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IACM-Bulletin of 02 September 2007

USA: Fight for the acceptance of state medicinal cannabis laws by the Bush administration

While now all eight Democratic presidential candidates for the election in 2008 have pledged to stop federal raids on medical cannabis patients in the 12 states with laws allowing the use of cannabis to treat medical conditions, raids continue in California and started in New Mexico. California was the first state to legalize the medical use of cannabis in 1996, New Mexico was the last in 2007. In August US Senator Barack Obama became the latest Democratic presidential candidate to say that if he were elected president he would end raids from federal law enforcement agencies.

The governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson, heavily critizised the Bush administration over the first raid in New Mexico and the arrest of a wheelchair-bound man who was certified by the state Health Department to possess and use cannabis for medical reasons. A task force with members of the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, the FBI and state and local police agencies raided the home of Leonard French, who is one of 38 patients so far approved to participate in the state medical cannabis program, and seized his cannabis plants. In recent months several raids of federal agents were also performed on medical cannabis distribution centres in California.

"I'm very concerned that the Bush administration, instead of going after drug dealers, are going after people who are suffering from cancer and paraplegics,'' Richardson said at a news conference. The governor, who is running for president, pledged to fight for the medical cannabis program, saying it's a matter of state sovereignty. Earlier in August Richardson sent Bush an open letter urging the administration to change its "misguided policy" and to stop to waste resources "to intimidate states trying to implement medical marijuana programs.''

(Sources: New Mexican of 29 and 30 August 2007, Boston Globe of 22 August 2007)

News in brief

Science: Neuropathic pain
In a press release of 30 August the UK company GW Pharmaceuticals announced that patient recruitment is now complete in its phase III trial in people with multiple sclerosis suffering from central neuropathic pain. The placebo-controlled study with Sativex has recruited 339 patients in the UK, Canada, France, Spain and the Czech Republic and is GW's largest clinical trial to date. The duration of treatment in the study is 14 weeks. First results are expected in the first half of 2008. (Source: Press release of GW Pharmaceuticals of 30 August 2007)

Science: Osteoporosis
In experimental studies it was shown that the CB1 receptor regulates bone formation. Enhanced bone formation and improved fracture healing was associated with a high level of the endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). This enhancement was absent in mice without CB1 receptors. This observation can help to develop treatments for osteoporosis and disturbed fracture healing. (Source: Tam J, et al. FASEB J. 2007 Aug 17; [Electronic publication ahead of print])

Science: Posttraumatic stress
Researchers of the University of Vermont examined the relation between posttraumatic stress symptom severity and motives for cannabis use among 103 cannabis users. Posttraumatic stress symptom severity was significantly related to motives of stress coping for cannabis use, but no other motives for cannabis use. Severity of symptoms was also related to cigarette and alcohol use. (Source: Bonn-Miller MO, et al. J Trauma Stress 2007;20(4):577-586)

Science: Bipolar disorder
A case report of a patient with bipolar disorder was presented. Mood data was prospectively collected over two years of total substance abstinence and two years of extreme cannabis use. Cannabis use did not alter the total number of days of abnormal mood. However, cannabis was associated with an increase in the number of manic days and a decrease in the number of depressed days. (Source: El-Mallakh RS and Brown C. J Psychoactive Drugs 2007;39(2):201-2.)

Science: Cannabis spray
Possible local adverse effects of the cannabis spray Sativex to the mucosa of the mouth were investigated in eight patients. All reported a stinging sensation on using the cannabis spray, and four had visible white areas in the oral mucosa, which were thought to be alcohol-caused burns and resolved or improved on discontinuation of use of the medication. (Source: Scully C. Br Dent J 2007 Aug 17; [Electronic publication ahead of print])

Science: Cognitive performance
In research at the University of California with 65 adolescent cannabis users and 34 control persons with an age of 16-18 years it was demonstrated that subtle deficits in cognitive performance remain after a month of abstinence. Adolescent cannabis users demonstrated slower psychomotor speed, and poorer complex attention, story memory, and planning ability compared with controls. (Source: Medina KL, et al. J Int Neuropsychol Soc 2007;13(5):807-20.)

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