News Release

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January 11, 2001

NIDA To Supply Marijuana To 60 San Mateo County AIDS Patients

        San Mateo County, CA:  The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) will provide 3,600 marijuana cigarettes to 60 AIDS patients in San Mateo County for a study on the effectiveness of AIDS-related pain in the extremities.
        San Mateo County will be the first local government in the country to distribute marijuana for a medical study.  The county will distribute the marijuana through public health clinics.
        The study will be conducted for 12 weeks with the participants smoking marijuana for six weeks and abstaining for the study's duration.  The study will be tightly monitored, including home visits, from county health officials.  Only AIDS patients who have previously used marijuana to assist in their treatment will be allowed to participate in the study.
        "We don't want to introduce marijuana to someone who hasn't smoked it before," said study coordinator Jonathan Mesinger.
        The government-grown marijuana from the University of Mississippi, which will be used in the study, will likely contain less tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) than the marijuana patients in California cultivate on their own, buy through cannabis buyers' clubs or on the street.  Dennis Israelski, M.D. the chief of infectious diseases and chief research officer for the San Mateo County Hospitals and Clinics, said the potency level of the marijuana will not affect the study.
        "Because we're not doing a (medical) efficacy study per se, it's not important," Israelski said.  "It will be more important to get feedback on the potency, and see how it might influence how marijuana is grown on government farms."
        "The federal government has enjoyed a monopoly on growing 'research' marijuana for almost 25 years," said Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director.  "Due to public pressure from both medical patients and the scientific community, NIDA is finally making marijuana available for therapeutic research.  None of this would be happening unless voters in eight states had not recently passed medical marijuana initiatives.  It's a great example of the people leading and the policy-makers logically following."
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director at (202) 483-8751.

NORML/MAPS Study Shows Vaporizers Reduce Toxins In Marijuana Smoke

        San Francisco, CA:  Medical marijuana patients may be able to protect themselves from harmful toxins in marijuana smoke by inhaling their medicine using an electric vaporizer, according to initial results of a study by California NORML and Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).
        The study showed that it is possible to vaporize medically active tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) by heating marijuana to a temperature short of the point of combustion, thereby eliminating or substantially reducing potentially harmful smoke toxins that are normally present in marijuana smoke.  Vaporizers may therefore substantially reduce what is widely regarded as the leading health concern associated with marijuana, namely respiratory harm due to smoking.
        NORML and MAPS sponsored the study in the hopes of helping medical marijuana patients and others reduce the health risks of smoking marijuana.  A major obstacle to approval of natural cannabis by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in its 1999 report, "Marijuana and Medicine," was that smoking is an unhealthy delivery method.  The IOM report failed to note the possibility of vaporization.
        The NORML-MAPS study tested a device called the M1 Volatizer(R), an aromatherapy vaporizer developed by Alternative Delivery Systems, Inc.  It consisted of an electric heating element in a chamber that radiates heat downwards over a sample of marijuana contained in a standard bowl.  Output from the vaporizer was analyzed and compared to smoke produced by burning the sample.
        The vaporizer produced THC at a temperature of 185 C. (365 F.) while completely eliminating three measured toxins - benzene, a known carcinogen, plus toluene and naphthalene.  Carbon monoxide and smoke tars were both qualitatively reduced by the vaporizer, but additional testing is needed to quantify the extent of the decrease.
        The vaporizer study was undertaken as a follow-up to a previous NORML-MAPS marijuana smoking device study, which concluded that vaporizers offered the best prospects for smoke harm reduction:
        "Many medical marijuana patients say they prefer vaporizers because they deliver smoother, less irritating medication," said Dale Gieringer, NORML California State Coordinator.
        NORML and MAPS are currently seeking support for further research and development of vaporizers.  Research is presently underway to explore the optimal temperature and conditions for vaporization.  An additional $85,000 is needed to provide accurate measurement of carbon monoxide and other toxins, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.  Further studies may be needed to explore alternative device designs and the effects of different marijuana sample consistency, potency and preparation.
        For more information, please contact Dale Gieringer, California NORML State Coordinator at (415) 563-5858.

Illinois Legislature Passes Hemp Bill

        Springfield, IL:  The Illinois House of Representatives approved Senate Bill 1397 by a 67-47 vote on Tuesday to study the potential for growing industrial hemp in the state.  The bill passed through the Senate last spring and is now awaiting the approval of Gov. George Ryan (R).
        The legislation calls for the University of Illinois and Southern Illinois University to grow hemp to determine its potential as a statewide cash crop.
        Rep. Charles Hartke, (D-Teutopolis), compared growing hemp to the once-exotic soybean, now a mainstay for Illinois farmers.
        "It has potential," Hartke said.  "To get to that potential, we have to do a lot of research and study."
        "Illinois will hopefully be joining Hawaii, Minnesota, North Dakota, Maryland and California as states who are willingly bucking the federal government's ban on industrial hemp," said Scott Colvin, NORML Publications Director.  "Industrial hemp has a long history as a successful and useful cash crop."
        For more information, please contact Scott Colvin, NORML Publications Director at (202) 483-5500.

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