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IACM-Bulletin of 24 December 2000

Canada: Mine in Manitoba will produce legal marijuana / MS patient can grow his own cannabis judge ruled

A Canadian who uses marijuana to control multiple sclerosis symptoms was allowed to grow his own cannabis by a Calgary judge on 11 December.

Grant Krieger, 46, was charged with marijuana cultivation as well as cultivation for the purpose of trafficking. Judge Darlene Acton said Krieger's rights would be violated if he was not allowed to grow marijuana for his own therapeutic use.

Current Canadian health legislation allows patients to seek an exemption to marijuana possession laws from the Health Ministry. But Acton blasted the legislation as an "absurdity." With no official channels by which to acquire the marijuana, patients must resort to purchasing it illegally, she said.

Meanwhile the Canadian government has chosen a company to provide the country with its first legal supply of marijuana for medical and research purposes. Prairie Plant Systems of Saskatoon won a five-year contract worth 3.78 million U.S. dollars, to supply marijuana, the Health Department announced on 21 December. The contract requires that standardized, quality marijuana be available within a year.

The marijuana will be grown, processed and packaged underground in an unused portion of a copper mine in northern Manitoba, Prairie Plant Systems president Brent Zettl said. "The idea here is we can use these underground growth-chamber environments for the production of bio-pharmaceutical plants that really require two things," Zettl said. "One is genetic containment, and the second is security."

"This marijuana will be made available to people participating in structured research programs, and to authorized Canadians using it for medical purposes who agree to provide information to my department for monitoring and research purposes," Health Minister Allan Rock said.

(Source: Reuters of 11 and 22 December 2000, Associated Press of 23 December)

Holland: Establishment of an Office of Medicinal Cannabis

The Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports has established an Office of Medicinal Cannabis (Bureau voor Medicinale Cannabis). The goals of the Office are to determine whether cannabis can be used as a medicine and for which indications.

In an official letter to the United Nations' International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), Minister Els Borst-Eilers says that "many case reports indicate that cannabis may be useful as a medicine, but there is no high level evidence available yet."

"If clinical studies provide positive results, adequate supply of licensed cannabis products to the pharmaceutical market should be ensured. From that moment on this will be another task of the Office. The Office will act as a regulator for the horticulture of cannabis, cannabis resin and their preparations and for clinical trials with these substances, as required by the Single Convention on narcotic drugs. It will also stimulate high quality trials that can be done with several dosage forms of varying composition and for multiple indications," the letter to the INCB says.

More information at: www.minvws.nl/

(Sources: Letter of Els Borst-Eilers to the INCB of 14 December 2000, Personal communication of Willem K. Scholten)

News in brief

USA:
Hawaii announced its medical marijuana rules on 19 December, saying certified patients will be allowed to possess up to three ounces of marijuana and grow up to seven plants. Doctors can get a registration certificate for a patient to use marijuana. The rules take effect on 28 December. (Source: AP of 19 December 2000)

Science:
Professor Roger Pertwee of Aberdeen University (Scotland) and colleagues have developed a water-soluble cannabinoid receptor agonist, called O-1057. Pertwee headed a team of researchers which aimed to develop a cannabis compound which could be injected or used in aerosols or sprays. The new compound acts as a potent agonist at CB1 and CB2 receptors and according to the scientists warrants further investigation of its therapeutic potential. (Sources: PA News of 10 December 2000; Pertwee RG, et al.: O-1057, a potent water-soluble cannabinoid receptor agonist with antinociceptive properties. Br J Pharmacol 2000 Apr;129(8):1577-84)

Science:
An international research team demonstrated that endocannabinoid levels are increased in spasticity. In a multiple sclerosis model, CREAE in mice, spasticity was tonically controlled by the endocannabinoid system. While the endocannabinoid levels were normal in healthy mice and in non-spastic CREAE mice, there was a marked increase of endocannabinoids in spastic CREAE mice. Thus, spastic disorders might be treated by modulating the endocannabinoid system. (Source: Baker D, et al.: Endocannabinoids control spasticity in a multiple sclerosis model. FASEB J, published online on 8 December 2000)

USA:
Marijuana use among teenagers is unchanged compared to the previous year, a government report issued on 14 December finds. 15.6 percent of the 13 and 14 years old, 32.2 percent of the 15 and 16 years old, and 36.5 percent of the 17 and 18 years old said they had used cannabis in the past year. (Source: Reuters of 14 December 2000)

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