December 13, 2001
DEA Okays First Medical Marijuana Trials In Nearly Two Decades
Agency Grants Approval to Three Studies After Nine-Month Delay; Eight Other FDA-Approved Trials Still Under DEA Review
Washington, DC: Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials recently gave final approval for three state-sponsored patient trials on the therapeutic potential of smoked marijuana. The decision reverses a nearly two decade federal de facto prohibition on medical marijuana research.
All three patient trials will take place at University of California's Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR), headquartered at the Universities of California at San Diego (UCSD) and San Francisco (UCSF). One study will examine the safety and efficacy of smoked marijuana versus placebo for the alleviation of peripheral nerve pain associated with HIV infection. Another will examine the efficacy of inhaled marijuana versus placebo for the treatment of muscle spasticity in Multiple Sclerosis patients. A sub-study of the latter cohort will also examine the impact of marijuana on psychomotor skills using driving simulator assessments. Each study will use federally approved pot from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Patient recruitment for the trials is expected to begin early next year. Patients interested in participating in the studies should visit the CMCR website at: http://www.cmcr.ucsd.edu/partinfo/index.htm for more information.
The CMCR, established in August 2000 and funded by the state of California, supports and coordinates research assessing the use of cannabis as a medicine. Last February, the Center's independent Scientific Review Board approved four medi-pot clinical trials. After more than nine months of review, federal regulatory agencies and the DEA have finally signed off on three of the trials. The fourth - a proposed inpatient study on the effectiveness of smoked marijuana on HIV-related neuropathy by noted UCSF AIDS researcher Dr. Donald Abrams - still awaits final approval from the DEA, though a CMCR spokeswoman said that they expect authorization for that study within a matter of weeks. Abrams has been attempting to gain federal permission to conduct such a study for more than five years. A previous study by Abrams found that smoked marijuana does not disrupt the effectiveness of anti-retroviral drugs in HIV patients. Subjects who smoked marijuana in the study were also found to have gained significantly more weight on average than those receiving placebo, and had slightly lower viral levels.
Presently, seven additional FDA and NIDA-approved medical marijuana studies - including three on cannabis and analgesia - are also awaiting approval from the DEA. It remains uncertain if and when the DEA will approve the research, without which none of the clinical trials may move forward. Of the recently approved protocols, all three received FDA and NIDA authorization to proceed several months before the DEA finally endorsed them.
"While it is encouraging to see that the federal government is finally taking the necessary steps to allow legitimate research into the medical utility of marijuana, it is disturbing to think that one agency - the DEA - may be needlessly delaying this research because they fear the results may undermine their flat Earth-like position that marijuana has no medical value," said Paul Armentano, director of publications and research for the NORML Foundation. "By waiting until now to finally get serious about unlocking pot's therapeutic potential, thousands of seriously ill patients have unnecessarily suffered at the hands of politicians."
For more information, please contact either Paul Armentano or Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation at (202) 483-8751. For more information on the CMCR's clinical research trials, please visit: http://www.cmcr.ucsd.edu/geninfo/research.htm.
Member of European Parliament To Protest Closure of UK Cannabis Café
Stockton, United Kingdom: A local MEP (Member of European Parliament) is demanding to be arrested on pot possession charges to protest the recent shut down of Britain's only Amsterdam-style marijuana coffee shop. The Dutch Experience café, which opened in September and averaged approximately 500 customers per day, allowed recreational and medicinal marijuana users to smoke pot on the premises. Police raided the café on November 20.
Euro MP and former Dutch Experience patron Christopher Davies (Liberal-Democrat Party) plans to walk into a Stockport police station Saturday and demand cops arrest him for possessing cannabis, the Manchester Evening News reported. Davies' civil disobedience will be part of a daylong demonstration protesting the closure of the cannabis café and the prosecution of its co-owner, longtime marijuana activist Colin Davies (no relation), who has been imprisoned since the November raid.
"Cannabis is less harmful than alcohol [and] it is time politicians start talking about it publicly," said MEP Davies, who does not smoke marijuana but supports the idea of legal marijuana coffee shops, calling them "an excellent way of meeting people's desire to try things other than alcohol without leading them on to harder things."
Business partner, Dutch national Nol van Schaik, says that police are selectively prosecuting Colin Davies because of his activism. Schaik was also arrested on cannabis charges during the raid, but all charges against him have since been dropped by police. Davies, who smokes marijuana medicinally for chronic pain, has twice been acquitted of pot violations in highly publicized trials.
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director, at (202) 483-8751. Further information on the Dutch Experience is available online at: http://www.dutchexperience.org.
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