News Release

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July 20, 2000

Medical Marijuana Clubs In California Can Legally Distribute To Some Patients

        Oakland, CA:  U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer modified a 1998 injunction this Monday against the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative that will now allow the group to legally distribute marijuana to seriously ill patients who qualify for a medical necessity defense.
        Last September, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered Breyer to reconsider his injunction against the OCBC and consider "the criteria for a medical necessity exemption," under federal law.  The following month, the U.S. Justice Department asked the 9th Circuit to reconsider that decision, and the court refused.
        "The government continues to press arguments which the 9th Circuit rejected, including the argument that the court must find that enjoining the distribution of cannabis to seriously ill individuals is in the public interest because Congress has prohibited such conduct in favor of the administrative process regulating the approval and distribution of drugs," Breyer wrote in modifying his injunction.  "As a result of the government's failure to offer any new evidence in opposition to defendants' motion, and in light of the Ninth Circuit's opinion, the Court must conclude that modifying the injunction as requested is in the public interest and exercise its equitable discretion to do so."
        "We applaud the wisdom of the judicial branch of government which now recognizes what the citizens of every state already know, that sick patients should have legal access to the medicine they need," said Robert Raich, Esq., attorney for the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative.
        NORML Executive Director Keith Stroup said it is important that patients in California understand that the criteria required to qualify for the medical necessity defense in federal court are different from, and far more difficult to meet, than the requirements of Proposition 215.
        "Many patients protected from state prosecution by Proposition 215 will still be vulnerable to a misguided federal prosecutor who chooses to initiate a federal prosecution," Stroup said.  "Nonetheless, this is still a major victory for patients in California."
        For more information, please contact Robert Raich, Esq., at (510) 338-0700 or Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director at (202) 483-5500.

Research Demonstrates Marijuana Is Safe For HIV Patients

        San Francisco, CA:  Researchers at the University of California-San Francisco have found that HIV patients who smoke marijuana do not disrupt the effect of anti-retroviral drugs.
        This was the first double blind study in the United States to examine marijuana and HIV patients. Sixty-seven people participated in the study that was conducted by Donald Abrams, MD at San Francisco General Hospital.  Twenty of the patients smoked marijuana three times a day and gained an average of 7.7 pounds during the 21-day study; 25 patients took oral dronabinol (synthetic THC) and gained on average 7 pounds; and 21 patients took the placebo and gained only 2.9 pounds on average.
        Thirty-six of the patients started the study with undetectable HIV RNA levels and those levels remained constant throughout the study.  The 26 patients who had detectable HIV RNA levels experienced declines.  The patients who smoked marijuana or took oral dronabinol experienced slightly greater decreases in HIV RNA levels than the patients who took the placebo.
        "The slightly better decline experienced by those using marijuana or dronabinol is intriguing, but not statistically significant," Abrams said.  "The good news is that there is no statistical difference between the three groups."
        "The fact of the matter is that any good clinician with his eyes and ears open has known for a long time that cannabis is very useful in the treatment of the AIDS reduction syndrome and does not harm patients," said Professor Lester Grinspoon, MD, of the Harvard Medical School and NORML Foundation Chair.  "When all the dust settles, and when marijuana is admitted to the U.S. pharmacopoeia, it will be seen as one of the least toxic drugs in the whole compendium."
        For more information, please contact Donald Abrams at (415) 476-9554 ext. 12; Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director at (202) 483-8751; or Lester Grinspoon, MD, NORML Foundation Chair at (617) 277-8423.

San Francisco Issues Medical Marijuana ID Cards

        San Francisco, CA:  Medical marijuana patients in San Francisco can now obtain identification cards from the city of San Francisco that allow for easier access to marijuana and also protect them from marijuana arrests under the state's medical marijuana law.
        The new identification card program kicked off last Friday.  The card costs $25 and can be obtained at the San Francisco Department of Public Health.  Patients need to provide a doctor's recommendation to receive the card.
        The cards will only have the patient's picture and a serial number on it in order to protect the patient's privacy.  The San Francisco Department of Public Health will not maintain a list of patients' names or application documents.
        Wayne Justmann, director of the San Francisco Patients Resource Center and the recipient of the first card issued under the new program, said the cards are "another brick in the path paving the way to legal use of medical marijuana."
        "This card recognizes the right of every medical cannabis patient to use cannabis in a safe and effective manner," said San Francisco Supervisor Mark Leno who sponsored the ordinance that created the cards.  "The police need to understand this card deserves 100 percent respect."
        For more information, please contact Wayne Justmann at (415) 552-8653.

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