March 28, 2002
Woody Harrelson, Bill Maher To Speak at Upcoming National NORML Conference in San Francisco
Washington, DC: Woody Harrelson and Bill Maher, two of Hollywood's most vocal and celebrated advocates for marijuana-law reform, will be appearing at this year's national NORML conference in San Francisco.
"We are pleased that Woody Harrelson and Bill Maher will be joining us to show their support for marijuana-law reform," NORML Executive Director Keith Stroup said. "When high profile celebrities such as Woody and Bill publicly challenge marijuana prohibition, it empowers millions of other citizens to do the same. With their appearances now confirmed, this year's conference is shaping up to be our most exciting ever."
Harrelson gained fame as Woody, the bartender on the long-running television sitcom "Cheers." He has also starred in such films as "Natural Born Killers," "Kingpin," and "The People Versus Larry Flynt," and narrated Ron Mann's highly-acclaimed pot documentary "Grass." The actor made national headlines in 1996 when he was arrested for planting four hemp seeds in an act of civil disobedience. In recent years, he has become an outspoken advocate for the rights of medical marijuana patients. Harrelson will speak at NORML's special "4/20 Luncheon" on Saturday, April 20.
Maher hosts ABC television's late night talk show "Politically Incorrect." He is a long-time critic of the war on drugs, and a supporter and friend of medi-pot activist Todd McCormick. Maher will also speak on April 20.
Other speakers at this year's national gathering, entitled "4/20: A Celebration of Personal Freedom," include: San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan, California State Senator John Vasconcellos, legendary criminal defense attorney Tony Serra, and Barbara Ehrenreich, best-selling author of the book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America.
This year's national NORML conference will be held from April 18-20 at San Francisco's Crowne Plaza Hotel. For registration information, please visit NORML's website at http://www.norml.org.
Pot's Impact on Driving Negligible, Two More Studies Say
Berkshire, United Kingdom: Marijuana has far less impact on psychomotor skills than alcohol and is seldom a causal factor in automobile accidents, according to the findings of two recent international studies.
The first, conducted by Britain's Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), found that drivers under the influence of marijuana performed better behind the wheel than those under the influence of alcohol. Researchers reported that although pot adversely influenced subjects' ability to accurately steer a car (so-called "tracking ability"), the drug failed to affect volunteer's reaction time or any other measures of driving performance. Researchers further noted that subjects under the influence of marijuana - unlike alcohol - were aware of their impairment and attempted to compensate for it by driving more cautiously.
The findings confirmed those of a preliminary TRL study released approximately one-year ago.
Similar results were also reported this week by a South Australian team at the Department of Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology at the University of Adelaide. Their study found that alcohol "overwhelmingly plays the greatest role in road crashes ... [and] conversely, ... marijuana has a negligible impact on culpability." An earlier Australian review of 2,500 injured drivers also found that cannabis had "no significant effect" on drivers' culpability in motor vehicle accidents.
NORML Foundation Executive Director Allen St. Pierre said that the results were unsurprising. "These results reaffirm that marijuana's slight impairment on psychomotor skills generally falls within the range of safety we accept for prescription medications and other legal, potentially debilitating factors," he said.
For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation at (202) 483-8751.
Casual Drug Use Seldom Harmful, British Study Says
London, United Kingdom: Few drug users suffer harmful effects from their use of marijuana or other substances, according to a British report released this week by London's Foreign Policy Centre think-tank. The report, titled From War to Work: Drug Treatment, Social Inclusion and Enterprise, recommends shifting drug enforcement away from casual drug users and focusing instead on hardcore addicts and specific drug-related crimes.
"The vast majority of people are able to use drugs without harmful effects," states the report's author Rowena Young, Director of the Kaleidoscope drug treatment center. The report states that most drug users voluntarily cease using illicit substances before their use gets out of control, and advises law enforcement to "focus on problematic drug use and drug related crime, both nationally and internationally, and relax its stance towards recreational use among those for whom drugs are unlikely to become a problem."
The Foreign Policy Centre study comes just days after the release of a report by Parliament's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) backing efforts by the British Home Office to downgrade marijuana possession to a non-arrestable offense. A forthcoming report by the British Home Affairs Select Committee is expected to make a similar recommendation regarding pot and possibly other drugs, including ecstasy. That report is due to be released later this spring.
For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation at (202) 483-8751. An abstract of the report is available online at the Foreign Policy Centre website at: http://fpc.org.uk.
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