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IACM-Bulletin of 23 October 2011

USA: Federal government intends to close cannabis dispensaries in California

On 7 October federal attorneys announced an ending of what they call California's massive commercial marijuana trade, including medical cannabis dispensaries they say are often fronts for illegal for-profit drug distribution. They outlined a range of actions including civil forfeiture lawsuits against property owners involved in drug trafficking, written warnings to landlords of storefronts illegally selling cannabis and criminal prosecution of other cannabis offenses. The prosecutors said California's medical cannabis law had given cover for large-scale commercial operations to engage in drug trafficking across state lines, with thousands of pounds of marijuana worth tens of millions of dollars flowing across the country from California. "That is not what the California voters intended or authorized, and it is illegal under California law," said Andre Birotte, U.S. attorney for the Central District of California.

Federal prosecutors should be careful not to overreach in their crackdown on California’s cannabis dispensaries, the state attorney general said on 20 October. The law passed 15 years ago by California voters has ambiguities that must be resolved either by the state Legislature or the courts, state Attorney General Kamala Harris said in a statement. However, Harris said she was worried that "an overly broad federal enforcement campaign will make it more difficult for legitimate patients to access physician-recommended medicine in California." She urged federal authorities to make sure their enforcement efforts are focused on significant traffickers of illegal drugs.

The situation of dispensaries in different states that allow the medical use of cannabis is often very different from each other. Thus, the biggest difference to Rhode Island is that the licensing of dispensaries in California is not regulated, while state law in Rhode Island permits the opening of just three dispensaries in the smallest state of the USA. "It’s a completely different world," said JoAnne Leppanen, executive director of the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition. "It’s apples and oranges. The face of the patients has gotten lost in California."

More at:
- www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/08/us-california-marijuana-idUSTRE79700C20111008
- www.providencejournal.com/

(Sources: Reuters of 8 October 2011, Associated Press of 20 October 2011, The Providence Journal of 10 October 2011)

News in brief

Holland: Bedromedical
Bedromedical BV, a new Dutch company, has officially been launched by 1 October. The aim of the company is to bring administration of medicinal cannabis in its natural form as a registered drug on the market. Bedromedical BV is a joint venture between Bedrocan BV and Zorginnovaties Nederland BV (Healthcare Innovations Netherlands). Bedrocan BV is contracted by the Dutch Health Ministry for the cultivation and production of medical cannabis. Bedromedical has the first prototype of a dosage unit in combination with an optimized delivery device (vaporizer) already completed. Clinical trials are expected to start within two years. (Source: Press release by Bedromedical BV of 10 October 2011)

USA: California
California's largest association of physicians is calling for the legalization of cannabis. Representatives of the California Medical Association representing 35,000 physicians adopted the new stance at its annual meeting on 14 October in Anaheim. The CMA acknowledges health risks associated with cannabis use and proposes regulation similar to alcohol and tobacco, but the association says the consequences of criminalization outweigh the dangers. The CMA wants the White House to reclassify cannabis to facilitate further research on its medical potential. (Source: Los Angeles Times of 16 October 2011)

USA: Legalization
Half of Americans now support legalizing cannabis use, a record level, a Gallup poll showed on 17 October. "Support for legalizing marijuana has been increasing over the past several years, rising to 50 percent today, the highest on record," a summary of the poll said. Another 46 percent said cannabis should remain illegal. Gallup said support for legalization had crept up from just 12 percent in 1969 to 30 percent in 2000 and 40 percent in 2009. The poll was based on telephone interviews conducted between 6-9 October with a random sample of 1,005 adults across the country. (Source: Reuters of 18 October 2011)

Science: Schizophrenia
Data of a long-term study on consequences of cannabis use on schizophrenia and other psychoses were analyzed by scientists of the Karolinska Institut in Stockholm, Sweden. A cohort of 50,087 military conscripts with data on cannabis use in late adolescence was followed up during 35 years with regard to in-patient care for psychotic diagnoses. Relative risks among frequent cannabis users compared with non-users were 3.7 for schizophrenia, 2.2 for brief psychosis and 2.0 for other non-affective psychoses. (Source: Manrique-Garcia E, et al. Psychol Med. 2011 Oct 17:1-8. [in press])

Science: Pain
Scientists from several medical institutions from the USA, Australia and Canada investigated the relationship between cannabis use and pain in a representative survey of 5,672 adults conducted in the United States. There was a significant association between lifetime chronic pain and lifetime and current cannabis use. Moreover, current chronic pain was significantly associated with lifetime cannabis use. (Source: Zvolensky MJ, et al. Am J Addict 2011;20(6):538-542.)

Science: Cancer and omega-3 fatty acids
According to research at the University of Aberdeen, UK, the concentration of endocannabinoids (N-acylethanolamine derivatives, NAE) increases in cancer cells after the intake of omega-3 fatty acids. Researchers wrote that "this is the first study reporting that n-3-NAEs are synthesised from their parent n-3 fatty acids in cancer cells, regardless of tumour type, hormone status or the presence of fatty acid amide hydrolase. This could have important implications for the use of n-3 fatty acids as therapeutic agents in breast and prostate cancers expressing cannabinoid receptors." (Source: Brown I, et al. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2011 Oct 11. [in press])

Science: Glaucoma
According to research at the University of Mississippi, USA, the transport of THC through the cornea was improved by using a pro-drug (THC-hemiglutarate) in an ion-pair complex with l-arginine or tromethamine. Researchers wrote that "the use of a ion-pair complex of THC-HG could be an effective strategy for topical delivery of THC." (Source: Hingorani T, et al. J Pharm Sci. 2011 Oct 11. [in press])

Science: Vanilloid receptor
The characteristics of the vanilloid receptor 4 were investigated by researchers of the Charité in Berlin, Germany. It is activated by moderate heat and several endogenous substances including arachidonic acid and the endocannabinoids anandamide and 2-AG. (Source: Mergler S, et al. Exp Eye Res. 2011 Oct 6. [in press])

Science: Heavy cannabis use
According to research at the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, regional grey matter volume in the anterior cerebellum was larger in heavy cannabis users than in a control group. Grey matter volume in the brain regions amygdala and hippocampus was reduced in heavy cannabis users. No associations were found between white matter volume of the brain and measures of cannabis use. Researchers noted that "associations between heavy cannabis use and altered brain structure are complex." (Source: Cousijn J, et al. Neuroimage. 2011 Sep 29. [in press])

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