Conference Reports

ICRS Symposium on Cannabis and the Cannabinoids

        The 1996 Symposium on Cannabis and the Cannabinoids, sponsored by the International Cannabinoid Research Society (ICRS), was held at The Lighthouse Inn, West Dennis (Cape Cod), Massachusetts, USA from June 14-16. Cannabis researchers from around the world convened to share their research results on a wide range of topics on the chemical, pharmacological and medical aspects of this field.  What follows is a condensed summary of just the highlights from that 3-day meeting.

June 14
        Donald Tashkin of UCLA, demonstrated (contrary to his stated conclusions!) that a doubling of marijuana potency (1.77% vs. 3.95% THC) eliminated 2/3 of both the tar and carbon monoxide inhaled by the user (averaged data adjusted) per unit of THC delivered.  Michael Roth of UCLA, revealed that the combination of tobacco smoking with marijuana smoking presented more potential health problems than either practice alone, tobacco affecting primarily the alveoli and marijuana primarily the bronchi.  John Morgan of City University of New York presented data refuting US government claims that potency of marijuana has increased substantially over the last 20 years.  Dave Pate of HortaPharm B.V. in Amsterdam, demonstrated the ocular anti-hypertensive potential of alpha-substituted anandamide analogs dissolved in a cyclodextrin solution, when topically applied to the eyes of rabbits.   Paul Consroe of the University of Arizona in Tucson, talked about his survey of MS patients that are using medicinal marijuana and concluded that they do have specific therapeutic reasons for smoking Cannabis. Esther Shohami of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, recounted the use of HU-211 (a non-psychoactive THC analog just out of Phase I clinical trials) to reduce the damaging effects of head trauma, septic shock and meningitis.  Pierre Casellas fo Sanofi Research in Paris, Sasha Noe and Sumi Lee of the University of South Florida in Tampa, each demonstrated populations of cannabinoid receptors in immunologically-related cells of such tissues as the tonsil and spleen.  Herb Seltzman of the Research Triangle Institute in North Carolina, announced the development of new, more potent synthetic anandamide analogs.  Donald Skifter of Winona State University in Minnesoata, presented evidence in mice for the potential use of a THC analog to attenuate hyperactivity in children.  Frederick Struve of Louisiana State University reported that subjective self-report evaluations for excluding potential drug study subjects are often inadequate.  Lindsey Swenson of Winona State University, suggested that lower abstract thinking ability reported by researchers among heavy chronic marijuana users is probably due to depression rather than the drug.  Shanmugam Muthian of the Medical College of Wisconsin, revealed the development of new HPLC and GC/MS methods for the detection of anandamides in tissues and incubates.
        Last, but certainly not least among these three days of scientific results, Daniele Piomelli of the Scripps Institute, gave an unscheduled, but enthusiastically received extemporaneous lecture on his group's findings that anandamide occurs in chocolate, particularly of the Dutch variety!

June 15
        David Compton of Virginia Commonwealth University related the surprising finding that SR141716A (a well-known cannabinoid receptor antagonist) failed to block the effects of anandamide in his tests on mice, while administration of anandamide and PMSF (a cata-bolism-blocking agent) accentuated anandamide effects or even imitated these effects with PMSF alone, when administered in sufficient doses.  Kristy Lake of the Medical College of Virginia, told how anandamide and THC elicit reduced blood pressure via CB-1 (brain-type) receptors located not in the central nervous system, but on the presynaptic terminal of postganglionic sympathetic neurons.  Ian McGregor of the University of Sydney, Australia, demonstrated both the calming effect of a synthetic cannabinoid analog (CP 55,940) and the opposite effect observed for a synthetic cannabinoid receptor antagonist (SR141716A), when each was administered to infant mice. John Robinson of S.U.N.Y. at Stony Brook, reported qualified experimental support for the hypothesis that administration of the anandamide precursor, ethanolamine, induces excess anandamide production in vivo, with associated behavioral effects.  Christian Felder of NIH mentioned how his group has confirmed for the first time, the existance of anandamide in human brain and peripheral tissues.  Cecilia Hillard of the Medical College of Wisconsin related how anandamide is transported across cerebellar granule cell membranes by a substrate selective, carrier-mediated process.

June 16
        Nancy Buckley of the NIH, suggested a possible regulatory role for anandamide, acting through the CB-1 receptor, on ionic transport within the Loop of Henle of the kidney. Brian Thomas of the Research Triangle Institute compared the receptor binding properties of various natural and synthetic cannabinoids, using two separate methods. Julian Romero of Complutense University in Madrid, Spain, indicated that specific binding for CB1 receptors can be detected in the brains of rat fetuses at gestational days 14 and 16, a time when most of the classical neurotransmitter activities emerge that have been reported to be affected by cannabinoids.  Yannick Maneuf of the University of Manchester, presented results which indicate that cannabinoids might modulate GABA uptake in a manner not involving cyclic AMP and raised questions concerning the nature of the link between the effects of cannabinoids on adenylyl cyclase and the other physiological actions of cannabinoid receptor activation.  John Huffman of Clemson University described a very potent synthetic THC analog and provided details of its synthesis and pharmacology.  William Ryan of Organix, Inc. of Woburn, Massachusetts, discussed some novel branched chain anandamide analogs.  Ruoxi Lan of the University of Connecticut recounted their exciting achievement of an Iodine-123 labeled cannabinoid analog synthesis, now permitting direct PET and SPECT visualization of the cannabinoid receptors in the living brain.
     These and other developments indicate that exploration of the physiological role for cannabinoids is entering an advanced state of scientific sophistication, after a recent period of relative stagnation.   While a complete elucidation of cannabinoid-related mechanisms will take many years, at least now the basic pharmacological tools (i.e., receptor, ligand and antagonist) for this exploration are at hand and a significant acceleration of experimental progress is evident.

Renaissance of Hemp Sym-posium

        A scientific meeting entitled "Renaissance of Hemp" convened on September 20, 1996 at the fair grounds and conference facility in Novi Sad, Serbia (formerly Yugoslavia) and was the first hemp symposium held in Yugoslavia in more than 30 years.  Novi Sad is the home of the Research Institute of Field and Vegetable Crops, who sponsored the event.  Dr. Janos Berenji (see interview pg. 68) planned the meetings and coordinated the symposium.   The symposium was attended by nearly 120 delegates ranging from factory directors to law enforcement officials.  Displays of fiber, seed and wood products made by local hemp companies offered an array of basic hemp products.
        Twelve papers were presented, covering a wide range of topics concerning hemp.  Presentations by Yugoslavian researchers about the history and present situation of hemp cultivation, hemp breeding and seed production, fiber production technology, hemp pests and their control, mechanization of hemp harvesting, and application of hemp in the textile, paper and bird seed industries, gave a broad overview of the Yugoslavian hemp industry.  An evaluation of hemp as a seed oil crop preceded a discussion of the essential fatty acid (EFA) content of hemp seed.
        Robert Clarke of the IHA was the only foreign speaker and presented a summary of the potential uses of Cannabis as a source of "nutriceuticals" and pharmaceuticals before making the suggestion that the local hemp industry in the near future should concentrate on both improving the hemp products they presently produce and searching for "high-end" specialty markets.   Serbia produces rough cordage, rope and textiles that could be fashioned into higher-value consumer goods for the domestic and export markets.
        Serbia is the southern-most commercial hemp seed producer on the European continent.  Their seed producing region lies along the Danube river in fertile lands drained and irrigated by numerous channels that mediate soil moisture during times of flooding or drought.  The climate and topography are ideal for seed production and the cultivar 'Novosadska konoplija' consistently produces tall uniform stands that yield large completely ripe seed.
        Yugoslavia was once a world leader in hemp production.  If the level of enthusiasm of the delegates is an accurate measure, then the future of the hemp industry in the new Yugoslavia should be very bright indeed.

NAIHC Annual Conference

        The North American Industrial Hemp Council held their annual conference in Visalia, California, in the heart of California's San Joaquin Valley.  With cotton growing as far as the eye could see and manure piles in need of some farm management, about 80 people spent three days discussing industrial hemp's opportunities and obstacles.  Dr. David Morris of the Institute for Local Self Reliance and NAIHC Vice Chair provided an overview of progress in the last year, including two research bills passed in the states of Vermont and Hawaii.   Various updates from countries around the world gave a somewhat sobering view of the significant challenges that lay ahead for the hemp industry.  Geof Kime of Hempline indicated that the Canadian government is proceeding slowly in developing regulations for commercial production, with 1998 being a realistic time frame.  Gero Leson of the nova-Institute discussed Germany's first-year attempts to develop a domestic hemp fiber processing infrastructure.  Ian Low of Hemcore, whose contract farmers grew 4,000 acres in the 1996 season, explained the importance of building strong markets and partnerships with industry and entrepreneurs.  On the research front, Curt Koster of International Paper provided a practical overview of the nuts and bolts of large-scale fiber processing.  International Paper is pursuing research on kenaf and plans to apply the knowledge of processing other annual crops to hemp.  Dr. Robert Steele of the University of Wisconsin, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Research, outlined the upcoming role of land grant universities across America in doing basic research on hemp agriculture.  Dr. David West of GameTec laid out the importance of developing hemp seed cultivars specifically for North American hemp agriculture.
        The section on Annual Fibers for Sustainability brought home the important reasons why people all over the world are passionate about industrial hemp.  Andy Kerr of The Larch Company and NAIHC Board Member provided an interesting analogy of mining and the current practice of clear cutting our forests.   John Roulac of HEMPTECH, NAIHC Secretary, discussed how various companies such as Masonite and Interface Research Corporation are developing, respectively, building products and carpets as sustainable fiber resources utilizing industrial hemp.  Emily Miggins of Rethink Paper helped coin a provocative phrase, "tree flesh", in her presentation on the vital importance of moving away from trees and towards annual fiber crops for paper.
        Medwick Byrd of North Carolina State University gave a passionate presentation on the various technical options for processing agricultural fibers as well as providing an over-view of the current state-of-the-art of zero emission pulping facilities.  Conference participants broke into round-table discussions focusing on agriculture, textiles, building products and seeds and oil.   Ken Friedman, NAIHC Board Member, from American Hemp Mercantile, Jason Finnis from British Columbia Hemp Company and Dennis Crone of Mackie International all spoke on building markets for hemp products around the world.
        Jeffrey Gain, Chairman of the U.S.D.A. Alternative Agriculture Research Corporation, presented the NAIHC legislative and strategic plan recommendation - a two-page over-view including definitions and research (available at www.naihc.org).  This included a definition of industrial hemp: "Industrial hemp means all parts and varieties of the plant Cannabis sativa whether growing or not that contain a tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of 1% or less and are possessed by a grower and handler in compliance with the provisions of this article.  Industrial hemp is separate and distinct from "marihuana or marijuana".  Mr. Gain indicated that legislation is expected to be introduced in at least a half dozen or more states for the 1997 legislative season.   Cynthia Thielen, a Hawaii State Legislator, discussed her state's efforts at introducing industrial hemp.  The state of Hawaii will be producing a report due in January on the potential of industrial hemp in Hawaii.
        In the evening, Dr. Ralph Hardy gave a banquet presentation on bio-based industrial products and the role of bio-technology in the 21st century.  Overall, attendees seemed positive on the information exchange and net-working at the conference, which received extensive media coverage including The Wall Street Journal and live from the local ABC and FOX broadcasts networks, as well as representation from several local papers.

To receive more information on NAIHC, please visit our web site at: www.naihc.org. or: e-mail: john@hemptech.com, www.hemptech.com

John W. Roulac
NAIHC Board Secretary

"Ernte '96" Expo-Conference-Festival in Berlin

        From September 27-29, the first "hemp Thanksgiving" in modern German history was held at the "UFA Factory" in Berlin.  "Ernte '96" (Harvest '96), which celebrated the first year of industrial hemp cultivation in Germany, was opened by the minister of the environment for the state of Brandenburg, Matthias Platzeck.  While the first day's trade show was comparatively quiet and largely attended by professionals, Ernte '96 was turned into a festival by 6,000 visitors over the following two days.  The media's continuing interest in the subject of hemp was reflected by a large number of reports on the event in newspapers, TV and radio.
        The spectacle had been divided into a technical trade show, a conference and a small hemp museum.  At the trade show, several of the young hemp industry's leading entrepreneurs presented their technologies, products and services.  They included the Badische Naturfaseraufbereitung (BaFa) from Malsch near Karlsruhe, HempFlax from the Netherlands, the processing equipment manufacturers Gebruder Bahmer (Germany) and Charle (Belgium), HanfHaus (Berlin), Institute for Applied Science (IAF) Reutlingen (Germany), nova Institute, Cologne, the International Hemp Association (Amsterdam) and many others.  There were several first-time presentation of hemp products, notably of hemp beers: Wadi Brew from Switzerland and CannaBia by Natur Products Alfredo Dupetit.  Thus well fed by tasty hemp foods, professional visitors (representing, for example, suppliers to automobile manufacturers) were well prepared for rather concrete negotiations (e.g., the purchase of processed fiber for press-molded parts).
        Three years after publication of the book "The rediscovery of hemp" (by Jack Herer, Matthias Brockers and Michael Karus) had started the "Hemp Renaissance" in Germany, the authors answered the public's questions at the conference.  Other presentations covered "Hemp as a Renewable Resource" on the first day, "Hemp as Medicine" on the second, and "Hemp in Politics" on the third day.
        Michael Karus, nova-Institute, opened the first day with an overview of nova's recently completed study on "Short-term feasibility of hemp based product lines".  Other topics included results from farming trials, industrial products and textiles from hemp, and hemp oil based foods.  Two presentations addressed the use of hemp for energy production.  The first one discussed the conversion of the entire stalk into biogas, the second one the use of hemp oil in a combustion engine.  Of particular interest was a presentation by the Austrian firm Neusiedler AG, the worldwide first manufacturer of high quality paper from 70% pine and 30% hemp hurds.
        The Saturday session on the medicinal use of hemp comprehensively covered recent legal developments, current research, experiences from clinical trials, and the political activities of the affected patients.
        On Sunday morning, Matthias Schillo, Managing Director of TreuHanf, summarized his company's various activities, focusing primarily on providing financing for projects involving the farming and processing of hemp.  He indicated that TreuHanf may soon offer the first German hemp stock shares.
     While the hemp community is known for its grand visions and creative ideas, it was a pleasant surprise to observe the interest of the media in hemp, as well as the fact that domestic sales of hemp based products continue to grow.  Even the expectedly difficult implementation of regional hemp industries has gone off to a good start in 1996.

Michael Karus1 and Gero Leson2

1nova - Institute for Political and Ecological Innovation, 1Cologne, Germany and 2Berkeley, California.

First International Canna-Business Exposition

        The First International CannaBusiness Exposition was held in Castrop-Rauxel, Germany on November 29-December 1.  The exposition featured the first trade show committed to the full range of Cannabis-related products including smoking paraphernalia and marijuana growing equipment, as well as industrial hemp products.  Although the first two categories of booths were the most popular attractions, many sophisticated hemp clothing and apparel items were also exhibited.  Some of the most interesting were pure hemp knitted underwear produced in Italy and fashions incorporating tribal hemp cloth from China, Nepal and Thailand.  The exposition was very well organized and was attended by many curious visitors.
        Accompanying the exposition, a lecture series was given concerning the use of Cannabis as a medicine.  The series opened with a greeting from Dr. Ellis Huber, president of the Medical Council of Berlin, and began with a lecture on Cannabis for medical treatment, written by Franjo Grotenhermen and presented by Michael Karus.  Case studies were mentioned in which patients accidentally discovered the helpful pharmacological properties of Cannabis products used illicitly.  The history of its use in the older medical literature was recounted, as well as the relatively recent discovery of the brain's THC receptor and its natural ligand, anandamide.  Dr. Robert Gorter, a physician at Berlin's Institute for Oncological and Immunological Research presented his plans for a multi-center trial of Cannabis as a medicine in the treatment of AIDS patients (see page 71).  Dr. Rudolf Brenneisen, a pharmacologist at the Pharmaceutical Institute of the University of Bern (Switzerland), recounted his work with MS patients given THC in both oral and rectal forms, and talked of plans for wider studies with MS patients (see page 71).  Lastly, Alexander Remmele of Berlin announced the formation of a German self-help group known as "Cannabis as Medicine", to help those in need of Cannabis for therapeutic purposes.