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IACM-Bulletin of 10 December 2000

Science: Most pain patients gain benefit from cannabis in a British study

Seven out of 10 patients involved in a research project looking at the pain relieving properties of cannabis at the Jame Paget Hospital in Norfolk (UK) have been helped by cannabis, a doctor said on 8 December. The trial had been approved in April 2000.

Dr. William Notcutt, who is heading the clinical study, said results had been "very acceptable". "Between 70 and 80% of patients so far have gained some benefit."

"That's actually very good results for people with long-standing pain, although not all the benefits are in the relief of pain but in the quality of life." He added: "If you are dealing with people with chronic pain and you find something that benefits 30% of patients then you are doing well."

Patients take different cannabis-based medicines using devices that spray cannabis under the tongue.

(Source: PA News of 8 December 2000)

USA: Supreme Court agreed to decide on medical use of marijuana

The U.S. Supreme Court said on 27 November it would decide whether marijuana can be distributed for medicinal uses to seriously ill patients, a case pitting the federal government against the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative. The high court agreed to hear a Federal Justice Department appeal of a ruling that would allow marijuana clubs in California to resume service for patients who can prove that cannabis was a medical necessity.

The court's decision to hear the case marked the latest development in a conflict between federal narcotics laws, which prohibit distribution of marijuana, and a 1996 California voters' initiative known as Proposition 215 that allows seriously ill patients to grow and use marijuana with a doctor's recommendation.

In 1998, the Justice Department won an injunction from U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco prohibiting the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative and other similar medicinal marijuana clubs from distributing cannabis. An appeals court, however, agreed with the club in 1999. In July 2000, Breyer said the club could give marijuana to sick people facing "imminent harm" from serious medical conditions. The federal Justice Department appealed to the Supreme Court. In August 2000, the Supreme Court voted 7-1 to prohibit cannabis distribution by the club while the case is on appeal.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case next year, with a decision due by the end of June 2001.

(Sources: Reuters of 27 November, AP of 27 November 2000, New York Times of 27 November 2000)

Science: Cannabinoids may be useful in some forms of diarrhoea

Cannabinoids decrease secretion in the small intestine. Thus, "they may have therapeutic potential for diarrhoea unresponsive to available therapies," researchers of the Oklahoma Foundation for Digestive Research in Oklahoma City/USA say in an article for the EURopean Journal of Pharmacology, issue of 8 December.

In vitro electrical stimulation induced secretion in the small intestine of rats, that was attenuated by a cannabinoid (WIN 55212-2). This inhibition of secretion was reversed by SR141716A, a cannabinoid-1-receptor-antagonist. Secretion stimulated by acetylcholine was unaffected by the cannabinoid.

These findings show that cannabinoids inhibit neurally mediated secretion via cannabinoid CB1-receptors and may be useful in some forms of diarrhoea.

(Source: Tyler K, et al: Inhibition of small intestinal secretion by cannabinoids is CB(1) receptor-mediated in rats. EUR J Pharmacol 2000;409:207-211)

News in brief

USA:
A complete video set of the 13-hour forum of the First National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics in the USA, held at the University of Iowa on 7 and 8 April 2000, is available for $175. Individual presentations are $15. E-mail: Patients@medicalcannabis.com, or www.medicalcannabis.com/, click on Iowa conference and then on video order form.

Science:
A new study from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore (USA), published in the December issue of the Journal of Addictive Diseases shows that tobacco is a gateway drug, if the questionable criterias are applied that are usually applied to marijuana. Participants who had ever smoked were seven times more likely to have tried marijuana, seven times more likely to have tried cocaine, and 16 times more likely to have tried heroin. The study is based on data collected through personal visits to the residences of 17,809 participants. (Source: U.S. Newswire of 6 December 2000)

New Zealand:
New Zealand is officially reviewing its policy towards cannabis. A parliamentary subcommittee, the Health Select Committee is to conduct a review in 2001 and is inviting submissions from interested groups and persons. These should be sent to: The Clerk, The Health Select Committee, Parliament Buildings, Wellington, New Zealand, and posted to reach the clerk of the committee by 7th February 2001. The terms of reference to be addressed are: "To inquire into the most effective public health and health promotion strategies to minimise the use and harm associated with cannabis, and consequently the most appropriate legal status of cannabis." Details on writing submissions in an NZ context: www.clerk.parliament.govt.nz/publications/.

Science:
The THC content of hemps seeds of drug- and fibre-type cannabis was analysed. Drug-type seeds contained much higher levels of THC (35.6-124 microg/g) than fibre seeds (0-12 microg/g). The majority of THC was found to be located on the surface of the seeds. The kernels of drug- and fibre-type cannabis seeds contained less than 2 and 0.5 micrograms THC per gram seeds, respectively. (Source: Ross SA, et al.: GC-MS analysis of the total delta9-THC content of both drug- and fibre-type cannabis seeds. J Anal Toxicol 2000;24:715-717.)

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