with multiple sclerosis, have been arrested and charged with conspiring to supply cannabis. According to the group THC4MS has sent over 33,000 bars of CannaBiz Chocolate to more than 1600 sufferers of MS during the past 10 years. Lezley Gibson, Mark Gibson and Marcus Davies face a mandatory 1 to 4 years in prison. (Source: www.thc4ms.org)

USA: Supreme Court
Supreme Court judge John Paul Stevens called the last ruling of the Supreme Court on medical cannabis of June 2005 "unwise". During the bar association meeting in Las Vegas he said that the ruling was compelled by law, however. He had to rule in favour of the federal government's right to prosecute patients who use cannabis medicinally in states where it is allowed according to state law. He noted that judges may often have a conflict between their policy preferences and the decisions they may feel forced by the law. (Source: New York Times of 25 August 2005)

Science: Pain
Researchers of the University of Georgia demonstrated that blockade of degradation of endocannabinoids enhanced stress-induced analgesia. They inhibited the enzyme that degrades endocannabinoids, the FAAH (fatty-acid amide hydrolase). This effect was abolished by a CB1 receptor antagonist, which suggests that this form of analgesia is mediated by CB1 receptors. (Source: Suplita RL 2nd et al. Neuropharmacology 2005 Aug 26; [Electronic publication ahead of print])

Science: THC for inhalation
Dutch researchers of the University of Groningen developed a THC powder suitable for inhalation. Solutions of THC and inulin in a mixture of tertiary butanol and water were spray freeze dried. They noted that "high cooling rates during the freezing process result in effective stabilisation of THC. The powders can be dispersed into aerosols with a particle size appropriate for inhalation." (Source: van Drooge DJ et al. EUR J Pharm Sci 2005;26(2):231-40)

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