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IACM-Bulletin of 30 October 2005

USA: Taxation of medical cannabis distributors in California

The state of California approved a policy that opens the door for medical cannabis distributors to collect and pay state sales tax. The policy considers their unique fear of being targeted by federal authorities because of legal questions surrounding their product.

Under the new policy businesses can get what is known as a sellers permit, allowing them to collect sales tax, without indicating whether their merchandise is lawful to sell. "We didn't want to inadvertently be in the position of putting medicinal marijuana dealers in a trouble spot," said an official of San Francisco. Currently, some retailers of medical marijuana are registered and pay tax, while others are not.

That was welcome news to Lisa Molyneux, who opened a dispensary in Santa Cruz last month. "Most of us want to comply with the law and do all we should as a regular business," said Molyneux. In agreement was Valerie Corral, co-founder of the cooperative Wo/men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana, who said such dispensaries should be treated like other businesses.

(Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel of 27 October 2005)

Canada/USA: Californian pain patient who fled to Canada extradited to the USA

An U.S. citizen who fled to Canada to avoid prosecution because he grew cannabis to help control chronic pain was arrested in a hospital by Canadian authorities, driven to the U.S. border with a catheter still attached, and turned over to U.S. officials - who provided him with no medical treatment for five days, his lawyer said.

Steven William Tuck, 38, was still fitted with the urinary catheter when he appeared before an U.S. District Court for a detention hearing on 12 October, his lawyer Douglas Hiatt said. Though Tuck had taken morphine - as prescribed by doctors - for about 16 years to help with his pain, he was given no painkiller or treatment at the jail other than ibuprofen, Hiatt said. Tuck, who appeared emaciated in court, has been sick from the morphine withdrawal, Hiatt said.

Judge James P. Donohue ordered Tuck temporarily released so that could be treated in hospital. Donohue released him on the condition that he face the charge before a court in California upon his release from the hospital.

Tuck is an army veteran who said he suffered debilitating injuries in the late 1980s, when his parachute failed to open during a jump. He spent a year in an army hospital undergoing operations at his spine. His injuries were exacerbated in a car crash in 1990. Over the years, he has had more than a dozen surgeries, his friends said. In 2001, he was living in McKinleyville, California, when his marijuana growing operation was raided for the second time. He fled to Canada to avoid prosecution, and sought asylum status, which was recently denied.

(Source: Associated Press of 12 October 2005)

News in brief

Switzerland: André Fuerst
On 24 August, the cannabis activist André Fuerst, founder of "Hanf-Info", was sentenced to 29 month in prison for violating the narcotics act. Mr Fuerst is known in Switzerland and abroad for his commitment to the multifold uses of cannabis products. Having had a liberal approach towards cannabis cultivation for a long time the climate on this issue worsened considerably in recent years in Switzerland and many cannabis growers were prosecuted for drug trafficking. (Source: www.hanf-info.ch)

USA: Melissa Etheridge
Melissa Etheridge said that she smoked cannabis to help with the pain and the side effects of chemotherapy during her treatment for breast cancer. The 44-year-old singer, who was diagnosed over a year ago, is now cancer-free. "Instead of taking five or six of the prescriptions, I decided to go a natural route and smoke marijuana," Etheridge said in an interview to "Dateline NBC". The singer said she smoked marijuana every day for her pain and symptoms and stopped after she felt well again. (Source: Associated Press of 14 October 2005)

USA: New Jersey
In a radio debate both candidates for governor, Jon S. Corzine, the Democratic nominee, and Douglas Forrester, the Republican nominee, said that they would sign a medical-marijuana law if elected governor. "With respect to providing relief under doctor's supervision, under the proper circumstances, I think we need to provide all medical resources, and that includes what is emerging now with regard to this particular application," said Forrester. (Source: Associated Press of 12 October 2005)

Science: CB2 receptors in the brain
Researches of the University of Calgary, Canada, identified CB2 receptors in the brainstem. They were activated by a CB2 receptor agonist and by endocannabinoids. They noted that "CB2 receptors represent an alternative site of action of endocannabinoids that opens the possibility of nonpsychotropic therapeutic interventions using enhanced endocannabinoid levels in localized brain areas." (Source: Van Sickle MD, et al. Science 2005;310(5746):329-32)

Science: Cannabis and cancer
Dr. Robert Melamede, chair of biology at the University of Colorado in Boulder, discussed the issue of the carcinogenic potential of cannabis smoking compared to tobacco smoking. He said that "tobacco smoke, but not cannabis smoke, may result in lung cancer" since tobacco contains nicotine that would be "really the cancer-promoting agent." (Source: Melamede RJ. Harm Reduct J. 2005;2(1):21; United Press International of 17 October 2005)

Italy: Conference on pain
On 28 October the Italian Association for Cannabis as Medicine in cooperation with the law school of the University of Milan-Bicocca and the Department of Pharmacology, Chemotherapy and Toxicology of the University of Milan organized a conference on cannabinoids and pain. The speakers were Valerio Pocar, Claudio Cappuccino, Barbara Costa, Daniela Parolaro, William Notcutt, Francesco Crestani and Rosanna Cerbo. (Source: Press release of the ACT of 14 October 2005)

Science: Opioid withdrawal
German researchers tested the effects of several substances in alleviating opioid withdrawal symptoms in 89 opioid-dependent patients. They applied a five-point scale (1 = very good reduction of opioid withdrawal; 5 = no reduction of opioid withdrawal). The following mean values were observed: for benzodiazepines, 3.2; tricyclic antidepressants, 3.6; cannabis, 3.6; alcohol, 4.1; cocaine, 4.2; amphetamine, 4.4; nicotine, 4.7; and caffeine, 4.9. Scientists noted that their "study shows a low efficacy of non-opioid drugs in alleviating opioid withdrawal symptoms. (…) Only benzodiazepines and tricyclic antidepressants were reported to have a moderate positive effect on opioid withdrawal." (Source: Hermann D, et al. Addict Biol 2005;10(2):165-9)

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