News Release

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June 21, 2001

California County Receives Government Pot for Medical Research
Municipality Will Be Nation's Only Legal State Distributor of Medical Marijuana

        San Mateo, CA:  San Mateo County health officials received their first shipment of government grown medical marijuana last week.  The federally-provided pot will be dispensed imminently to local AIDS patients as part of a groundbreaking local study to better determine the herb's therapeutic value.  San Mateo County is the only municipality in the country allowed to legally distribute medicinal marijuana.
        "I see this as a milestone - a first step - toward the day when this drug will be available for doctors to prescribe for people who are suffering in great pain," said Michael Nevin, President of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors.  Nevin first began lobbying for the program in 1997 and received federal permission to implement the plan last November.
        In April, local health officials requested 300 marijuana cigarettes from the federal National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).  The shipment - approximately a two-month supply, according to health officials - arrived at San Francisco International Airport last Wednesday.  Federal researchers cultivate marijuana for research purposes at the University of Mississippi at Oxford.  NIDA is the only legal supplier of marijuana in the United States.
        ixty local AIDS patients will have access to the government-grown pot as part of an 18-month study to evaluate the drug's ability to mitigate symptoms of the AIDS wasting syndrome.  Only patients who have prior experience using marijuana are eligible to participate in the program, which will be led by Dr. Dennis Israelski, chief of infectious diseases and AIDS medicine at San Mateo County Hospital and Clinics.
        Although there exists a large body of anecdotal evidence indicating that marijuana provides symptomatic relief for patients with AIDS, almost no scientific research has been conducted on humans.  Preliminary results announced last year from an ongoing University of California-San Francisco study found that patients who smoked marijuana gained significantly more weight on average than those receiving a placebo, and had slightly lower viral levels.
        Patients interested in participating in the trial may contact Mark Traves, Project Coordinator, at (650) 573-2748.
        For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation at (202) 483-8751.

Scotland Yard To Stop Citing Marijuana Smokers

        London, United Kingdom:  London police officers will no longer arrest or caution marijuana smokers in the southern part of the city, officials announced Friday.  Instead, police will issue verbal warnings to users and confiscate their pot, under a pilot program backed by Scotland Yard, Britain's largest police force.
        If the program proves successful, police will expand the policy city-wide, a Scotland yard spokeswoman told Reuters News Service.
        Police officials argue that the policy will free officers to focus on more serious crimes.  Last year a report by the British Police Foundation - an independent criminal justice research organization - endorsed decriminalizing marijuana.
        A national poll commissioned by the Guardian newspaper last year found that eight out of ten Britons favored decriminalizing marijuana.  Two-thirds of respondents said that smoking pot was no more dangerous than smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol.
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director, at (202) 483-8751.

AMA Rejects Institute of Medicine, Others Support for"Compassionate Access" to Medical Marijuana

        Chicago, IL:  The American Medical Association's (AMA) House of Delegates rejected a proposal this week to support the limited use of medical marijuana.
        The proposal, put forth by the organization's Council on Scientific Affairs, asked Delegates to "affirm the appropriateness of [the] 'compassionate use' of marijuana and related cannabinoids in carefully controlled programs."  Instead, the AMA endorsed "the free and unfettered exchange of information on treatment alternatives."
        The AMA's failure to approve the "compassionate use" of marijuana places the organization squarely at odds with one of the chief recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine (IOM).  In 1999, the IOM backed the medical use of marijuana in single patient trials, stating that there exists no other "alternative for people suffering from chronic conditions that might be relieved by smoking marijuana."
        The AMA's rejection also runs contrary to views held by the American Public Health Association, AIDS Action Council and the American Preventive Health Association, all of which support "compassionate access" to medical marijuana under limited circumstances.
        "The AMA seems more concerned about pleasing the government than about helping seriously ill patients," NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup said.  "Their failure to speak out in favor of the medicinal use of marijuana is a shameful act of cowardice."
        Presently, the Canadian government grants federal exemptions to seriously ill patients who use marijuana medicinally.  The U.S. initiated a similar "compassionate access" program in 1978, but eventually closed the program in 1992 to new applicants.
        For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation at (202) 483-8751.

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