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Nuclear Firm Gets First Patent for Cannabis Inhaler

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The former commercial arm of the United Kingdom Energy Authority has
developed a cannabis inhaler at the same plant which experimented with
scientists inhaling plutonium.

AEA Technology is the first to develop a system of cannabis delivery in
expectation of the legal lid being lifted on the use of the drug for
medicinal purposes. The company has filed a patent for an aerosol which
would vaporise cannabis, allowing it to be inhaled as part of medical
treatment for various illnesses.

The medical use of cannabis looks more likely to be legalised after MPs
voted to downgrade the drug from class B to class C as of January, ranking
it alongside body-building steroids and some anti-depressants.

The applicant address listed on the patent is 329 Harwell, Didcot,
Oxfordshire: the same premises which housed the biomedical research labs
where two human volunteers inhaled a form of plutonium through an aerosol.

AEA Technology, which claims to operate separately from its Atomic Energy
Authority parent company, says it knows nothing of any connection between
the two areas of research, or indeed of the plutonium experiments.

The company made a conscious decision to exit nuclear activities, said
press officer Terry Collinson, who described its present status as "a rail
and environment business".

He added: "However, the intellectual property - such as registered designs
and trademarks - is still potentially valuable, so the company is there to
protect these.

"Sometimes ideas have been patentable, and out of these we've selected
certain ones which we felt could be of future benefit. The cannabis
aerosol was one of these. Though I can't say whether it came about because
a change in legislation was anticipated."

He added: "We can't find any information on the plutonium experiments and
people who might know have all moved on."

The results of the European-Union-funded plutonium study are currently in
the depths of the EU's radiation protection unit.

One of those taking part in tests in the late 1990s, retired nuclear
physicist Eric Voice, told the Sunday Herald he had no qualms about
participating. Voice, a former Dounreay employee who still lives in
Caithness, said: "It is the duty of people involved in the nuclear
industry to ensure that no workers have a body burden of plutonium greater
than accepted safety limits. That's what these trials were all about."

Half a century ago Voice was one of the founder members of the Campaign
for Nuclear Disarmament movement with Bertrand Russell, yet he remains
convinced nuclear power is our only hope in the fight against global

Now in his 80s, (still working as a consultant nuclear physicist) he says
he realised early on that protests from outside achieved very little, and
felt more influence could be made from within the industry.

He has recently finished editing the massive Scope-Radtest report
commissioned by the Royal Society on the findings from 2600 nuclear
weapons test explosions. The Radtest findings have horrified him, yet he
has allowed his body to be used in medical experiments to discover how
humans metabolise and excrete plutonium. He describes himself as "the most
radioactive man on the planet".

"The truth about plutonium is that it's a well known chemical element and
there is nothing sinister about it," he said.

Voice's neighbours became quite used to the regular visits of an armoured
van to pick up his bodily waste. "When I arrived at people's houses with a
carrier bag of bottles they assumed I'd brought them a gift," he said.
"When I explained that I couldn't use their facilities their expressions
were extremely comical."

The question is: what will happen to his body, eventually? The local
churchyard is surely not an option. "It has all been taken care of," he

Title: Nuclear Firm Gets First Patent for Cannabis Inhaler
Author: Kath Gourlay
Source: The Sunday Herald
Contact: editor@sundayherald.com
Website: http://www.sundayherald.com/
Pubdate: Sunday, November 9, 2003