International Cannabinoid Research Society
1998 Symposium on Cannabinoids
The annual meeting
of this group of research scientists was held in La Grande Motte, France during
July 23-25, 1998, for the first time outside of North America. The conference
was attended by about 150 scientists -- largely from academic laboratories in
Europe and the US. A total of 135 papers was presented, but only a few personal
highlights will be described here.
A substantial number of papers focused on the naturally occurring cannabinoids in brain and in peripheral tissues. At least two lipid derivatives are now recognized: anandamide (arachidony ethanol-amide) and an arachidonic acid ester, 2-arachidonyl glycerol (2-AG). The latter substance is as potent as anandamide and is present in larger quantities than anandamide in the brain. Several papers focused on the biochemical mechanisms involved in the synthesis and degradation of these lipids in brain tissue, and progress has been made in defining the biochemical mechanisms involved. Attention has also focused on the development of metabolically more stable chemical analogs of anandamide and 2-AG with improved activity in whole animal studies. The naturally occur-ring compounds are rapidly degraded and are thus not very active in vivo. Another lipid, palmitoyl ethanol-amide, may represent the natural activator of CB2 receptors, although there was some disagreement about its pharmacological activity and selectivity.
Whether the endogenous cannabinoids will form the basis for useful new medicines remains unclear, although David Pate (HortaPharm B.V., The Netherlands) and colleagues (Univ. of Kuopio, Finland) described promising results for the reduction of intraocular pressure when a metabolically stable anandamide analog was applied topically to the normal rabbit eye. This effect appeared to involve a local CB1 receptor mechanism, as it could be blocked by subcutaneously pretreating the animals with the CB1 receptor specific antagonist SR141716A. In order to deliver the water-insoluble anandamide analog to the eye, it was first dispersed in an aqueous solution containing a beta-cyclodextrin carrier.
Several groups are studying the detailed molecular architecture of the CB1 and CB2 receptors and beginning to identify the precise sites at which the cannabinoids bind to these proteins. Studies of the receptors using in vitro model systems have revealed some interesting differences between the effectiveness of various cannabinoids in activating the receptors. In particular, Δ9-THC appears to act as only a partial agonist at the CB1 receptor (i.e. it cannot elicit a maximum response). Cannabidiol - one of the most abundant Cannabis compounds - on the other hand, appears to act as an antagonist at the CB1 receptor.
The CB1-selective antagonist drug SR141716A and the related CB2-selective antagonist SR144528, both from the French pharmaceutical company Sanofi, were the subject of many papers, and these compounds have proved to be important new research tools for probing cannabinoid functions. Scientists from Sanofi revealed that they are developing SR141716A for clinical trials, with schizophrenia as their first target, based on their rationale that high doses of THC can cause a schizophrenia-like psychosis in some people. A novel CB1 antagonist CP-272871 from Pfizer was also described, for the first time, and has properties similar to those of SR141716A.
The CB2 receptor, located principally on cells in the immune system, has attracted attention from a number of major pharmaceutical companies as a potential target for discovering novel anti-inflammatory or immunosupressant drugs. There has been good progress in identifying CB2-selective drugs (e.g., from Merck Frosst, Glaxo-Wellcome, Smith Kline Beecham), but so far, there is little confidence that this target will prove useful. Dr. Nancy Buckley (US National Institutes of Health) described the "CB2 knockout mouse" in which, as a result of genetic engineering, the CB2 receptor is no longer expressed. These mice, how-ever, seemed remarkably normal in their immune cell population and in immune function and have not, so far, greatly assisted understanding the role normally played by the CB2 receptors.
The possible adverse effects of long term Cannabis use were described by Donald Tashkin and colleagues (UCLA) who reported that treatment of mice with THC (5 mg/kg four times a week) led to more rapid growth of implanted lung cancer cells and decreased survival. It was suggested that THC may suppress immune-mediated eradication of tumor cells.
A special session sponsored by the US National Institute on Drug Abuse focused on the effects of long term Cannabis use on frontal lobe function in man. A series of studies using imaging, cerebral blood flow and EEG measurements indicated depressed frontal lobe function in long term Cannabis users, and there were accompanying subtle deficits in sensory and cognitive processing - in the so called "executive functions" of the brain. There was little evidence, however, that any of these effects persisted after cessation of drug intake.
Billy Martin et al. (Medical College of Virginia, USA) described an animal model of Cannabis dependence. When dogs were treated with high doses of THC for 7-14 days and then challenged with the CB1 antagonist SR141716A, clear physical signs of withdrawal became apparent - these included trembling, shaking, restlessness, vomiting and diarrhea. By using the antagonist challenge model it has become much clearer that physical dependence and withdrawal can occur with large doses of THC, at least in animals.
Furthermore, Fernando Rodriguez de Fonseca et al (Madrid) reported that the administration of SR141716A to morphine-dependent animals elicit-ed a behavioral and endocrine syndrome similar to that seen in opiate withdrawal, although considerably milder. Conversely some withdrawal signs could be elicited in cannabinoid dependent animals when challenged with the opiate receptor antagonist naloxone - suggesting an interaction between the opioid and cannabinoid systems in brain.
The interaction of opiate and cannabinoid mechanisms was also high-lighted by Sandra Welch (Medical College of Virginia, USA) who reported that low doses of THC significantly potentiated the pain-relieving effects of morphine and other opiates in a mouse model of arthritis-like pain. Higher doses of THC were also, by themselves, fully effective in causing analgesia in this model. She is planning a clinical trial (with the approval of the US Food & Drug Administration) of low doses of THC (dronabinol) in conjunction with self-administered morphine in patients suffering from cancer pain, in the hope that the drug combination may make morphine more effective in such patients.
Further evidence for a possible utility of cannabinoids in the treatment of pain was reported by Daniele Piomelli et al. (UC Irvine) who described powerful analgesic effects of anandamide when injected directly into the rat paw in an inflamed paw model of inflammatory pain. The mechanism appeared to involve both CB1 and CB2 receptors located on sensory nerve fibers in the skin, and when a combination of CB1-selective and CB2-selective compounds was injected, there was synergy between them. Experiments using radio-labelled anandamide showed that >90% of the injected dose remained in the paw, and very little entered the brain or spinal cord. These results are highly original and suggest the possibility that cannabinoids can exert pain-relieving actions without having to penetrate into the CNS.
Other medical applications were suggested by the results of an anonymous survey conducted by P. Consroe (Univ. of Arizona, USA) and R. Musty (Univ. of Vermont) on 106 patients with spinal cord injuries who were self-medicating with smoked marijuana. The patients smoked an average of 4 joints a day, 6 days a week and had been doing so for >10 years. More than 90% report-ed that Cannabis helped improve symptoms of muscle spasms of arms or legs, and improved urinary control and function. Around 70% reported pain relief. The results of this survey and a similar one conducted earlier by R. Pertwee in MS patients may help to pinpoint the relevant symptoms to focus on, as outcome measures in future clinical trials of Cannabis or cannabinoids.
The availability of "standardised medical grade marijuana" for such clinical trials was described by J. Khodabaks and O. Engelsma (Mari-pharm, The Netherlands). The laboratory cultivates standardized Cannabis plants selected for a high yield of THC and low content of other cannabinoids, these are cloned by propagating (by cuttings) from female plants. The plants are grown under standard conditions and the female flower heads harvested and vacuum-sealed for storage and then gamma-irradiated to sterilize the preparations. Samples are routinely checked for THC and other cannabinoids and to ensure that they are free of pesticides. The THC content in different batches was highly consistent at 10.7% (0.1% standard deviation). Interestingly, in light of discussions about the relevance of other cannabinoids in herbal Cannabis, cannabidiol and cannabinol are present in only minor amounts (< 0.1%) in these samples.
Some facts to illuminate discussions about "super potent" Cannabis were provided by Mahmoud ElSohly (Univ. of Mississippi) who summarized results obtained from the analysis of confiscated marijuana samples. This service has been running since 1980 at the University of Mississippi and involves the analysis of samples from all regions of the United States. Data from 35,312 samples were available. The potency of marijuana leaf samples (the commonest in US seizures) rose from around 1.5% THC content in 1980 to around 3% in the 1980’s and most recently to 3.87% in 1996 and 4.15% in 1997. The THC content of ‘sinsemilla’ (the female plant flower head) rose from around 6.5% in 1980 to 9.22% (1996) and 11.53% (1997). The increases are thought to be due to improved culture conditions rather than to any genetic improvements. Analysis of samples of Cannabis resin or oil revealed few discernible trends, with figures ranging from 3% to 19% THC content.
Winnipeg’s Hemp Farming & Equipment Show
The Hemp Farming & Equipment Show, held at the Winnipeg
Convention Centre on October 13-14, 1998, was a resounding success. Produced by
Wiseman Noble Sales and Marketing Ltd., the two day event brought together
farmers, international and Canadian hemp experts, and representatives from
government and financiers, in a conference that will help move hemp forward in
Manitoba and across Canada. Based on the results of the show. The Hemp Farming
& Equipment show will become an annual event, and is poised to help ensure
that Manitoba will remain a leader in Canadian hemp production.
The Hemp Farming & Equipment Show was developed by Wiseman Noble for the Manitoba Hemp Association (MHA), a newly forming not-for-profit association that is dedicated to the promotion of "Hemp by and for Manitobans." The MHA is made up of experienced industrial hemp farmers, researchers, hemp entrepreneurs, retailers and others interested in seeing the hemp industry develop in Manitoba. After the show, it was announced that Wiseman Noble will be selling the successful event to the MHA for the sum of one Canadian dollar.
"The HFES will be sold to the MHA once it has selected a full board and is incorporated as a non-profit association," says Sotos Petrides, show producer, and President of Wiseman Noble. ‘The board will be composed of all parties interested in industrial hemp initiatives. It is important that everyone in Manitoba shows support for this new association."
The HFES was the sixth event dealing with hemp and other alter-native fibers that Wiseman Noble has produced since the annual Commercial & Industrial Hemp Symposium, first held in Vancouver in February 1997.
Conference delegates received valuable information, whether they were preparing to grow hemp on a substantial scale in 1999 or were only looking to grow the crop for first time. Delegates and speakers reported on high yields in the first year of growing hemp commercially, how demanding hemp was on farm machinery, and the various methods used to harvest this crop across Canada. Delegates were also excited by new technologies that may be useful in processing hemp. While there is clearly no shortage of interest by farmers wanting to grow the crop, speakers also advised on the need for market development, which is required to move the industry forward.
The trade show brought together community and rural development organizations, Manitoba agronomists, and exhibitors displayed cutting edge technology and science that will be useful to anyone interested in this new crop. The trade show also exhibited value-added products showing the versatility of end uses for hemp. On the evening of the 13th, delegates and the public were treated to an exciting night of hemp fashions. Designers that were represented included Ashira, Club Kanhai, Ecolution, Labyrinth, Nomads 1800, Sand-stone, Simply Hemp, Spiral, Spirit Stream, The Hemp Club and Two Star Dog. Sponsors included The Bank of Montreal, Manitoba Agriculture and Commercial Hemp magazine.
For more information please visit the Wiseman Noble web page at www.wisenoble.com or contact:
Wiseman Noble Vancouver
Ste. 302-505 Hamilton St. 597
V6B 2R1 Canada
Tel: +1 (604) 662-8600
Fax: +1 (604) 662-8621
Wiseman Noble Winnipeg
R3L 0M9 Canada
Tel: +1 (204) 474-0987
Fax: +1 (204) 284-6820
The North American
Industrial Hemp Council (NAIHC) annual business meeting and conference held at
the Crown Plaza Hotel in Washington, D.C., November 5-7, 1998, was an
interesting mix of market development and mounting political pressure. The
conference emphasized the need for developing hemp markets and the success of
Canada’s first commercial plantings. About 30 speakers addressed a packed room
of delegates drawn from across North America and Europe.
Stan Blades of the Alberta Department of Agriculture gave a balanced overview of the agricultural practices of hemp farming. Several conference panels focused on the opportunities for processing and marketing hempseed products. Marjorie McGinnis, of Frederick Brewing Company, makers of Hempen Ale, shared her challenges of developing and selling their hemp beer line. Richard Rose of the Hemp Nut Corporation discussed the many nutritional benefits and food uses of hulled hemp seed. Three major Canadian hempseed processors, Jean Laprise of Kenex, Greg Herriott of Hempola, and Ruth Shamai of R & D Hemp explained how their respective companies are creating markets for their hempseed derivative products. Market penetration was looking promising as the Canadian contingent outlined their strategies for capturing market share in the massive US marketplace. R & D hemp is breeding a high GLA hemp seed strain to capture a share of the lucrative and growing healthfoods market. Hempola gave an impressive presentation outlining plans to market their hemp seed derived products of flour, oil and soap. Canadian Senator Lorna Milne also attended.
English body-care products entrepreneur, Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop, pointed out the almost laughable hurdles that various government agencies have placed in front of them as the firm launches their hemp line in Canada, England and France. She provided yet another potential market by stating that The Body Shop would consider building new Body Shop stores using hemp if those products were available. On the fiber side, a variety of presentations were made on the subjects of paper, building materials, and automotive parts. England’s Stuart Carpenter, formerly of Hemcore, gave an update on European hemp activities. One of the more promising aspects of this, was utilizing fiber hemp as a strengthening agent for making polypropylene products.
The other top issue was the mounting political pressure for the re-introduction of industrial hemp. The political situation was covered by representatives David Monson of North Dakota and Cynthia Theilan of Hawaii. NAIHC board members Jeff Gain, Andy Kerr and Ned Dailey discussed some of the strategies for legalizing hemp in the United States, including a NAIHC petition to transfer regulatory authority from the Drug Enforcement Administration to the Department of Agriculture, as well as other legal actions. William Holmberg, a former Marine and President of Global Bio Refineries, provided a plan to increase the political pressure on Government to legalize industrial hemp.
Over 120 attendees enjoyed a delicious hemp foods banquet coordinated by Richard Rose of the Hempnut Corporation. Foods included: pasta with hemp pesto, breaded zucchini sticks with hemp cheese sprinkled with dehulled hemp seed, a hemp-olive oil salad dressing, and a chocolate HempNut™ dessert. Rounding out this most successful evening was Ralph Nader, who addressed the banquet audience and threw his support behind industrial hemp legalization. He compared the US government’s hemp policy to the Catholic church’s view that Galileo be imprisoned for saying that the earth rotates around the sun.
The NAIHC business meeting discussed the council’s activities including media efforts, market development, and the full board’s approval to form a sister 501(c)6 trade association.
The final speaker, Joe American Horse of the Lakota Sioux Nation gave a humble, yet powerful presentation. His tribe is located in the poorest county in the United States and he sees hemp as a way to create greater economic opportunities, along with helping to feed, shelter, and clothe his people.
It may still be a few years before the United States legalizes hemp. However judging by the interest and calibre of speakers and attendees at this year’s annual conference, the commercial cultivation of American industrial hemp is an inevitability.
The next NAIHC conference will be held in November 1999 in Memphis, Tennessee. For more information contact: North American Industrial Hemp Council at www.naihc.org or e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Freeman , Wiseman Noble
and John W. Roulac - Hemptech
San Francisco Industrial Hemp Expo ‘98
The "Expos of
the Americas" group recently produced the largest industrial hemp expo to
date on the North American continent at the Festival Pavilion, Fort Mason
Center, San Francisco on November 14-15. The event was designed to address the
needs of the industry, the curiosity of the local community and the concerns of
the general public. On-site preparation started during the early hours on
Friday, November 13th.
Dennis Cicero from the Galaxy Global Restaurant arrived from New York City and immediately started to prepare the food for that evening’s candlelight dinner. The meal was a fund-raiser for Headwaters Redwood Forest, designed to honor Julia Butter-fly Hill. She has been living atop a redwood tree since December 1997, in protest of Pacific Lumber’s continued destruction of the Headwaters Forest. Several chefs and some very capable volunteers assisted. Vendor-setup and registration started at 11:00 AM. As the hours passed, Fort Mason’s empty shell came alive with the energy of enthusiastic hemp vendors and educators. The rest rooms were stocked with great skin care products donated by various hemp vendors. Breathtaking works of art were placed near the entrance, including the hemp goddess, created by Carrie Eheler. And the Head- waters Altar, inspired by Dianna Sarto, made a strong ecological statement.
Set-up ended around 6:30 PM and tables were prepared for that evening’s benefit dinner. Several hours later, I passed through the entrance of the venue to find the space had trans-formed into a classy and stylish restaurant. Tables were draped with hemp tablecloths and decorated with hemp candles in hemp-beeswax shells. Throughout the evening, "Friends of Bob" entertained us, with their music. The meal was prepared with organic food supplied by the Rainbow cooperative grocery in San Francisco. The menu was filled with hempen tastes, serving fresh spiced pumpkin soup with HempNut™ crisps, seasonal greens with hemp-pumpkin-citrus vinaigrette, open-faced Japanese raviolis with wild mushroom and leek ragout, hemp-balsamic scampi, Hemp-Nut™ baklava with fresh berry coulis and hempseed caramel. All topped off with hemp coffee after dessert!
During that evening John Howell, editor of Hemp Times magazine, recognized the winners of the second annual Hemp Achievement Awards. As a top to the evening, modern cellular phone technology made it possible for Julia Butterfly Hill to speak to us from the top of her tree.
A delicious organic hemp pan-cake breakfast was served the following morning, presented on biodegradable plates accompanied by cups, forks, spoons, knives and garbage bags provided by Biocorp.
While vendors added the final touches to their booths, the "wholesale- only" hours arrived and buyers were admitted through the doors early. During this time, I was pleased to spot buyers from such large clothing retailers as Macy’s and Nordstrom’s, hunting products. I saw Woody Harrelson’s hemp tuxedo, made for the 1995 Academy Award ceremony, being positioned for display. Several members of the San Francisco Police Department were roaming the booths. They expressed to me a genuine interest in educating themselves to the developments in the hemp industry.
The Blue Sun Café featured their vegetarian "Hemp, Hemp, Hooray!" menu where I sampled some delicious hemp crust pizza. Special presentations included the twice-daily Hemp Times magazine Hemp Fashion Show, that utilized selected apparel from the exhibit floor. Publishers of HempWorld, the international trade journal, provided many great books and educational materials throughout the show. A camera crew from ABC walked through the venue, filming a piece that aired on national television the following week. Hemp beer and hemp wine were served on the mezzanine level, which offered a panoramic view of The Bay. Running parallel with the exhibits was an extensive speaker program, hosted by the Magic Theatre. The two-day program served mainly as an educational forum and a meeting of minds for all participants and attendees. Topics included: Sovereign Rights, Hemp Food, Paper and Fuel, Fiber, and Organic Growing Techniques, just to name a few. On the main stage, Pete Brady delivered a powerful and thought-provoking keynote speech.
Saturday evening, I found myself at the vendor appreciation party. The festivities were held in a grand old ballroom located at the International Center in San Francisco. The band Rocksteady played and a liquid light show was provided by Liquid Light Productions. For the remainder of the weekend, wholesalers and retailers were provided with an ideal opportunity to network. It was refreshing to see many different educational booths and non-profit organizations participating in the Expo.
After breakdown of the show booths had been completed, I stood in the once again dark and empty hall while vibrant memories of the positive energy, that had been generated by so many wonderful, strong and committed individuals, flowed through my mind. I feel fortunate to have been a participant in, and a witness to, one of the most insightful and inspirational efforts to further the struggle for hemp acceptance, organized to date.
The goals of the event were to publicize, welcome and celebrate the timely return of a thriving domestic hemp industry; to lay out the enormous potential of the hemp plant as a sustainable commodity; and to advocate hemp as a fitting industry for the new millennium. I am of the opinion that it succeeded.
Medical Cannabis congresses in Germany
Three events in
four days. The first week of December 1998 was filled with impressive meetings
and discussions about the medical use of Cannabis with good resonance in
the German media: the congress "Medical Marijuana" from December 2-4
in Frankfurt, the general meeting of the Association for Cannabis as Medicine on
December 4, and the conference "Cannabis and Cannabinoids as Medicine ‘98"
on December 5 in Cologne.
The meeting at the Congress Center of Frankfurt provided a plat-form for political discussion along with information about the therapeutic potential of Cannabis and the state of debate in several countries given by specialists such as Dr. Roger Pertwee from the University of Aberdeen, Prof. Rudolf Brenneisen from the University of Bern, Dr. Lester Grinspoon from Harvard University in Boston, Dr. Franjo Grotenhermen from nova-Institute in Cologne, Dr. Geoffrey Guy from GW Pharmaceuticals in Great Britain and others. Dr. Christian Rätsch, Prof. Sebastian Scheerer and Prof. Lorenz Böllinger gave insight into the history of the medical use of the Cannabis plant, the backgrounds of inter-national drug policies of this century and actual legal aspects. Journalists were much interested in the remarkable report of a Swiss patient from the REHAB in Basel/Switzer-land, where a study was initiated in 1997 with oral and rectal THC for organically caused spasticity, under the guidance of Dr. Ulrike Hagenbach.
The Frankfurt congress was organized by the Hessian Society for Democracy and Ecology e.V., Regional Foundation of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, and by the metropolitan AIDS support centers in Cologne, Frankfurt/Main, Dusseldorf and Munich. It profited from the good contacts of the organizers to the media and to important persons from politics, art and science. Participants in the political debate on the last day of the meeting were members of the German parliament, Gudrun Schaich-Walch from the Social Democratic Party, Detlef Parr from the Free Democratic Party and Monika Konoche from the Greens. Helmut Butke from the German Health Ministry, head of the department for narcotics, said that the government had no problems with the therapeutic use of the Cannabis plant. Laws had to be changed if it was necessary for the well-being of the people. But he pointed out that this could only happen after an approval of a Cannabis-based medicament. Politicians from the Social Democrats and the Greens spoke out for a quick procedure to introduce such a medicament, given that studies had proven its medicinal value. Rüdiger Kriegel, from the board of Directors of the Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe (Federal AIDS- support organization of Germany), spoke up for a rapid end of the inhumane conditions concerning procurement of Cannabis for seriously ill patients, thereby expressing the wishes of the majority of the Congress’ participants. At the end of the congress, the "Frankfurt Resolution" was presented. It says:
"We believe that all possible humane medical means ought to be utilized for the cure of the ill and the alleviation of their suffering, and therefore we request the German Parliament: 1. to allow the medical use of marijuana, 2. also to permit the inhalative application of natural marijuana for therapeutic purposes, 3. to scientifically study the medical uses of marijuana and to subsidize this research."
Among the first
signers of the resolution are well-known actors and other artists, journalists
and other persons from the media, university professors and scientists,
politicians from the Social Democrats and the Greens, and the political parties
that have formed the German government since the elections of Autumn 1998. The
resolution is supported by the Association for Cannabis as Medicine, the German
Society for Drug and Addiction Medicine and other medical associations have also
signaled their support. Signatures will be collected and will be handed over to
the German government in March of 1999.
In their general meeting on Friday, December 4 in Cologne, the Association for Cannabis as Medicine (ACM) demanded impunity for seriously ill patients who use cannabis for medicinal purposes. It was unacceptable that patients must endure the judicial consequences of their self-treatment along with the symptoms of their illnesses. Despite certification by their physicians and expert opinion about the therapeutic uses of Cannabis, patients in Germany suffering from epilepsy, AIDS, hepatitis C, spinal cord injury and poliomyelitis had been convicted of infringement of the Narcotics Act.
The ACM demands amnesty for these patients. The convictions contradict the sense of justice of almost all citizens who have heard about these court proceedings and their circumstances. Judges repeatedly found themselves in a situation where they had to convict people according to the letter of the law though they felt much sympathy for their actions. It was pointed out that the ACM welcomes and supports clinical studies with THC and Cannabis that are planned or are already underway in Great Britain, Switzerland and Germany, since they can further improve the knowledge of the therapeutic qualities of Cannabis and the cannabinoids. But the available evidence should already be reason enough to allow seriously ill patients an exception from the general prohibition of Cannabis. Cannabis pro-ducts brought about less side-effects than many legally available medicines.
The ACM emphasized that legislators are already in a position to offer impunity to patients in the case of medically substantiated consumption of Cannabis, if that is what the parliament wants. Medical approval was by no means compulsory. This has already been ascertained for Great Britain by the House of Lords that published a report on November 11 in favor of the legalization of Cannabis for therapeutic purposes. In Germany, jurists were increasingly considering it "injustice" that seriously ill patients are denied Cannabis products. For example, an article in the German law magazine Juristenzeitung of February 1998, written by Jürgen Schwabe, Professor of Law at Hamburg University, described the judicial situation as "scandalous". It was considered at the ACM General Meeting to bring an action to the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany. The legislative correction of this injustice should happen as quickly as possible, independent of lengthy processes for the approval of a Cannabis medicament.
The participants of the meeting noticed that since the founding of the ACM in April 1997, and since the last meeting in November 1997, the interest in the medical uses of Cannabis had increased rapidly in the German speaking countries Germany, Austria and Switzerland. National contacts to other medical organizations and to politicians, as well as international contacts had been improved, furthering the exchange of ideas.
Detailed information about the current scientific level of knowledge was offered during the conference "Cannabis and Cannabinoids as Medicine ‘98", organized by the ACM in cooperation with various other medical societies, the German Society for Drug and Addiction Medicine, the Society of Pain Therapists (STK), the German Society for Therapists of the HIV Infected (DAGNE), the German AIDS Support Organization (DAH) and the German Association for Epilepsy.
Dr. Lester Grinspoon pleaded for the medical use of marijuana. He did not think that medical use could be treated as a distinct issue, but that the full potential of Cannabis would only be realized when the present era of prohibition had ended. Dr. Christian Rätsch spoke about the ethnopharmacological uses of Cannabis where, in contrast to the symptom-oriented modern medicine, the psychotropic effects experienced by the shaman and/or the patient were generally regarded not as side-effects, but as relevant for the healing effect of the drug.
Prof. Robert Gorter and Dr. Martin Schnelle presented preliminary results of a standardized patient survey, conducted in the German-speaking countries, about their experiences with the medicinal uses of THC and natural Cannabis products. The survey was brought about by the ACM and the European Institute for Oncological and Immunological Research in Berlin in April 1998. Dr. Roger Pertwee presented the current knowledge of the cannabinoid receptor system and discussed consequences for potential therapeutic applications of cannabinoid receptor ligands and antagonists. In a second part, he gave an overview of studies and experiences with cannabinoids in multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury.
Prof. Raphael Mechoulam of Hebrew University in Jerusalem gave a lecture about recent research in his laboratory focusing on research on endogenous cannabinoid receptor ligands and on the experimental and first positive clinical studies (Phase I and II) with the nerve-protecting synthetic THC-derivative Dexanabinol (HU-211) which may be useful in stroke, traumatic brain injury and damage due to nerve gas. Jörg Fachner from the University Witten-Herdecke reflected the use of the psychoactivity of marijuana nowadays, in psychotherapy, in music and other arts, and in personal use, describing the psychological and spiritual dimensions of the drug experience.
Dr. Kirsten Muller-Vahl from the Medical School of Hannover gave an overview of the use of marijuana in movement disorders, discussed the possible physiological and pathophysiological role of the cannabinoid receptor system in movement and movement disorders, and gave an overview of her research with THC in Tourette-syndrome, a serious movement disorder. She noticed that attention increased in some patients while under THC, an observation that was regarded as very remarkable from the audience. The participants were also impressed with a video. It showed a patient suffering from Tourette-syndrome, before and after 10 milligrams of oral THC, which led to an marked improvement of symptoms. A clinical study of ten Tourette patients will be finished in December 1998.
Dr. Franjo Grotenhermen spoke about THC and Cannabis in medical practice, i.e., the handling of the topic in a surgery between physician and patient, how to use Cannabis and THC and their legal aspects. Starting with some exaggerated headlines of articles of the last few months in Ger-man papers, he gave an overview on what realistically could be expected from Cannabis as a benefit and as side-effects, and which aspects in this context are controversial. The impressions in these four days were manifold and enriching. The meetings appreciably animated political and medical discussion about the therapeutic potential of Cannabis in relation to perceptions of the actual national and worldwide legal situations.