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IACM-Bulletin of 15 May 2005

USA: Bill in support of the medical use of cannabis introduced in Congress

Republicans Ron Paul (Texas) and Dana Rohrabacher (California), along with Democrats Sam Farr (California), Barney Frank (Massachusetts), Maurice Hinchey (New York), and 25 co-sponsors reintroduced legislation on 4 May in Congress (House of Representatives) to permit the medicinal use of marijuana by seriously ill patients in states with a corresponding law.

In announcing the bill, Mr. Frank was joined by television talk show host Montel Williams, who uses cannabis and says it is the only thing that has eased his suffering from multiple sclerosis. "It makes no sense at all to have the federal government overriding a vote of the people of a state on what should be criminalized and what shouldn't be criminalized in terms of personal consumption," Mr. Rohrabacher said.

HR 2087 seeks to reschedule cannabis under federal law so that physicians may legally prescribe it in states that have recognized its use under state law. It would reschedule marijuana from a Schedule I (criminally prohibited drug) to a Schedule II (prescription-only substance) and also permits the establishment of medical cannabis distribution systems by state legislators. Ten states have laws that effectively protect medical marijuana patients from arrest: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. A Maryland law protects patients from the threat of jail but does not provide protection from arrest.

In July 2003 the House of Representatives rejected a similar bill. It was defeated by a vote of 273 to 152, which was closer than expected. In 1998 the vote in favour of a resolution condemning state medical marijuana laws was 310 to 93.

(Sources: Associated Press of 4 May 2005, Washington Times of 5 May 2005, Washington Examiner of 11 May 2005)

News in brief

Holland: Poll on legalisation
According to a poll for the newspaper "Trouw" every second citizen of the Netherlands is in favour of complete legalisation of cannabis. Further 15 per cent prefer the current policy of tolerance. Only one third supports a more severe policy on cannabis. In addition, the poll shows that 20 out of 30 mayors of the biggest Dutch cities support complete legalisation. Currently, the cultivation of cannabis is illegal in the Netherlands, however, possession and purchase of small amounts and the sale in coffee-shops are tolerated. "The drug policy is very schizophrenic. It is like telling a baker that he is allowed to sell bread but not allowed to buy flour," Gerd Leers, the mayor of Maastricht said. (Source: Der Standard of 27 April 2005)

Canada/USA: Opinion polls
Adults in Canada and the United States believe in more lenient penalties for the handling of cannabis, according to a poll by Ipsos-Reid for the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Canada Institute on North American Issues. 59 per cent of Canadian respondents—and 57 per cent of American respondents—think the conviction of possession of marijuana should not always result in a criminal record. 1,000 adult Canadians and 1,000 adult Americans were interviewed by telephone in April 2005. (Source: Angus Reid of 11 May 2005)

Science: Endocannabinoids in the eye
The endocannabinoids anandamide, 2-AG (2-arachidonoylglycerol) and PEA (palmitylethanolamide) are present in several ocular tissues, including cornea, iris, ciliary body and retina. New research demonstrated that in eyes from patients with glaucoma, significantly decreased levels of 2-AG and PEA are present in the ciliary body. Since the ciliary body is an important tissue in the regulation of intraocular pressure these findings suggest that these endocannabinoids may have a role in glaucoma. (Source: Chen J, et al. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 2005;330(4):1062-7)

Science: CBD and neuroprotection
Heavy alcohol consumption in the rat induces substantial damage to the nerves in several brain areas. American researchers demonstrated that cannabidiol (CBD) protected against this neurodegeneration in a dose-dependent fashion. Similarly, several other antioxidants such as alpha tocopherol (vitamin E) also afforded significant protection. Authors concluded that their study "provides the first demonstration of CBD as an in vivo neuroprotectant and shows the efficacy of lipophilic antioxidants in preventing binge ethanol-induced brain injury." (Source: Hamelink C, et al. J Pharmacol Exp Ther 2005 May 5 [electronic publication ahead of print])

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