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September 20, 2001

Medical Pot Spray Shows 80 Percent Success Rate in Clinical Trials

Arlington, VA: Nearly 80 percent of multiple sclerosis and spinal cord patients enrolled in British research trials obtained clinical benefit from marijuana extracts, according to data presented by a London researcher during this year's annual meeting of the American Academy of Pain Management (AAPM).

Somehow a million years of evolution between cannabis and humans have come up with an amazing medicine," announced keynote speaker Geoffrey Guy, Chairman of GW Pharmaceuticals, a London company licensed to cultivate and test medical marijuana in clinical trials. The company is currently evaluating several cannabis-based medicinal extracts in double blind, placebo controlled randomized trials to determine each strain's quality, safety and efficacy. Trial subjects self-administer the extracts via a sublingual spray.

According to Guy, 41 of the 53 patients enrolled in GW's most recent trials sustained "clinically significant therapeutic benefit" from cannabis - including relief from pain, spasticity, bladder-related symptoms and tremor, as well as a 50 percent average reduction in their use of opiates. Guy called the preliminary results "very encouraging," noting that many of those who attained relief suffer from "conditions previously considered intractable."

Guy said that all 41 patients have elected to continue using medicinal cannabis extracts long-term. Recently, England's Medicines Control Agency (MCA), the equivalent of the United States' FDA, affirmed the safety of GW's extracts and extended the duration for which they can provide them to patients from 12 to 24 months.

GW is scheduled this fall to begin a series of large-scale Phase III trials in England and Canada on the efficacy of cannabinoids in the treatment of chronic pain. The company does not currently have trials pending in the US.

In addition to Guy, other medi-pot speakers at this year's AAPM conference included Ethan Russo, editor of The Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics, Patients Out of Time co-founder Mary Lynn Mathre, Common Sense for Drug Policy (CSDP) Executive Director Kevin Zeese, and Institute of Medicine researcher Janet Joy, co-author of the 1999 report Marijuana As Medicine: Assessing the Science Base.

For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Publications Director, at (202) 483-5500.

Largest Australian State Ponders Legalizing Medical Marijuana

Sydney, Australia: New South Wales Premier Bob Carr (Labor Party) is considering legalizing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, according to a recent Associated Press report. "Carr has said he has a moral obligation to consider legalizing the use of marijuana to relieve the pain of seriously ill people," AP said.

The announcement comes nearly one year after the release of an Australian Parliamentary study recommending "the introduction in New South Wales of a compassionate regime to assist those suffering from [a] range of illnesses ... to gain the benefits associated with the use of cannabis without facing criminal sanctions."

Also backing the law change is the NSW branch of the American Medical Association, which supports legalizing "the currently prohibited drug in specific medical cases to alleviate patient suffering and facilitate research."

Presently, possession and cultivation of marijuana for recreational use is a non-criminal (fine-only) offense in several Australian states, including the Australian Capitol Territory (ACT) and South Australia. Possession of marijuana in New South Wales remains punishable by a fine and up to two years in jail.

No Australian state currently has separate laws regulating marijuana for medical purposes.

For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation at (202) 483-8751.

Thousands Protest US Drug Policy, Mourn Terrorist Attacks at Boston Freedom Rally

Boston, MA: An estimated 40,000 people gathered Saturday at the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition's (MassCann/NORML) 12th Annual Freedom Rally to show their support for reforming US marijuana laws and reflect upon last week's tragic terrorist attacks.

Many in attendance waved flags and chanted "USA" throughout the daylong event, held at the historic Boston Common. Others wore black armbands and observed a moment of silence in memory of the victims of Tuesday's "Attack on America."

Speakers at the event, including NORML Executive Director Keith Stroup, longtime political activist John Sinclair, Efficacy President Clifford Thornton Jr. and Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Carla Howell, addressed the crowd from a stage adorned with American flags. All spoke of the horror of last week's tragedy, and many concluded that the nation would be better served if our law enforcement resources targeted terrorists and violent criminals rather than pot smokers.

"MassCann's organizers are to be commended for making the best out of a very difficult situation," Stroup said. "Saturday's event effectively combined protest and patriotism, and was well attended and well received by Bostonians."

MassCann/NORML President Bill Downing said he was happy the event took place as scheduled. "There [was] a great sense of community here," he said. "It seemed to renew people's spirits."

To view photos or read first hand accounts of this year's rally, please visit

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