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IACM-Bulletin of 16 March 2008

Czech Republic: High court declares the cultivation of cannabis for medical purposes to be legal

According to a report by Radio Praha of 4 March the high court ruled that the cultivation of cannabis for medical purposes is not a criminal offence. The court had to decide on the case of a woman, who had been convicted by a lower court but refered to the fact that she intended to use the cultivated plants for the alleviation of skin and stomach problems and not for the production of psychoactive effects. Cannabis is increasingly used for medicinal purposes in the Czech Republic.

The mere discovery of the plants was not sufficient for conviction. Rather, it would have been necessary to prove the intention to make marijuana from the plants. Cultivation of HEMP for the production of skin ointments would however constitute only a small public hazard and it would not be reasonable to criminalize it, the judgment stated. The case has now to by retried by a lower court.

The entire article (in German) is available at:
www.radio.cz/de/artikel/101535

(Source: Radio Praha of 4 March 2008)

Spain: A grower of cannabis for personal medical use was found not guilty by a judge; government acknowledges the medical value of cannabis

A judge of the town of Ferrol declared a patient, who grows and uses cannabis to treat pain and spasticity due to spinal cord injury, not guilty, because he "did not commit a crime" against public health. In Spain it is legal to grow cannabis for personal use in his own property, even for recreational use. However, 32-year old Juan Manuel Rodríguez did not cultivate cannabis at his home, but in a nursing home of the national health service and he was denounced by the director of the centre.

Meanwhile the Spanish government acknowledged the medical benefits of cannabis in some illnesses. The current national plan on drugs issued by the Health Ministry says that "the therapeutic potential of cannabis has been widely reviewed" and that "there is scientific evidence for therapeutic use in nausea and vomiting due to antineoplastic treatments, lost of appetite in AIDS and terminal cancer, and the treatment of neuropathic pain in multiple sclerosis."

Information on the patient is available on his website:
juanma-marihuana-medicinal.blogspot.com
The "Plan Nacional sobre Drogas" is available at:
www.pnsd.msc.es

(Sources: La Voz de Galicia of 6 February 2008, Plan Nacional sobre Drogas)

USA: The citizens of Michigan will decide in November whether the medical use of cannabis should be legal also in their state

Supporters of a measure that would allow the medical use of cannabis under certain conditions collected enough signatures to put this question on the November ballot.
The initiative would allow patients to grow and use small amounts of cannabis for relief from pain associated with cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and other diseases. A doctor’s approval or recommendation would be required to use the drug. Identification cards would be issued so law enforcement personnel could tell who was a registered patient.

There are similar initiatives for the legalization of the medical use of cannabis in other states. On 5 March in Illinois the Public Health Committee of the Senate voted 6-4 for such a law. However, a similar bill did not pass a committee of the House of Representatives. According to a review by the Drug War Chronicle there are also initiatives by lawmakers for the medical use of cannabis in Alabama, Minnesota, New Jersey and New York. According to a recent survey of 625 registered voters in Illinois 68 per cent favour the medical use of cannabis by seriously ill people.

(Sources: Peoria Journal Star of 11 March 2008, Associated Press of 3 and 5 March 2008, www.stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle)

News in brief

Science: Detection of THC
Scientists of the University of Heidelberg investigated the presence of THC 24 hours after last cannabis intake in 16 heavy users (more that one cannabis cigarette per day), 15 moderate users and 6 light users. THC was detectable in blood in 9 (56 per cent), 6 (40 per cent) and 1 (17 per cent) of heavy, moderate and light users. Researchers concluded that the presence of low THC levels in blood "may not unequivocally prove a very recent use of cannabis." (Source: Skopp G & Poetsch L. J Anal Toxicol 2008;32(2):160-4.)

UNO: Statement by Antonio Costa
The annual conference of the Committee on Narcotic Drugs (CND) of the United Nations began on 10 March. It was opened by the head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Antonio Costa, who called health a basic human right and said the health principle should be the basis of drug control. Too many people were in prison and too few were receiving drug treatment. He also criticised the death penalty for drug offences since they are not serious enough to justify a death sentence. "Although drugs kill, I don't believe we need to kill because of drugs," he said. (Source: www.dailydose.net)

Holland: Drugs policy
The parliament decided to review the Dutch drugs policy. The goal is to determine if the practise of ignoring soft-drug use has limited the risks involved with drug use as promised when this practise was first devised. During the debate in parliament, justice minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin said he is planning to crack down on the production of cannabis in the Netherlands - particularly the number of shops selling supplies for growers, such as seeds, specialist lighting and fertilisers. (Source: Dutch News of 6 March 2008)

Science: Alcoholic fatty liver
US researchers found in animal studies that alcohol intake increased the expression of B1 receptors in the liver and the concentration of the endocannabinoid 2-AG. Activation of CB1 receptors in the liver was thought to be responsible for the development of alcoholic fatty liver. (Source: Jeong WI, et al. Cell Metab 2008;7(3):227-35.)

Science: Cancer
Scientists of New Zealand did not find any relationship between the use of cannabis and head and neck cancer in a small study with 75 cases and 319 healthy controls. In contrast, tobacco use and alcohol consumption was associated with an increased cancer risk. (Source: Aldington S, et al. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 2008;138(3):374-80.)

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