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IACM-Bulletin of 29 April 2001

Spain: Catalonian parliament unanimously in support of medical use of cannabis

On 25 April the parliament of the Spanish autonomous region Catalonia unanimously decided to ask the government in Madrid to legalise the medical use of cannabis. The initiator of this decision was Agata, a Catalonian organization of women with breast cancer. Since five years Agata is calling for legal access to cannabis for patients suffering from side effects of chemotherapy.

The resolution of the parliament says, that the government should "take all necessary administrative measures to allow the therapeutic use of cannabis." It says that the therapeutic properties of cannabis "have been known for thousands of years" and that scientific studies
have shown its benefit in several diseases, among them cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy.

All parties of the Catalonian Parliament urged the Congress in Madrid to adopt the political consensus obtained in the Catalonian parliament. Caterina Mieras of the PSC (Socialistic Party of Catalonia) said that scientific studies have shown that cannabis is a safe medicine and that the "margin of safety is high". Dolors Montserrat of the PP (Partido Popular, conservative party) said that "we have the obligation to work to improve the quality of life."

In Andalusia, the IU-CA, a political organisation of Andalusia, presented a proposal to the Andalusian Parliament and to the Central Congress to legalize the medical use of cannabis. The proposal comprises the demand for research into the medical benefits of the plant.

(Sources: El Mundo of 26 April 2001, El Correo of 26 April 2001, ABC de Sevilla 25 of April 2001)

Science: Physicians' attitude towards medical use of cannabis depends on specialty

The results of an U.S. survey presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Addiction Medicine indicate that physicians are divided on the medical use of cannabis.

Researchers at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence asked 960 doctors to tell their attitude towards the statement, "Doctors should be able to legally prescribe marijuana as medical therapy." 36% of the responders agreed, 38% disagreed and 26% were neutral.

Specialty, residence in a state that had ever approved research into the medical use of cannabis and physicians' "permissiveness" were associated with supporting the medical use of cannabis. The researchers surveyed physicians in five specialties: addiction medicine, general psychiatry, gynaecology, family practice and internal medicine. They found gynaecologists and internists more likely to support the medical use of the drug than other surveyed specialists.

Because doctors in those two specialties are more likely to see cancer patients, they may be more sensitive to marijuana's potential for managing chemotherapy side effects and pain, the Rhode Island team proposed. They noted that the other specialists surveyed are more likely to see active substance abusers and may be more concerned about the drug's negative effects.

(Source: Reuters of 23 April 2001)

News in brief

USA: Bill in Colorado
Bill HB 1371 for the medical use of marijuana was approved on a 21-12 vote in the Colorado Senate. It now has been approved by both houses of the parliament, but must return to the House of Representatives for consideration of a Senate amendment before it goes to Governor Bill Owens. 54 percent of the voters in Colorado supported a ballot initiative for the medical use of cannabis in the general election of November 2000. (Source: Denver Rocky Mountain News of 24 April 2001)

USA: Forgotten law of New York
In 1980 a medical marijuana law was enacted in New York, the first of its kind. But the mechanism needed to make the law effective was never put in place, and it is largely forgotten. The law said that a doctor could petition a hospital board for permission for a patient to use marijuana. The New York Times reminded of this forgotten law. (Source: New York Times of 20 April 2001)

USA: New head for drug policy office
President Bush plans to name a conservative known for his tough approach on drugs to head the Office of National Drug Control Policy, a government official said on 20 April. Walters has stressed the importance of harsh penalties for drug users and opposed the use of marijuana for medical purposes. (Source: Associated Press of 20 April 2001)

USA: Acquittal in California
Two men arrested for growing 899 cannabis plants were acquitted on 18 April on charges of cultivating and possessing marijuana by a Sonoma County jury. They had claimed they were growing the plants for the 1,200-members of a San Francisco medical marijuana club called CHAMP (Cannabis Helping Alleviate Medical Problems). (Source: Associated Press of 18 April 2001)

USA: Meeting of NORML
NORML (The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) held its annual conference from 19-21 April in Washington. Among the speakers were New Mexico's Republican Governor Gary Johnson, U.S. Representative Barney Frank, Dr. Lester Grinspoon, Harvard Medical School Emeritus, and Dr. John Morgan, professor of Pharmacology at City University of New York Medical School. (Source: Wired News of 23 April 2001)

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