News Release

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March 22, 2001

U.K. Lords To Parliament: Stop Arresting Patients, Legalize Medical Pot

        London, United Kingdom:  For the second time in three years, the U.K. House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology is urging Parliament to hasten their efforts to legalize marijuana-based medications, and is demanding they exempt medical marijuana patients from criminal prosecution until such drugs are developed.
        "In the absence of a viable alternative medicine, ... we consider it undesirable to prosecute genuine therapeutic users of cannabis who possess or grow cannabis for their own use," committee members affirmed in a ten-page report released yesterday.  "This unsatisfactory situation underlines the need to legalize cannabis preparations for therapeutic use."
        On this matter, Lords criticized drug regulatory officials of "dragging their feet," and accused the Medicines Control Agency - England's equivalent of the Food and Drug Administration - of failing to deal with marijuana "in the same impartial manner as other medicines."  Lords blamed MCA officials of purposely ignoring "the long history of safe therapeutic cannabis use," and questioned their assertion that marijuana-based therapeutics be classified as "new medicines."
        "The MCA persists in treating ... cannabis [and its constituents] ... as 'new medicines' though [they] ... have a long history of human use and appeared in the British Pharmacopoeia until 1948," they said.
        Lords called the MCA's attitude toward cannabis "overly cautious," and alleged that their approach will needlessly delay the legal production of marijuana-based medicines another two or three years.
        "Patients with severe conditions such as multiple sclerosis are being denied the right to make informed choices about their medication," they charged.  "Patients and doctors should certainly be informed about the [possible health risks] the MCA have raised, but these concerns should not prevent them from having access to what promises to be the only effective medication available to them."
        The Lords most recent report follows a 1998 inquiry that found the evidence in support of the therapeutic benefit of medical marijuana sufficient to justify changing Britain's drug laws.  Parliament summarily rejected their recommendation, but did agree to sponsor clinical trials regarding marijuana's medical efficacy.
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director, at (202) 483-8751. To access the report, please visit:

Americans Find Drug War Strategies Ineffective, Favor Legalizing Medical Marijuana

        Washington, DC:  Three out of four Americans believe we are losing the war on drugs and support changing federal law to allow physicians to prescribe medical marijuana, according to the findings of a nationwide poll released yesterday by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.  The findings are consistent with previous surveys demonstrating strong public support for medical marijuana, and a growing disapproval for current anti-drug strategies.
        Though a majority of Americans voiced their discontent with present drug policy, most seemed reluctant to try alternative strategies such as abolishing mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders.  However, a majority did support treating drug use as a health issue rather than as a criminal offense.
        The Pew findings reinforce previous data indicating that Americans view the medical and recreational use of marijuana as separate issues.  While 73 percent of respondents said they support legal access to medical marijuana, just under half said that small amounts of marijuana should be decriminalized for recreational use, a figure slightly higher than reported in previous years.
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director, at (202) 483-8751.

New Mexico Legislature Ends Without Passing Medical Marijuana Bill

        Santa Fe, NM:  A proposal approved by both the House and Senate to exempt medical marijuana patients from criminal penalties under state law died Saturday when the session convened before lawmakers could agree upon a final version of the bill.  The legislation was one of several drug-law reform bills spearheaded by Governor Gary Johnson (R), who is an advocate of alternative drug strategies.
        The chief difference between the two medical bills was that the House legislation included a "sunset clause" that would have forced lawmakers to re-approve the program every four years.  The Senate version contained no such amendment.  Both chambers must approve identical language before legislation may be sent to the governor.
        While Johnson expressed disappointment that the proposed medical marijuana plan failed to reach his desk, he said he was pleased with the attention his harm-reduction plan received from lawmakers.  "All of the drug reform bills advanced throughout the legislative session," he told NORML.  "All were advancing when the session came to an end; some passed and none were voted down."  Johnson stressed that no equivalent group of drug-law reform proposals had ever "advanced as far in legislative process in any state."
        Johnson said that he intends to ask lawmakers to reconsider the bill this September when they reconvene for a special session.
        For more information, please contact R. Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500.

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