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IACM-Bulletin of 23 July 2006

Science: Low doses of THC and cannabis ineffective in appetite and weight loss due to cancer in large clinical study

Results of a clinical study on the effects of THC and an oral cannabis extract (Cannador) on anorexia and weight loss in cancer patients conducted in 25 study centres in Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands in 1999 until 2002 was published now. Recruitment of patients was stopped in 2002 after an interim analysis showed that there were no relevant differences between patients who had received 5 mg THC daily in a cannabis extract, 5 mg isolated THC or a placebo with regard to appetite and quality of life after six weeks of therapy.

Of 243 randomly assigned patients 164 completed treatment. 66 had received Cannador (2x2.5 mg THC), 65 had received THC (2x2.5 mg) and 33 had received placebo. No significant differences between the three arms for treatment effects or cannabinoid-related side effects were found. Increased appetite was reported by 73per cent, 58 per cent, and 69 per cent of patients receiving Cannador, THC or placebo, respectively. Researchers concluded that "the dose of 5 mg THC daily used in the study was apparently too low."

(Source: Strasser F, Luftner D, Possinger K, Ernst G, Ruhstaller T, Meissner W, Ko YD, Schnelle M, Reif M, Cerny T. Comparison of orally administered cannabis extract and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol in treating patients with cancer-related anorexia-cachexia syndrome: a multicenter, phase III, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial from the Cannabis-in-Cachexia-Study-Group. J Clin Oncol 2006;24(21):3394-400.)

USA: Judge strikes down part of a new Alaska law that criminalizes the possession of small amounts of cannabis

A judge on 10 July struck down part of a new Alaska law criminalizing possession of small amounts of cannabis, saying it conflicts with a ruling by the Alaska Supreme Court of 1975. The state Department of Law was expected to file an appeal.

Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins said a lower court can't reverse a state Supreme Court's decision. In 1975, the Supreme Court ruled the right to privacy in one's home included the possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use. Collins limited her decision to possession of less than 1 ounce (28.5 gram) of cannabis. Before the law took effect in June, it had been legal in Alaska to possess up to 4 ounces of the drug. The new law criminalizes the possession of even small amounts. Possession of less than 1 ounce would be punishable by up to 90 days in jail.

(Source: Associated Press of 10 July 2006)

News in brief

USA: Montana
Sixty-two percent of Montana voters approved the state’s medical cannabis law in 2004. 220 patients are currently registered with the Department of Public Health and Human Services to use cannabis. One year ago it have been 119 patients. Montana also has 100 physicians registered; doctors who have recommended cannabis to a patient. Under Montana law, a registered patient or caregiver can grow six cannabis plants or possess one ounce of usable cannabis. (Source: Helena Independent Record of 9 July 2006)

USA: California
Five people were arrested and 13 cannabis dispensaries were raided on 6 July in an investigation into what authorities say was the manufacture and distribution of the drug under the guise of medicinal purposes. Four doctors are also being investigated on suspicion of selling medical marijuana recommendations for people who officials said did not legitimately need the drug. Officials said patients involved in the sales will not be arrested. The investigation was conducted by both local and federal officials. (Source: SignOnSanDiego.com of 6 July 2006)

USA: California
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Americans for Safe Access and the Drug Policy Alliance moved on 7 July to intervene in a lawsuit brought by several California counties that seeks to overturn the state’s law, which makes medical cannabis legal for patients with a doctor’s recommendation. "The law is clear: federal marijuana laws do not trump California’s ability to make medical marijuana legal under state law," said Allen Hopper, an attorney with the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project. San Diego, San Bernardino and Merced counties argue that federal laws prohibiting all use of marijuana invalidate state laws that allow qualified patients to use medical marijuana. (Source: ACLU of 7 July 2006)

Holland: Plans for legalization of production
The majors of 20 of the 30 biggest cities of the Netherlands support a legalization of cannabis production. So far, cannabis can be sold in coffee-shops, but production is prohibited. The plans to allow also the production are supported by Alexander Pechthold, the minister responsible for inner-city problems. The Parliament of the Netherlands also discussed this issue. One proposal of the Parliament requests the start of pilot projects for the legalization of the sale of cannabis to the coffee shops. (Source: Thijs Lammers of 3 July 2006)

Science: Neuropathic pain
The induction of neuropathic pain in rats by researchers of the University of California in Los Angeles resulted in an increase of CB1 receptors and of the levels of the endocannabinoids anandamide and 2-AG in the spinal cord. Scientists noted that "these results are consistent with the preserved analgesic effects of cannabinoids in neuropathic pain and provide a rational framework for the development of peripherally acting endocannabinoid-based therapeutic interventions for neuropathic pain." (Source: Mitrirattanakul S, et al. Pain 2006 Jul 13; [Electronic publication ahead of print])

Science: Sleep
Cannabidiol (CBD) was shown to increase wakefulness in the lights-on periods in an animal study. Researchers conclude that CBD "might be of therapeutic value in sleep disorders such as excessive somnolence." (Source: Murillo-Rodriguez E, et al. FEBS Lett 2006 Jul 10; [Electronic publication ahead of print])

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