News Release

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September 14, 2000

Federal Court Rules Doctors Cannot Be Penalized Over Marijuana Recommendations

        San Francisco, CA:  U.S. District Judge William Alsup ruled last Thursday that doctors may recommend marijuana to patients who may benefit from it without fear that federal authorities may strip them of their license to prescribe medicine, or otherwise impose sanctions.
        When the voter-approved medical marijuana law known as Proposition 215 passed in 1996, the Clinton administration announced that doctors who recommended marijuana faced losing their federal license to prescribe medicine.  In January 1997, doctors and patients statewide filed a class action suit against the federal government alleging the government's threat violated their free speech rights under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
        In his decision Judge Alsup expanded a previously granted temporary injunction that prevented the government from revoking a doctor's license to prescribe medicine and made it permanent.
        "Contrary to the government's argument, it is not true that a mere recommendation will necessarily lead to the commission of a federal offense," Alsup wrote in his decision.  "To the contrary, such recommendations can lead to lawful and legitimate responses.  In the marketplace of ideas, few questions are more deserving of free-speech protection than whether regulations affecting health and welfare are sound public policy."
        In further citing the importance of a doctor being able to freely treat his or her patients, Alsup wrote, "[I]t will be the professional opinion of doctors that marijuana is the best therapy or at least should be tried.  If such recommendations could not be communicated, then the physician-patient relationship would be seriously impaired."
        "My hope is that this ruling effectively puts an end to the fear that physicians have been experiencing," said Graham Boyd, Esq., Director of the American Civil Liberties Union's National Drug Program, who represented the doctors and patients suing the federal government.  "(This decision) puts the federal government on notice that if they do threaten doctors, they'll be back in court and they'll lose."
        For more information, please contact Graham Boyd, Esq., of the ACLU at (203) 787-4188.

Green Party Candidate Nader Supports Marijuana Legalization

        Santa Fe, NM:  Consumer advocate and Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader announced last Friday, in a press conference held with New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson (R), that he supports the legalization of marijuana, and if elected, would attempt to overhaul what he called the nation's "self-defeating and antiquated drug laws."
        Nader suggested the billions of dollars spent on incarceration and law enforcement would be better spent on treatment and education programs to reduce drug use.
        "Addiction should never be treated as a crime, it has to be treated as a health problem," Nader said.  "We do not send alcoholics to jail in this country.  Over 500,000 people are in our jails who are non-violent drug users."
        Nader has previously indicated his support for industrial hemp.
        "Industrial hemp has the potential to dramatically reduce our dependence on petroleum-based products," Nader said.  "Yet, it is illegal to grow industrial hemp in the United States due to misguided laws which equate it with a drug, all scientific evidence to the contrary.  Many other western nations grow industrial hemp, including Canada, France and the UK and export tons to the United States."
        For more information, please visit

Marijuana 'Freedom Rally' Set For Saturday In Boston

        Boston, MA:  The Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition (MASS CANN), the state NORML affiliate, will host its 11th annual Freedom Rally to protest marijuana prohibition from noon to 6 p.m., on Saturday, September 16 at Boston Common.
        The rally, one of the largest in the nation, will feature music and numerous speakers such as Libertarian Party presidential candidate Harry Browne, NORML Executive Director Keith Stroup, medical marijuana patient Elvy Musikka, and High Times editor Steven Hager.
        "'Vote Freedom' is the theme of this year's rally," said Cathy Salmons, a spokesperson for MASS CANN.  "If you want to change the society you live in, organize, get active, vote.  As we struggle to end the drug war, we must expose the corruption of current drug policy, and take the government to task for its cruel and unusual punishment of drug offenders."
        For more information, please contact MASS CANN at (781) 944-2266 or visit their website at

Drug Czar Wants to 'Check' Chess Players For Drug Use

        Washington, DC:  In the September issue of Chess Life magazine, drug czar Barry McCaffrey published an article in which he suggests that tournament chess players should be tested for drugs.
        In the article, McCaffrey discussed an Office of National Drug Control Policy sponsored group, called Chesschild, which is a substance abuse prevention program conducted in libraries and schools which promotes drug-tree lifestyles and chess.
        "Research proves that mentoring youngsters and teaching them that games like chess can build resilience in the face of illegal drug use and other destructive temptations," McCaffrey wrote.  "Drug testing is as appropriate for chess players as for shot-putters, or any competitors who use their heads as well as their hands."
        "just when I thought I'd heard it all from McCaffrey," said Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director.  "Drug testing for chess players?  What's next from this over reaching drug czar?  Drug testing for tiddly winks players?  How about bingo players?  Policy recommendations like this from ONDCP demonstrate a deep and disturbing pathology that goes well beyond opposing drug law reform efforts."
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director at (202) 483-8751.

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