Spain to experiment with cannabis

February 03, 2005

, Mail & Guardian

Four hospitals and 60 pharmacies in the north-eastern Spanish region of Catalonia will distribute cannabis to patients suffering from Aids, cancer, multiple sclerosis or chronic pain of nervous origin, local media reported on Tuesday. The Catalan regional government has agreed with the Spanish health ministry that patients not responding to conventional treatments may be prescribed capsules containing powder made of cannabis, the plant from which marijuana and hashish are made.

The one-year pioneering experiment, which follows a similar one in The Netherlands, is due to start mid-year.

Cannabis is believed to increase appetite in Aids patients, to reduce nausea and vomiting in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, and to alleviate muscular pain caused by multiple sclerosis as well as chronic pain of nervous origin.

Marijuana is banned in Spain, but many people are already using it for medicinal purposes. Many of them smoke it instead of taking it orally, a method that can irritate and cause cancer of the respiratory tract, experts said.

The goal of the experiment is to monitor such patients and to allow others to benefit from the possible therapeutic effects of cannabis. -- Sapa-DPA

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