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IACM-Bulletin of 12 October 2008

Germany: Declaration in support of the medical use of cannabis products by medical organizations

In the run-up to a public hearing by the Health Committee of the German Bundestag on 15 October leading medical associations and patients organizations demand a facilitation of the use of cannabis products for medicinal purposes. For this purpose, the organizations composed a conjoint statement. The "Berlin Declaration on the medical use of Cannabis Products" says:

"In 1998 a coalition of medical societies, self-help groups and notabilities from politics, science and culture postulated in the 'Frankfurt Resolution' that the medical use of cannabis should be permitted. Ten years on, research into the medical potential of cannabis and select cannabinoids has made great progress and the medical benefits of cannabis for the treatment of several illnesses are no longer in doubt. Patients may now receive from their doctor a prescription for the cannabis ingredient dronabinol, but most health insurance programs do not reimburse the cost of treatment. Those patients who cannot afford a prescription and instead self-medicate with cannabis are still subject to prosecution. Several of them have been sentenced to prison terms, some were acquitted in court. Unfortunately, the option to obtain a waiver for the medical use of cannabis from the Federal Institute for Pharmaceuticals and Medical Products (BfArM) has not significantly improved this unacceptable situation.
The signatories recognize that for many people who are seriously ill cannabis may be a very helpful medicine but that they cannot benefit from its use for socio-economic reasons (high cost of dronabinol) or because of bureaucratic hurdles (obtaining an exemption from the BfArM). Thus, the signatories encourage the federal government and parliament to take action as follows:
1. To ensure that the cost of treatment with dronabinol is covered by health insurance if a doctor prescribes it for an indication where the benefits of dronabinol have been scientifically proven.
2. To protect those patients who use cannabis therapeutically based on a doctor's recommendation from prosecution
3. To promote research on the therapeutic potential of cannabis products."

Signatories:
- ADHS Deutschland (ADHD Germany)
- akzept (Association for Accepting Drug Policy)
- Arbeitsgemeinschaft Cannabis als Medizin (Association for Cannabis as Medicine)
- Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe (German Aids Support Society)
- Deutsche Epilepsievereinigung (German Epilepsy Association)
- Deutsche Gesellschaft für Suchtmedizin (German Society for Addiction Medicine)
- Deutschen Gesellschaft für Schmerztherapie (German Society for Pain Therapy)
- Deutscher Patienten Schutzbund (German Society for the Protection of Patients)
- Initiative Selbsthilfe Multiple Sklerose Kranker (Self-help Initiative for MS Patients)
- Interessenverband Tic & Tourette Syndrom (Association Tic and Tourette Syndrome)
- Polio Allianz (Alliance of Poliomyelitis Patients)
- Republikanischer Anwältinnen- und Anwälteverein (Society of Republican Attorneys)
- Selbsthilfenetzwerk Cannabis Medizin (Self-help Network Medical Cannabis)
- Tourette-Gesellschaft Deutschland (Tourette Society Germany)

The Berlin Declaration is available online at:
www.cannabis-med.org/german/berliner_erklaerung.pdf
Written statements to the hearing on 15 October, including the statement by the German section of the IACM, are available at:
www.bundestag.de/ausschuesse/a14/anhoerungen/097/stllg/index.html

(Source: ACM)

Science/UK: Report of leading experts says that cannabis is less harmful than tobacco and alcohol

According to a report by the Global Cannabis Commission, a group of top scientists commissioned by the British Beckley Foundation, smoking cannabis is less harmful than smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol. The report was written by five leading cannabis and drug policy researchers: Benedikt Fischer of Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, Peter Reuter of the University of Maryland, USA, Wayne Hall of the University of Queensland, Australia, Simon Lenton of the National Drug Research Institute at the Curtin University of Technology, Australia, and Robin Room of the University of Melbourne, Australia.

"Although cannabis can have a negative impact on health, including mental health, in terms of relative harms it is considerably less harmful than alcohol or tobacco," said the report. "Many of the harms associated with cannabis use are the result of prohibition itself, particularly the social harms arising from arrest and imprisonment." The report continues, that "it is only through a regulated market that we can better protect young people from the ever more potent forms of dope."

The report is available at:
www.beckleyfoundation.org/pdf/BF_Cannabis_Commission_Report.pdf

(Source: Beckley Foundation of 2 October 2008)

Germany: Refusal by the health insurance to pay for dronabinol treatment continues to be an accepted requirement for an exemption of medical cannabis use

The Federal Institute for Pharmaceuticals and Medical Products (BfArM), an office of the federal health ministry, changed in July 2008 the rules for patients who plan to apply for an exemption of cannabis use for medical purposes. The requirements were tightened. The Health Ministry now made it clear that the original rules are still valid. While in the new rules the refusal by the health insurance to pay for dronabinol treatment is no longer mentioned, the Ministry made it clear that such refusal will still be accepted as a cause for an application.

In a letter to the spokesman on drug policy of the Green Party, Dr. Harald Terpe, the Under-Secretary of State of the Federal Health Ministry, Marion Caspers-Merck, wrote that the "Regulations on the Application for an Exemption" were rewritten in July 2008. "This amendment was intended to increase comprehensibility for patients," the letter says. "Since the question of reimbursement by the health insurances is of fundamental relevance, this aspect is considered separately in the course of the examination of applications by the Federal Opium Office," the letter continues. A further amendment of the regulations is planned. In a letter by the Drug Commissioner of the Federal Government, Sabine Baetzing, to the chairman of the German Association for Cannabis as Medicine (ACM), Dr. Franjo Grotenhermen, this intention was affirmed. From the reactions the ACM assumes that the changes of the regulations by the BfArM in July 2008 were made without consultation of the Federal Health Ministry.

(Sources: Letter of Marion Caspers-Merck to Dr. Harald Terpe, letter of Sabine Baetzing to Dr. Franjo Grotenhermen)

News in brief

USA: Michigan
According to a poll 66 per cent of Michigan voters support a proposal, which would allow the growing and use of cannabis by patients with serious medical conditions. Voters will decide on this proposal on 4 November. (Source: UPI of 30 September 2008)

Mexico: Plans for decriminalisation
Mexican President Felipe Calderon wants to legalize the possession of small amounts of cannabis, cocaine and other drugs. Calderon's bill aims to free up police to hunt for narcotics dealers and smugglers, but it could meet opposition in largely conservative Mexico as well as in the neighbouring United States. (Source: Reuters of 2 October 2008)

USA: California
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed a bill that would have protected most employees from being fired for testing positive for cannabis that they used outside the workplace with their doctor's approval. (Source: San Francisco Chronicle of 1 October 2008)

USA: State of Washington
The state Health Department on 2 October defined a two-month supply of medical cannabis as 24 ounces (about 680 grams) of usable cannabis and up to 15 plants, a limit designed to end a decade of confusion over how much patients are allowed to have according to the medical cannabis law. (Source: Associated Press of 3 October 2008)

Science: Nausea
In an animal model of motion-induced nausea (e.g. sea sickness) THC but not CBD was effective in reducing vomiting in the tested shrews. (Source: Cluny NL, et al. Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol 2008;103(2):150-6.)

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