June 14, 2001
Unchallenged By New Studies
Food, Heart Attack Studies Find Health Risks Inconsequential
DC: A pair of studies released this week examining the health effects
of marijuana use found the drug posed no significant risk to health or
A study published Monday in the Journal of Public Health Nutrition reported that marijuana smokers' nutritional health was equal to that of their non-smoking peers despite differing dietary patterns. Researchers examined the long-term dietary and nutritional habits of approximately 11,000 marijuana consumers and non-users between the ages of 20 and 59. They found that marijuana smokers exhibited normal levels of vitamins and minerals, and averaged slightly lower body mass indexes (BMI) - a scientific gauge of obesity - than nonsmokers. Researchers called the latter result "surprising" because smokers consumed a larger percentage of calories than non-users. The study's authors speculated that marijuana may increase metabolism to offset weight gain in healthy subjects.
A second study published Monday in the journal Circulation examining the association between marijuana smoking and heart attacks found the drug posed negligible risks to healthy subjects. Researchers interviewed 3,882 heart attack sufferers and found that 124 reportedly used marijuana. Of these, 37 had used marijuana within 24 hours of a heart attack, and nine said they had used it within the previous hour. Based upon this limited data, the study's author, Dr. Murray Mittleman, director of cardiovascular epidemiology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, reported that the risk of heart attack was slightly increased in the first hour after smoking, but dissipated shortly after that. Mittleman compared the heightened risk from marijuana to be roughly equivalent to vigorous exercise for someone of average fitness, and far less than that posed by air pollution.
Mittleman estimates the risk of a heart attack for an otherwise healthy 50-year old man after smoking marijuana is about 10 in one million.
"Despite their headlines, most studies alleging new dangers from marijuana are really much ado about nothing," said NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, who noted that a 1997 Kaiser Permanente study of 40,000 marijuana users and 25,000 non-users found that marijuana had no significant impact on mortality. "If marijuana smoking posed serious negative impacts on health - whether by increasing one's risk of a heart attack or otherwise - it would already have become readily apparent in large scale epidemiological surveys."
For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of NORML at (202) 483-5500.
DEA Restates Proposed Ban on Hemp Products
DC: The Drug Enforcement Administration is moving forward with efforts
to define certain hemp products as illegal under the Controlled Substances Act
(CSA). According to proposed regulations published recently in the
Federal Register, any substance - including hemp foods, seeds, or oil - that
tests positive for trace levels of THC shall be subject to the CSA and
criminally prohibited under federal law.
According to a letter by the Hemp Industries Association (HIA) opposing the proposal, "Natural trace amounts of THC pose no health risk; hemp foods and oil products containing trace amounts of THC ... do not contain enough ... to trigger a false positive drug test; and the planned rules ... are outside the scope of the Controlled Substances Act."
Hemp-based health products, such as hemp seed oil, are sold commercially in nutrition stores across the nation and consumed for their high concentrations of amino and fatty acids. Some of these products occasionally contain trace amounts of THC depending on how thoroughly manufacturers have cleaned the hemp seed's outer hull. Canada's government requires ingestible hemp products test below ten micrograms per gram. The proposed U.S. regulations would be zero-tolerant.
Many believe that the proposed ban is in reaction to concerns by the drug testing industry that legal hemp foods could hinder efforts to identify marijuana smokers. "All products that cause a positive THC urinalysis must be removed from commerce or we will be forced by the courts to stop testing for marijuana," an industry journal opined in 1997. "The solution is to ... amend the [law] ... to ... remove [these] products ... and make their use illegal."
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director, at (202) 483-8751.
Cops Can't Use Thermal Imagers Without Warrant, High Court Rules
DC: Police must procure a warrant before they can legally use thermal
imaging devices or other new technologies to detect activities taking place
inside the home, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 Monday. Thermal imagers
measure heat emanating from a house and are frequently used by law enforcement
to identify indoor marijuana cultivation.
"We think that obtaining by sense-enhancing technology any information regarding the interior of the home that could not otherwise have been obtained without physical intrusion into a constitutionally protected area constitutes a search - at least where the technology in question is not in general public use," Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the Court.
The decision overturns a Ninth Circuit ruling that found the warrantless use of thermal imaging did not constitute a search because "intimate details" were not revealed.
"The Fourth Amendment's protection of the home has never been tied to measurement of the quality or quantity of information obtained," the high court rebuked. "In the home, ... all details are intimate details, because the entire area is held safe from prying government eyes."
The defendant in the case, Danny Kyllo of Oregon, was charged with marijuana cultivation in 1992 after federal agents used thermal imaging to scan the amount of heat emanating from his home.
For more information, please contact Donna Shea, Esq., NORML Foundation Litigation Director, at (202) 483-8751.
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