News Release

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May 18, 2000

Gov. Keating Denies Foster's Parole, Frees Two Violent Offenders

        Oklahoma City, OK:  Gov. Frank Keating (R) today freed two violent offenders who were serving respectively, a life sentence and a 50-year sentence, but for a second time, denied parole for medical marijuana patient Will Foster, despite the state parole board's unanimous recommendation to release him.
        Foster, who was denied parole by the governor in January 1999, has served four years of a 20-year sentence for cultivating marijuana in a 25-square foot underground shelter, which he grew to alleviate the pain of rheumatoid arthritis.  He was initially given a 93-year sentence, but that sentence was reduced by an appeals court that found the original sentence to be excessive.
        "It looks as if my case has become more political than I ever imagined," Foster said about the governor's decision.  "He hasn't broken my spirit though."
        Foster said he is up for parole again in August.
        "It's simple," said Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director.  "Will Foster should be paroled and immediately returned to the care of his family.  Gov. Keating has always fancied himself a drug warrior, but what kind of message is he trying to send by paroling violent criminals while keeping Mr. Foster in prison -- despite the parole board's unanimous recommendation to release him, not once but twice.  If Gov. Keating is really a player on George W. Bush's presidential team, he should consider acting like a 'compassionate conservative.'"
        NORML strongly urges concerned citizens from across the country to contact the governor and demand parole for Will Foster.  Contact Gov. Frank Keating at the following address:

State Capitol Building, Room 212
Oklahoma City, OK 73105
Phone: (405) 521-2342
Fax: (405) 521-3353

        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director at (202) 483-8751.

Gore Changes His Stance On Medical Marijuana Again, and Again

        Cudahy, CA:  Last week, Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore flip-flopped from earlier campaign statements about medicinal marijuana, stating he now sees "no reliable evidence" of its utility in relieving pain.
        Gore, speaking to high school students in California, stated, "Right now, the science does not show me or the experts whose judgment I trust that it is the proper medication for pain and that there are not better alternatives available in every situation."
        This statement is a reversal from the position Gore took while campaigning in New Hampshire last December.  Gore then stated that his late sister was prescribed marijuana in 1984 as treatment for her cancer chemotherapy, but that it did not work for her.  He added, "If it had worked for her, I think she should have had the ability to get her pain relieved that way."  Gore also stated that doctors "ought to have the option" to prescribe marijuana to seriously ill patients."
        Today, though, Gore engaged in what Washington Post columnist Judy Mann has described as "pandering for the presidency," as he "clarified" his position yet a third time.  He told HIV/AIDS medical journal and internet guide Numedx ( that "I believe that if the research validates it, under very limited, highly regulated circumstances, when a doctor has decided that this is the only available therapy, we may have to consider the possibility that marijuana be prescribed for pain management with strict supervision."
        "It appears the vice president doesn't know what his position is towards the medical use of marijuana," said Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director.  "First he supports it, then he doesn't.  It suggests he is willing to say whatever he thinks his audience wants to hear, to get himself elected."
        Republican candidate Gov. George W. Bush addressed the medical marijuana issue last October when he said he did not personally support the medical use of marijuana, but felt the decision of whether to legalize medical marijuana should be left to the states.
        For more information, please contact Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director at (202) 483-5500.

Patients Entitled To Raise Medical Use As Fundamental Right

        San Francisco, CA:  A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled that U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer was in error when he previously dismissed counterclaims seeking injunctive and declaratory relief filed by patients who had obtained their marijuana from medical cannabis cooperatives.  The underlying action was brought by the United States to enjoin several cannabis cooperatives in northern Californian from distributing marijuana to patients who qualified under Prop. 215.  Several patients had intervened in an attempt to stop the federal government from closing the cooperatives.
        In seeking the injunction, the patients had argued that the right to receive medication to relieve pain and suffering is a "fundamental right," which therefore could only be enjoined by the federal government if they could demonstrate a "compelling state interest."  In issuing this latest ruling, the appellate court vacated the district court's order and remanded the case for consideration "in light of our prior opinion."
        In that ruling, the same three-judge panel vacated another order entered by Judge Breyer that had held the medical cannabis dispensaries could not raise a medical necessity defense to the government's civil suit.  The Court of Appeals ruled that the medical necessity defense does exist in federal law and ordered the trial judge to reconsider his ruling in light of that holding.
        "The Ninth Circuit, in this unpublished decision, has said that Judge Breyer should at least consider the 'fundamental right' argument, rather than dismissing it out of hand," said Robert Raich, Esq.  "Obviously this would certainly be an additional argument that we should now use before Judge Breyer in our future pleadings."
        For more information, please contact Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director at (202) 483-5500, or Robert Raich, Esq., at (510) 338-0700.

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