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IACM-Bulletin of 29 March 2009

Germany: Facilitation in the application process for the medical use of cannabis

On 19 March Sabine Baetzing, Drug Commissioner of the federal government, Dr Harald Terpe, speaker on drug politics of the Green Party in the Bundestag, and members of staff of the Federal Institute for Pharmaceuticals and Medical Products of the Health Ministry discussed several aspects of the current application process for obtaining approval for exemption for the medical use of cannabis. There was agreement that the currently used term "medical expert opinion," that patients have to provide as a prerequisite for an exemption could be misunderstood. Rather, it requires a statement ("epicrisis") of the treating physician, by which the necessity of a treatment with cannabis is substantiated. This statement may not cover more than one typewritten page.

The Federal Institute for Pharmaceuticals and Medical Products assured to dispel unsubstantiated fears of physicians and patients concerning the prerequisites for the grant of an approval by explicit clarification of the necessary application documents. They also intended to inform physicians more effectively. Since most physicians fail to support patients in their application process due to the associated work load, this clarification could be interpreted as a facilitation, which could pave the way to a treatment with cannabis to more patients.

(Source: Personal communication, office of Dr Harald Terpe of 20 March 2009)

USA: Change of the federal policy may stimulate further states to legalize the medical use of cannabis

Currently 13 states of the USA have legalized the medical use of cannabis. Some further states are moving into this direction in response to the Obama administration's decision to end prosecutions of sick people or caregivers who use or dispense the drug in states with such laws. Attorney General Eric Holder said that his agents will seek criminal charges only when both state and federal laws are violated. An editorial of the New York Times states: "The Obama Justice Department has an enormous backlog of legal matters to work through, from enforcing long-ignored civil-rights laws to prosecuting white-collar criminals in the banking industry and on Wall Street. Mr. Holder deserves credit for recognizing that going after medical marijuana dispensers is not only bad policy, it is a distraction from work that really matters."

A bill that would legalize the medicinal use of cannabis if approved by a doctor passed the state House of Representatives of New Hampshire on 25 March. Last month the state Senate of New Jersey approved a similar bill. Other bills on the medical use of cannabis have got support by committees of state parliaments in Illinois and Minnesota. Meanwhile, New Mexico has approved its first license for a business to produce medical cannabis according to its state law.

More at:
- www.nytimes.com/2009/03/26/opinion/26thu4.html
- www.upi.com/news/issueoftheday/2009/03/20/New_priorities_drive_Holder_Obama_to_permit_medical_marijuana_use/UPI-54261237563338/

(Sources: USA Today of 25 March 2009, New York Times of 26 March 2009, The Philadelphia Inquirer of 24 March 2009, UPI of 20 March 2009)

IACM/Germany: House search at the ACM office

On 17 March the local police performed a house search at the office of the German Association for Cannabis as Medicine (ACM) and the private offices of the chairman of the ACM, Dr Franjo Grotenhermen, and seized files of the ACM and IACM. In addition, a copy of the computer's hard disk was taken. The house search was carried out based on a warrant from the lower court of Hamburg of 3 March 2009 on an application by the Office of the Public Prosecutor of Hamburg due to the suspicion of a violation of the narcotics law. The inquiry authorities hope to find suggestions of criminal activities concerning the Cannabis Pharmacy.

The website of the Cannabis Pharmacy (www.hanfapotheke.org) went online in 2005 to help severely ill people, who benefit from the medical use of cannabis, to get free access to cannabis products. According to the principles of the Cannabis Pharmacy a treatment with cannabis products "had to be truly indicated and urgently necessary" and at the same time, a treatment with dronabinol (THC) was not possible, for example because the health insurance denied payment for the treatment. Anonymous donors of cannabis were brought into contact with patients by an e-mail address. Among the members of the solidarity committee designated were Dr Franjo Grotenhermen, Dr Lorenz Boellinger, Professor of Law at the University of Bremen, and Dr Sebastian Scheerer, Professor of Criminology at the University of Hamburg.

(Source: Personal communication by Franjo Grotenhermen)

News in brief

Science: Effect of legal status
According to research by the Eunice Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, USA, on cannabis and alcohol use in the United States, Canada and the Netherlands the legal status of cannabis has no relevant influence on use. Researchers concluded that "the finding that cannabis use rates did not differ across countries is not consistent with the contention that prohibition-oriented policies deter use or that liberal cannabis policies are associated with elevated adolescent use." (Source: Simons-Morton B, et al. Int J Drug Policy. 2009 Mar 19. [Electronic publication ahead of print])

Science: CBD and arteries
According to research at the University of Nottingham, UK, the natural cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) activates the receptor PPARgamma, a receptor within the interior of cells (i.e. a nuclear receptor). CBD was shown to cause vasorelaxation of the isolated rat aorta by activating this receptor, which is also activated by other cannabinoids including THC. (Source: O'Sullivan SE, et al. EUR J Pharmacol. 2009 Mar 10. [Electronic publication ahead of print])

Science: Memory
Basic research shows that CB1 receptors in a brain region called hippocampus mediate the memory impairing effects of THC. (Source: Wise LE, et al. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2009 Mar 25. [Electronic publication ahead of print])

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