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IACM-Bulletin of 17 July 2011

USA: Justice Department denies rescheduling of cannabis

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), an agency under the federal Department of Justice, ruled on 8 July that cannabis (usually called marijuana in the United States) has "no accepted medical use" and should therefore remain illegal under federal law. The Time Magazine noted that this decision was made "regardless of conflicting state legislation allowing medical marijuana and despite hundreds of studies and centuries of medical practice attesting to the drug's benefits."

The judgment came in response to a 2002 petition by supporters of medical cannabis use, which called on the government to reclassify cannabis, which is currently a Schedule I drug, like heroin illegal for all uses, to allow for medical uses. The DEA ruled that cannabis has "no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States," has a "high potential for abuse," and "lacks an acceptable level of safety for use even under medical supervision."

Although the DEA judgment sounds like a setback for advocates of medical cannabis use, in one important sense it is an advance, the Time Magazine stated. "The government had long delayed making a judgment on the petition, but now that it has, it makes it possible for advocates to appeal it in federal court. Now, that process can be set in motion." And advocates for the medical use of cannabis have already stated that they will do so.

More at:
- www.latimes.com/news/opinion/opinionla/la-ed-marijuana-20110713,0,3089477.story
- healthland.time.com/2011/07/11/u-s-rules-marijuana-has-no-medical-use-what-does-science-say/

Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis:

Denial of petition by the Drug Enforcement Administration

(Sources: Time Magazine of 11 July 2011, Los Angeles Times of 13 July 2011)

News in brief

Holland: Medicinal cannabis use
Four cannabis varieties are available in Dutch pharmacies. According to an analysis of the use of prescribed cannabis over the period 2003-2010 cannabis was dispensed more than 40,000 times to about 6,000 different patients. The number of patients steadily increased in recent years, growing from about 850 patients in 2006, to more than 1,300 in 2010. This increase coincided with the fact that some Dutch pharmacies had specialized in medicinal cannabis, resulting in lower prices and better information for the patient. More at: www.sfk.nl/publicaties/farmacie_in_cijfers/2011/2011-20.html. (Source: Pharmaceutisch Weekblad nr. 20, 2011)

Science: Tolerance
According to research at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, USA, regular users of cannabis present with reduction (downregulation) of CB1 receptors in the cortex of the brain. After 4 weeks of abstinence numbers of receptors (receptor density) returned to normal levels. (Source: Hirvonen J, et al. Mol Psychiatry. 2011 Jul 12. [in press])

Science: Inflammation
According to cell experiments at the University of Nottingham, United Kingdom, locally produced endocannabinoids, acting via CB1 receptors play a role in mediating an increase of intestinal permeability with inflammation. But THC and cannabidiol (CBD) may possess therapeutic potential in reversing disordered permeability associated with inflammation. (Source: Alhamoruni A, et al. Br J Pharmacol. 2011 Jul 11. [in press])

Science: Arthritis
According to research at the Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, USA, blockade of the enzyme fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), which degrades the endocannabinoid anandamide, reduces development of arthritis and associated increased pain sensitivity (hyperalgesia) in mice. The blockade results in an increased anandamide concentration. (Source: Kinsey SG, et al. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2011 Jun 29. [in press])

Science: Chemotherapy
The chemotherapeutic agent paclitaxel frequently produces peripheral neuropathy. Researchers from Temple University in Philadelphia, USA, found out that CBD prevents this side effect in mice. (Source: Ward SJ, et al. Anesth Analg. 2011 Jul 7. [in press])

Science: AIDS
Microglia are a population of immune cells in the central nervous system (CNS) which upon HIV infection secrete a number of inflammation causing substances, including the virus-specified protein "Tat". Tat has been implicated in HIV-associated damage of the CNS. Researchers at the Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, USA, demonstrated in mouse modell that THC and a synthetic cannabinoid inhibited migration of microglial-like cells to the HIV protein Tat. (Source: Fraga D, et al. J Neuroimmune Pharmacol. 2011 Jul 7. [in press])

Science: Dependency to opioids
According to research at the Virginia Commonwealth University, USA, the blockade of endocannabinoid degrading enzymes attenuated withdrawal symptoms in mice dependent to morphine. (Source: Ramesh D, et al. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2011 Jul 5. [in press])

Science: Anorexia nervosa
According to research at the University of Leuven, Belgium, 14 female patients with anorexia nervosa presented with increased CB1 receptor density in the cortex of the brain and several other brain regions. Researchers concluded that "global CB1R upregulation in AN patients is a possible long-term compensatory mechanism to an underactive endocannabinoid system in anorectic conditions." Similar observations were made in 16 female patients with bulimia nervosa. (Source: Gérard N, et al. Biol Psychiatry. 2011 Jun 28. [in press])

Science: Aging
According to research at the University of Bonn, Germany, with mice CB1 receptors play an important role in brain aging. Mice without CB1 receptors showed an accelerated age-dependent deficit in learning accompanied by a loss of principal nerve cells in the hippocampus. Authors suggest that CB1 receptor activity in the hippocampus protects against age-dependent cognitive decline by reducing inflammation of the brain and degeneration of pyramidal cells. (Source: Albayram O, et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2011;108(27):11256-61.)

Science: Psychosis
According to research at Maastricht University, The Netherlands, with 6,478 children who were followed through their adulthood maltreatment in childhood and cannabis use at age 19 synergistically increased psychosis risk. Psychosis-inducing effects of cannabis were stronger in individuals exposed to earlier sexual or physical mistreatment. (Source: Konings M, et al. Psychol Med 2011 Jun 16:1-11. [in press])

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