More MS news articles for May 2000

Top brains to buzz about marijuana

Dalhousie med school hosts conference on benefits of  weed

Thursday, May 25, 2000  The Halifax Herald Limited

By Bill Power / Staff Reporter

The potheads have arrived.

One of the most prestigious gatherings of marijuana researchers ever held in Canada opens today at Dalhousie medical school.

The two-day event brings top marijuana researchers together with regulatory officials as part of an effort to bolster Canada's slack international record in this emerging scientific field.

"Marijuana has been stigmatized in this country as a drug of abuse, but it may actually turn out that the active ingredients in marijuana include appropriate agents for human therapeutics," said Dr. Mary Lynch, chairwoman of the event.

The event, titled the Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids in Human Therapeutics, is expected to help bring more respectability to the relatively new field of research into the medicinal use of marijuana.

Dr. Lynch said there is increasing concern in this country that victims of afflictions such as multiple sclerosis will be denied access to the soothing medicinal extracts that are produced by the plant and could potentially be duplicated in laboratories.

"Research here has been bound by a strict regulatory climate," said the doctor, who holds research and teaching positions at both the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre and Dalhousie University.

There are hopes the talks here will result in the formation of a working group devoted to advancing research into cannabinoids - extracts of the marijuana plant - in this country.

Cannabinoids are compounds found in cannabis (marijuana) with demonstrated potential for treating human health problems.

Health Canada has indicated it wants to facilitate further research into this area and is providing some funding for the event at Dalhousie medical school.

Some of the researchers have connections with marijuana study dating back to the mid-1960s and early 1970s when the plant gained notoriety as an illegal drug, widely available and regularly smoked by users who enjoyed the resulting stupor.

In recent years there has been increasing international acceptance that extracts of the plant have significant medicinal potential, mostly as a pain reliever and also as an anti-spasmodic.

But regulatory agencies in Canada have been slow to respond.

"There is a need out there for more information in this area," Dr. Lynch said.