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IACM-Bulletin of 17 February 2002

USA: DEA raids medical marijuana dispensary in San Francisco

On 12 February officials of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raided a medical cannabis dispensary centre in San Francisco, the Harm Reduction Clinic, and seized more than 600 cannabis plants. Several homes in San Francisco and surrounding communities were raided and four people were arrested, among them Richard Watts, director of the Harm Reduction Clinic, and marijuana author Edward (Ed) Rosenthal from Oakland.

Later that day, DEA head Asa Hutchinson spoke to the Commonwealth Club of California, among others on the legalization of marijuana for medicinal uses. "We have to enforce the law," he said. "Enforcement of drug laws started here in San Francisco, they should not end here."

Several officials of the City of San Francisco joined the demonstrators outside the Commonwealth Club, among them District Attorney Terence Hallinan. "This is a decision to be made by the voters of California and the people of the city and county of San Francisco," Hallinan said.

The raid coincided with President Bush's announcement of a stepped-up war on drugs, with a goal of cutting drug use by 25 percent in five years.

(Sources: Associated Press of 12 February 2002, Reuters of 12 February 2002)

News in brief

Canada: Poll on medical use
About four per cent of the population over the age of 15 is using cannabis for medical purposes without permission from the government, according to a national survey conducted by Pricewaterhouse-Coopers for the health ministry (Health Canada). The poll report says the percentage represents about one million Canadians. 70 per cent believe there is already valid evidence to support the use of medicinal marijuana. 85 per cent feel marijuana should be made available for medicinal use under specific conditions. (Source: Ottawa Citizen of 3 February 2002)

Holland: Symposium at the University of Leiden
On 15 February a symposium on the medical use of cannabis was held at the University of Leiden. Notable speakers gave an overview on basic research and clinical applications, among them Raphael Mechoulam (Israel), Elizabeth Williamson (UK), William Notcutt (UK), and Kirsten Müller-Vahl (Germany). Governmental representatives from Canada and the Netherlands described ways, according to which a legal access to cannabis is created in their countries.

Science: THC in pain
Researchers at the Clinic for Anaesthesiology of the University of Cologne (Germany) reported their first experience with THC in pain management. In six individuals suffering from chronic pain THC was used in daily doses of 5-20 mg. Sufficient pain relief was achieved in three patients. (Elsner F, et al. Schmerz 2001 Jun;15(3):200-204)

Science: Ecstasy and cannabis
In a study with rats by Australian researchers at the University of Sydney cannabis reduced harmful effects caused by ecstasy. When rats were given ecstasy and cannabis together they had less depletion of brain cells and were less anxious. (Source: The Australian of 2 February 2002)

Science: Heavy cannabis use
In a study with 2,600 adolescents, aged 15-16 years, UK researchers found three groups of heavy cannabis users among the 201 heavy users of the drug. The smallest was largely distinguished by antisocial behaviour. Another cluster presented with high levels of depressed mood and low levels of self-esteem. The largest group were 'ordinary' and had little to distinguish them from non-users. Teenage heavy cannabis users should not be seen as a homogeneous group. (Source: Miller P, Plant M. Drug Alcohol Depend 2002 Feb 1;65(3):235-242.)

Science: Dystonia
A small double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study using the synthetic cannabinoid nabilone in patients with generalised and segmental primary dystonia found no significant reduction in dystonia following treatment with the cannabinoid. (Source: Fox SH, et al. Mov Disord 2002 Jan;17(1):145-149)

Science: Inflammation
The synthetic cannabinoid nabilone was effective in reducing inflammation in a rat model of inflammation. The effects were supposed to be mediated by an uncharacterised CB2-like cannabinoid receptor. (Source: Conti S, et al. Br J Pharmacol 2002 Jan;135(1):181-187)

USA: California
People who use marijuana on their doctor's advice will get identification cards meant to protect them from arrest under a program approved by the city council of San Diego on 13 February. (Source: Union-Tribune of 14 February 2002)

Jamaica: Debate on legalization
The Jamaican parliament will debate whether cannabis should be legal for for private, medicinal or religious use by adults. A joint select committee of the Jamaican parliament will decide whether the law should be changed, government officials said, with no time limit to act. (Source: Reuters of 12 February 2002)

Germany: ECBS Symposium
The EURopean College for the Study of Consciousness (ECBS) will held its 9th symposium in Frankenthal (Germany) on 12-14 April 2002. The main focus will be on cannabis, with talks by Peter Hess, Jochen Sattler, Daniel Lamparter, Adi Dittrich, Franjo Grotenhermen, Jörg Fachner, Markus Leweke, Henrik Jungaberle, Rolf Verres, Dietrich Ebert and others. (More: www.magnet.ch/ecbs/)

Switzerland: CannaTrade
During the trade fair on HEMP CannaTrade on 1-3 March 2002 in Bern there will be lectures on the medical use of cannabis on Sunday with talks by Ethan Russo (USA), Claude Vaney (Switzerland), Mario Price (UK) and Manfred Fankhauser (Switzerland). (More: www.cannatrade.ch/)

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