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IACM-Bulletin of 15 December 2013

Science/Human: Cannabis does not cause schizophrenia, a study of Harvard University finds

A new study from Harvard University may help dismiss concerns about the link between cannabis use and schizophrenia. While many still debate the potential for cannabis to cause schizophrenia, researchers at Harvard Medical School say there has “yet to be conclusive evidence that cannabis use may cause psychosis.” Their latest study, published last week in the journal Schizophrenia Research, adds support to the role of genetic factors in schizophrenia, and that cannabis use alone does not increase the risk of developing the disorder.

“In summary, we conclude that cannabis does not cause psychosis by itself. In genetically vulnerable individuals, while cannabis may modify the illness onset, severity and outcome, there is no evidence from this study that it can cause the psychosis.” The team, led by Dr Lynn DeLisi, Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, compared the family histories of 108 schizophrenia patients and 171 individuals without schizophrenia to determine whether cannabis use was a factor in developing the disorder. They found that a family history of schizophrenia increased the risk of developing schizophrenia, regardless of whether or not an individual used cannabis. The authors concluded that “the results of the current study suggest that having an increased familial morbid risk for schizophrenia may be the underlying basis for schizophrenia in cannabis users and not cannabis use by itself.”

Proal AC, Fleming J, Galvez-Buccollini JA, Delisi LE. A controlled family study of cannabis users with and without psychosis. Schizophr Res. 2013 Dec 2. [in press]

Leaf Science of 8 December 2013.

Uruguay: The country becomes the first to legalize cannabis trade

Uruguay became the first country to legalize the growing, sale and use of cannabis on 10 December. A government-sponsored bill approved by 16-13 votes in the Senate is aimed at wresting the business from criminals in the small South American nation. Cannabis consumers will be able to buy a maximum of 40 grams each month from licensed pharmacies as long as they are Uruguayan residents over the age of 18 and registered on a government database that will monitor their monthly purchases.

When the law is implemented in 120 days, Uruguayans will be able to grow six cannabis plants in their homes a year, or as much as 480 grams (about 17 ounces), and form smoking clubs of 15 to 45 members that can grow up to 99 plants per year. Registered drug users should be able to start buying cannabis over the counter from licensed pharmacies in April. "We begin a new experience in April. It involves a big cultural change that focuses on public health and the fight against drug trafficking," Uruguay's first lady, Senator Lucía Topolansky, told Reuters. Uruguay's attempt to quell drug trafficking is being followed closely in Latin America where the legalization of some narcotics is being increasingly seen by regional leaders as a possible way to end the violence spawned by the cocaine trade.

Reuters of 11 December 2013

USA: American Herbal Pharmacopoeia announces finalization of historic cannabis monograph

On 10 December the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP) announced the finalization of a monograph on Cannabis. Like all AHP monographs, the publication provides standards of identity, purity, analysis, and quality, as well as information on the cultivation and storage of the botanical and its preparations. According to AHP President Roy Upton; “Cannabis has been used medicinally pretty much throughout the entire timeline of written history, and from archeological evidence, far beyond into antiquity.” This monograph will be followed by a Therapeutic Compendium, which will present a comprehensive review of the world’s historical and scientific data on the use of the plant.
The preparation of the monograph was suggested by Americans for Safe Access.

According to Upton: “This monograph is historic in that it is the first formal pharmacopoeial monograph on cannabis developed in the US in more than 70 years. The first monograph was introduced into the United States Pharmacopoeia in 1850 and was removed from the 12th edition in 1942. Considering the widespread use of cannabis, it is important for there to be quality control guidance whether used for medicinal or non-medicinal purposes.” Several members of the IACM were involved in the preparation of the book, mainly Mahmoud ElSohly and Ethan Russo, and in addition Vincenzo Di Marzo, Rudolf Brenneisen, Franjo Grotenhermen und Raphael Mechoulam.

It is intended to make the monograph available before Christmas. To order the AHP Cannabis Monograph, go to: American Herbal Pharmacopoeia

Press Release by the AHP of 10 December 2013

Science/Human: Cannabis is used as a substitute for alcohol and other drugs by many patients

A large number of Canadian citizens, who use cannabis for medical reasons, use it as a substitute for alcohol, illegal substances and medicinal drugs. This is the result of a survey conducted by researchers of the Centre for Addictions Research in Victoria, Canada, and other institutes conducted at four medical cannabis dispensaries located in British Columbia. A 44-question survey was used to anonymously gather data on the self-reported impact of medical cannabis on the use of other substances.

Over 41% of participants said that they use cannabis as a substitute for alcohol (n=158), 36.1% use cannabis as a substitute for illicit substances (n=137), and 67.8% use cannabis as a substitute for prescription drugs (n=259). The three main reasons cited for cannabis-related substitution are “less withdrawal”, “fewer side-effects”, and “better symptom management.” Scientists concluded that “randomized clinical trials on cannabis substitution for problematic substance use appear justified.”

Lucas P, Reiman A, Earleywine M, McGowan S, Oleson M, Coward M, Thomas B. Cannabis as a substitute for alcohol and other drugs: A dispensary-based survey of substitution effect in Canadian medical cannabis patients. Addiction Res Theory 2013;21(5):435-42.

News in brief

Morocco: Political party holds hearing for legalizing cannabis
One of Morocco's main political parties has started the process of legalizing cannabis cultivation with an informational hearing in parliament over its industrial and medical uses. The hearing held by the Party for Authenticity and Modernity, or PAM, is the first step in eventually introducing a draft law to legalize the widely grown cannabis plant - an economic staple in the mountainous north of the country.
Associated Press of 4 December 2013

Jamaica: The country launches its first company for medical cannabis
Jamaica announced the launch of its first medical cannabis company. Jamaican Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Anthony Hylton participated in a ceremony in the capital, Kingston, on 3 December where the opening of the company known as MediCanja was formally announced. The company will focus initially on research and product development involving cannabidiol (CBD), company officials said.
Reuters of 4 December 2013

Economy: Patent for use of cannabinoids in treating brain tumours
GW Pharmaceuticals announced that the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has issued a Notice of Allowance for a patent which covers the use of cannabinoids for treating glioma.
Glioma describes any tumour that arises from the glial tissue of the brain. The subject patent specifically covers a method for treating glioma in a human using a combination of cannabidiol (CBD) and THC wherein the cannabinoids are in a ratio of from 1:1 to 1:20.
Press Release by GW Pharmaceuticals of 11 December 2013

Europe: Drug policy advocacy organisations in EURope
The EMCDDA (European Monitoring Centre for Drug and Drug Addiction) issued a 24-page paper on organisations involved in drug reform. They identified 218 organisations in 30 countries actively seeking to influence drug policy.
EMCDDA Paper

Science/Cells: A new mechanism on the actions of CBD
Scientists investigated the mechanisms of CBD’s action in microglial cells of the brain. They found out that CBD changed the function of mitochondria and reduced the action of a certain protein on the outer mitochondrial membrane, the so called VDAC1. The mitochondria are the power plants of the cells. Authors wrote that “the inhibition of VDAC1 by CBD may be responsible for the immunosuppressive and anticancer effects of CBD.”
Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Israel.
Rimmerman N, et al. Cell Death Dis. 2013 Dec 5;4:e949

Science/Animal: Amino acids in hemp seed protein may reduce blood pressure
A new study with spontaneously hypertensive rats suggests that hemp seed meal protein hydrolysate “could be used as a therapeutic agent for both the prevention and treatment of hypertension.” Protein hydrolysates are enzymatically pre-digested for maximal speed of absorption of the amino acids. The hemp seed protein hydrolysate both prevented hypertension in young rats and reduced hypertension in older animals.
Department of Human Nutritional Sciences, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada.
Girgih AT, et al. EUR J Nutr. 2013 Nov 29. [in press]

Science/Cells: Cannabinoids could increase the effectiveness of radiotherapy in breast cancer
In a study with human breast cancer cells a synthetic cannabinoid (WIN55,212-2) increased the efficacy of radiotherapy. It promoted autophagy, which is degradation of the cancer cells. Authors also wrote that “the present study suggests that THC and nabilone are unlikely to interfere with the effectiveness of radiation therapy, which is of particular relevance to patients using cannabinoid-based drugs to ameliorate the toxicity of cancer therapies.”
Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, USA.
Emery SM, et al. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2013 Nov 20. [in press]

Science/Animal: Anandamide may increase vulnerability of atherosclerotic plaques
Inhibition of the endocannabinoid-degrading enzyme fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) was shown to increase atherosclerotic plaque vulnerability in mice. This inhibition causes an increase in the concentration of the endocannabinoid anandamide. Inhibition of FAAH had no effect on plaque size.
Klinik II für Innere Medizin, Universität Bonn, Germany.
Hoyer FF, et al. J Mol Cell Cardiol. 2013 Nov 25. [in press]

USA: Bill Clinton says attitudes toward legalizing cannabis loosening
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton says attitudes toward legalization of cannabis are loosening up.
"The drug issue should be decided by people in each country, based on what they think is right," Clinton said during an interview. "We have a process in America for doing it that's being revisited state-by-state. And Latin America is free to do the same thing."
UPI of 4 December 2013

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