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IACM-Bulletin of 07 April 2013

USA: Maryland’s House of Representatives approves a bill allowing the medical use of cannabis

Legislation to legalize medical cannabis passed the House of Representatives of Maryland on 25 March, sending the measure to the Senate. The bill would allow cannabis to be distributed through academic research centres by doctors and nurses. Similar measures have failed in previous years, but this year Governor Martin O'Malley dropped his opposition and backed the proposal.

Currently, 18 other states and the District of Columbia allow the use of cannabis for medical purposes. The bill's sponsor, Dan Morhaim, a physician and a Baltimore Democrat, has described Maryland's potential program as the tightest and most controlled of any in the country. It is expected that the legislation will also pass the Senate.

Baltimore Sun of 25 March 2013.

Science/Human: Long-term cannabis use is associated with better health than long-term tobacco use

People who only use cannabis show better health than people, who smoke tobacco. This is the result of a study by researchers of the University of New South Wales in Randwick, Australia. Researchers included 350 adults aged 40 or over and divided them into four groups: those who smoked cannabis but not tobacco (n=59), smoked both cannabis and tobacco (n=88), smoked tobacco but not cannabis (n=80), or used neither substance (n=123, control group). Participants completed a survey addressing substance use, diagnosed medical conditions, health concerns relating to smoking cannabis/tobacco and general health.

Several significant differences were found among the four groups. With regard to diagnosed medical conditions, the three smoking groups reported significantly higher rates of emphysema than did the control group. However, all members of the cannabis-only group diagnosed with emphysema were former regular tobacco smokers. Total general health scores, general health subscales, and items addressing smoking-related health concerns tended to show worse outcomes for the two tobacco smoking groups. Authors concluded that “general health measures demonstrated a pattern in which the control and cannabis-only groups tended to report the best health, with the two tobacco-smoking groups faring worse.” They also noted that “mixing cannabis with tobacco may synergistically compromise health.”

Rooke SE, Norberg MM, Copeland J, Swift W. Health outcomes associated with long-term regular cannabis and tobacco smoking. Addict Behav 2013;38(6):2207-2213.

News in brief

Science/Human: Mental health of non-dependent regular cannabis users is largely normal
A study compared the mental health of 521 young adult frequent cannabis users, of whom 252 were cannabis dependent, with 1,072 young adults from the general population. Scientists found out that “with the exception of more externalising disorders, the mental health condition of non-dependent frequent cannabis users is similar to that of the general population, whereas it is worse in dependent frequent cannabis users.”
Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction, Utrecht, the Netherlands.
van der Pol P, et al. Addiction. 2013 Mar 27. [in press]

USA: Possessing a little cannabis no longer criminal in Rhode Island
A law decriminalizing possession of small amounts of cannabis went into effect in Rhode Island on 1 April. Possession of one ounce (28 grams) of cannabis in Rhode Island now constitutes a civil offense punishable by a fine of 150 Dollars.
Reuters of 1 April 2013

Czech Republic: Cannabis now available in pharmacies
A law making cannabis available in pharmacies on prescription went into effect on 1 April. Only imported cannabis from the Netherlands or Israel will be available for the first year, after which licenses to local growers will be allotted.

Science/Human: Regular cannabis use not associated with fatty liver and glucose intolerance
In a study with 30 long-term regular cannabis users and 30 non-users chronic cannabis smoking was not associated with fatty liver, insulin insensitivity, or glucose intolerance.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Bethesda, USA.
Muniyappa R, et al. Diabetes Care. 2013 Mar 25. [in press]

Science/Animal: Hemopressin, a novel peptide cannabinoid
Hemopressin is the first peptide to be described to bind to the CB1 cannabinoid receptor. It is as an inverse agonist and inhibits appetite and reduces pain.
Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Manchester, UK.
Dodd GT, et al. Neuropharmacology. 2013 Mar 28. [in press]

Science/Animal: Activation of the CB2 receptor reduces inflammation by reducing migration of immune cells
Experiments with zebra fish show that activation of the CB2 receptor regulates the migration of white blood cells (leukocytes). Authors wrote that this “provides a potential therapeutic strategy for treating human inflammation-associated diseases.”
RuiJin Hospital, China.
Liu YJ, et al. J Biol Chem. 2013 Mar 28. [in press]

Science/Animal: Very low doses of THC reduced damage to the heart in case of reduced blood supply
Very low doses of THC (0.002 mg/kg of bodyweight) administered before myocardial infarction significantly reduced infarct size in mice. Authors concluded that “a single ultra-low dose of THC before ischemia is a safe and effective treatment that reduces myocardial ischemic damage.”
Felsenstein Medical Research Center, Rabin Medical Center, Petah Tiqwa, Israel.
Waldman M, et al. Biochem Pharmacol. 2013 Mar 25. [in press]

Science/Human: THC concentrations in blood samples decrease within a week at room temperature
Scientists investigated the stability of cannabinoids and their metabolites in blood samples at different temperatures. 11-OH-THC was stable for 1 week at room temperature, whereas THC decreased and THC-COOH increased. At very low temperatures (-20°C) concentrations are stable for at least 3 months.
National Institute on Drug Abuse, Baltimore, USA.
Scheidweiler KB, et al. Clin Chem. 2013 Mar 21. [in press]

Science/Animal: Cannabis improves factors associated with neurodegenerative diseases
Researchers used the cannabis extract Sativex to test its effects on parameters associated with neurodegenerative diseases in mice. They found that the extract even after a short administration in animals with present behavioural and pathological abnormalities, improves their characteristics, the oxidative stress, and biochemical indicators of complex neurodegenerative disorders.
Departments of Neurobiology, Ramon y Cajal University Hospital, Madrid, Spain.
Casarejos MJ, et al. J Alzheimers Dis. 2013 Mar 11. [in press]

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