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IACM-Bulletin of 05 September 1999

Holland: Installation of a cannabis agency for research purposes

A Dutch teaching hospital said on 2 September it would shortly start a study on the usefulness of cannabis to help multiple sclerosis (MS) sufferers.

"There are indications cannabis products can contribute to the alleviation of complaints and symptoms which can occur with patients suffering from MS," the Free University hospital said in a statement. MS is a chronic and often painful degenerative disease of the central nervous system whose symptoms range from fatigue to loss of motor skills, impaired vision and paralysis.

Although some five percent of MS patients regularly use cannabis, there has hardly been any medical research on its effectiveness, the hospital said. The study will compare the safety, tolerance, and efficiency of two cannabis products in capsules against placebos on 16 MS sufferers over 20 weeks. Results are not likely to be published before next year.

The government has installed the Dutch National Cannabis Agency to regulate the cultivation and handling of cannabis for research purposes. The agency shall insure the use of cannabis in compliance with international treaties.

(Source: Reuters of 2 September 1999, personal communications)

Switzerland: Five variants for a new law on drugs under discussion

On 25 August the "Bundesrat" (Upper House of Parliament) has proposed five variants for the revision of the narcotics act to be discussed until 31 December 1999. It aims at an uniform legal regulation of the drug issue in the cantons. It is expected that the Bundesrat will submit its final proposal to the councils of the cantons in the second half of the year 2000.

The Bundesrat wants to exempt the use of drugs from punishment, at least the use of cannabis. The cultivation of HEMP (cannabis) shall be liberalized as well.

The first of the proposed five variants intends to legalize the use of all drugs and the preparatory activities for the use. The second variant intends exemption from punishment for the use of cannabis, only. A "principle of opportunity" corresponding to the Dutch model should be applied to the consumption and preparatory activities of all other drugs. Therewith the principle of opportunity in effect would be expanded considerably.

Criminal activities, for example the use of cannabis, can be let unpunished under certain circumstances, named in the narcotics act, already today. The respective decision depends exclusively on the courts. It is new that the Bundesrat shall regulate under which conditions the authorities of the cantons can renounce to exercise criminal procedures.

The two proposals of the Bundesrat are completed by three variants of the Commission for Social Security and Health of the National Council. This commission proposes different grades of liberalization. According to the main variant the use and possession of all drugs for personal use would be free from punishment.

(Sources: Basler Zeitung of 25 August 1999, Neue Züricher Zeitung of 26 August 1999)

News in brief

USA:
The Nevada Board of Medical Examiners has agreed to participate in a study of how the state will handle distribution of medical marijuana in the new millennium. Nevada voters are expected to vote in November 2000 in favour of amending the state constitution to allow the use of marijuana by ill people.
(Source: USA Today of 1 September 1999)

Germany:
More than 50,000 people took part in Berlin's third annual "HEMP Parade" on 28 August, taking to the streets of the German capital to call for the legalisation of cannabis. Cannabis is still regarded as an illegal drug in Germany although possession of small amounts is no longer considered a crime. Thirty floats paraded from Berlin's central Alexanderplatz square to the historic Brandenburg Gate, where the organisers arranged a so-called "Market of possibilities," which offered information stands as well as HEMP products for sale.
(Sources: Reuters of 28 August 1999, dpa of 28 August 1999)

Canada:
The Canadian Association of Police Chiefs is proposing ticketing cannabis users caught instead of taking them to court as a more flexible approach to drug enforcement.
(Source: Edmonton Sun of 28 August 1999)

UK:
A motion submitted by Member of the Scottish Parliament Margo MacDonald published in the Scottish Parliament Business Bulletin of 30 August 1999 calls for a panel of experts to examine the issue of cannabis in Scotland. A further 11 MSP's will have to indicate their support before it goes forward for debate.
(Source: The Sunday Post of 29 August 1999)

USA:
The late astronomer and author Carl Sagan was a secret but avid marijuana smoker, crediting it with inspiring essays and scientific insight, according to Sagan's biographer Keay Davidson. Using the pseudonym "Mr. X", Sagan wrote about his pot smoking in an essay published in the 1971 book "Marihuana Reconsidered", edit by Dr Lester Grinspoon. Sagan died of pneumonia in 1996 at the age of 62.
(Source: AP of 22 August 1999)

A glimpse @ the past

One year ago

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