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IACM-Bulletin of 28 August 2011

USA: Maryland begins process to legalize the medical use of cannabis

A program to legalize medical cannabis in Maryland would likely put distribution in the hands of academic research programs and make the drug available to a limited number of select patients, state officials said on 17 August. Members of a state-appointed work group to study and craft new medical cannabis legislation said they will likely pursue a plan that tightly regulates distribution and use of the drug, to steer clear of federal concerns and avoid abuse seen in some other states that allow the drug through doctors’ prescriptions and dispensaries.

"I wouldn’t say this is necessarily legalizing in a very broad sense," said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein of the Maryland Department of Health and chairman of the work group. "This is a pretty narrow concept that, conceivably, could be helpful. It recognizes that there are potential benefits and potential risks." The state House of Representatives passed a law this year that established the work group and allows medical cannabis users to be acquitted of illegal possession charges by a judge if they can prove medical necessity.

More at:
www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/aug/17/marylands-marijuana-program-would-be-conscientious/print/

(Source: Washington Times of 17 August 2011)

Science: Genome of the cannabis plant is mapped

A Massachusetts company says it will release the genome sequence of cannabis to promote understanding of its therapeutic potential. Kevin McKernan, founder of Medicinal Genomics in Marblehead, said the medicinal cannabis industry could use the data to offer new, better kinds of cannabis designed to target patients' specific conditions.

Medicinal Genomics will partner with pharmaceutical companies to explore compounds made by the plant, he said. The company might, for example, use insights from the plant’s genetic blueprint to create a plant that produces more of certain compounds, such as cannabidiol. "The genetics were poorly understood," McKernan said.

More at:
- www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2011/08/18/Genetic-code-of-marijuana-to-be-published/UPI-26931313688674/#ixzz1W8Zqbpwv
- articles.boston.com/2011-08-18/news/29901462_1_sequencing-cannabis-genetic-blueprint

(Sources: UPI of 18 August 2011, Boston Globe of 18 August 2011)

Greece: Government plans to decriminalise the possession of drugs for personal use

The Greek government has made proposals to decriminalise drugs in a bill put forward by Justice Minister Miltiadis Papaioannou to the Parliament committee on social affairs. According to the new proposals drug possession will be decriminalised as long as it only affects the behaviour and condition of the user. The reform aims to reduce the number of young drug users and trafficking of illegal substances.

According to the bill there will be reduced guilt if the person in question can prove that the possession and cultivation of cannabis was for personal use only. Instead of jail for people who have committed a crime under the narcotics law, courts can order participation in an approved drug treatment program for detoxification and psychological monitoring. Drug trafficking will remain a felony.

More at:
www.talkingdrugs.org/decimalisation-of-drugs-in-greece

(Source: Talkingdrugs.org of 3 August 2011)

News in brief

Science: Pain
Researchers at the National University of Ireland in Galway investigated the role of the endocannabinoid system in fear-conditioned reduction of pain. They found that the levels of the two endocannabinoids 2-AG (2-arachidonoylglycerol) and anandamide are increased in a certain brain region, the hippocampus, in rats that experience fear. (Source: Ford GK, et al. Pain. 2011 Aug 22. [in press])

Science: Multiple sclerosis
The substance VCAM-1 represents one of the most important molecules involved in the migration of blood leukocytes across the blood-brain barrier that is an essential step in the development of multiple sclerosis. Scientists at the Cajal Institute in Madrid, Spain, demonstrated that in an animal model of MS, Theiler's virus infection, anandamide inhibits VCAM-1 expression in brain endothelial cell cultures and this effect was mediated by activation of CB1 receptors. Thus, cannabinoids may slow the development of MS (Source: Mestre L, et al. J Neuroinflammation 2011;8(1):102.)

Science: Safety of THC
In recent years researchers of a Centre for Psychiatry in West Haven, USA, have conducted several studies with intravenous THC. They evaluated the safety of 11 intravenous THC studies with 266 subjects (14 schizophrenia patients and 252 healthy subjects, of whom 76 were frequent cannabis users), 351 active THC infusions, and 226 placebo infusions. They observed only one serious event and concluded that "with careful subject selection and screening, risk to subjects is relatively low." (Source: Carbuto M, et al. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2011 Aug 16. [in press])

Science: Obesity
Scientists from several French institutions investigated the function of the endocannabinoid system in obese subjects. After a meal the levels of the endocannabinoid anandamide significantly decreased in normal-weight, whereas no significant changes were observed in obese subjects. This may explain insufficient satiety after a meal in obese subjects. Similarly, the levels of peptide YY significantly increased in normal-weight subjects only. They concluded that anandamide and peptide YY are deregulated in obesity. (Source: Gatta-Cherifi B, et al. Int J Obes (Lond). 2011 Aug 16. [in press])

Science: Pregnancy
Researchers of the University of South Carolina, USA, investigated the effects of THC exposure during pregnancy of rats on the immune system. They concluded that their "data demonstrate for the first time that perinatal exposure to THC triggers profound T cell dysfunction" and that children of women who use cannabis during pregnancy may have an increased risk of dysfunction of the immune system. (Source: Lombard C, et al. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2011 Aug 11. [in press])

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