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... a weekly service for the media on news items related to Marijuana Prohibition.

March 28, 1996

Federal Medical Marijuana Attracts Bi-Partisan Support
First Two Republicans Sign On To Bill

        March 29, 1996, Washington, DC:  Four additional members of Congress, including one member of the House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Crime, and two Republicans, have recently signed on to a federal bill (H.R. 2618) that would permit physicians to prescribe marijuana as a therapeutic agent for seriously ill patients.  The recent signees, U.S Reps. Joseph Kennedy (D-Mass.), Steven Gunderson (R-Wis.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), and Tom Campbell (R-Calif.) bring the total number of co-sponsors to thirteen.
        The support of the recent co-sponsors is critical for a variety of reasons.  The addition of Reps. Gunderson and Campbell gives the bill its first taste of bi-partisan support and could potentially persuade several other Republicans -- including House Speaker and former co-sponsor of medical marijuana legislation Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) -- to sign on to H.R. 2618.  In addition, the support of Republicans is necessary if the bill is to move forward in a Republican controlled Congress.
        Rep. Lofgren's support is also crucial.  Currently, H.R. 2618 is pending before the Subcommittee on Crime.  As a member of this committee, Lofgren can encourage Chairman and former two-time co-sponsor of medical marijuana legislation, Bill McCollum (R-Fla.), to hold additional hearings on medical marijuana and possibly bring the bill to a vote.
        H.R. 2618 was introduced in Congress last fall by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) to amend federal law to allow seriously ill patients to have legal access to marijuana for medicinal purposes.  If passed, the bill would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana to individuals suffering from "glaucoma, AIDS wasting syndrome, muscle spasms from certain spastic disorders, including multiple sclerosis, paraplegia, and quadriplegia, or the nausea associated with cancer chemotherapy or radiology."  Currently, only eight patients are allowed to receive medical marijuana legally from the federal government.
        For more information about H.R. 2618 or medical marijuana, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

Funding For Study On Medical Marijuana Allocated In Washington State Budget

        March, 1996, Olympia, WA:  Washington State University and the state Department of Health will start looking for ways to make medicinal marijuana available to the seriously ill, under strict controls, though two appropriations provided in this year's operating budget.
        The funding for the study came through the efforts of state Senators Jeanne Kohl (D-Seattle) and Bob McCaslin (R-Spokane).  The two senators co-sponsored a bill (SB-6744) that was used as a model for the appropriations provided in this year's budget.
        The funds will be used by Washington State University, in conjunction with the state Board of Pharmacy, and the state Department of Health to conduct research on cultivating marijuana in a tamper-free environment.  The study will also determine the appropriate organization to manufacture and distribute the drug for medical use.
        The second appropriation will be used to fund a clinical study administered by the state Department of Health under the controlled substance abuse therapeutic program, in statute since 1979.
        The study will be limited to patients under a physician's care.  Only patients receiving chemotherapy and/or radiation treatments, or suffering from glaucoma, AIDS or HIV related illnesses, multiple sclerosis, or other life threatening illnesses would qualify for the study.
        Results of a statewide public-opinion poll directed by local political consultant Sharon Gilpin the weekend of March 2nd-3rd indicated that the public supports the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.  The statewide survey of 400 voters found that 75 percent favored making marijuana available for patients if prescribed by a doctor.
        Gilpin said the results were a complete surprise.  "I know the people in the Northwest tend to be compassionate, but the high number was totally unexpected," she said.  Gilpin said people who are concerned about the rising cost of health care are willing to look at alternatives to the high cost of fighting diseases such as AIDS and cancer.
        "This is a great start that will lead to what we hope is a promising finish," said Dr. David Edwards, an Olympia physician and medical coordinator for the Washington Hemp Education Network (WHEN), an agency working on informing the public of the potential benefits of medicinal marijuana.  "I expect the results to have a positive effect in our effort to provide organic marijuana to patients under strict medical guidelines."
        Medical marijuana activist and founder of the Green Cross Cannabis Buyers Club, Joanna McKee, said she is confident the study will confirm what other tests have shown: the positive effects of medicinal marijuana.  "The medical community is so focused on using chemicals to combat illness, they ignore a simple, organic solution that's readily available," she said.  "This test will provide the answer to those who still question the effectiveness of THC."
        Sen. McCaslin said if the results of the state study on THC is similar to others conducted, organic marijuana could be a boon for the seriously ill.  "It will not only aid them in their physical recovery, it could prove to be a psychological boost as well," he said.
        Kohl said the study is the first step towards getting needed medicine to those who desperately need it.  "If the synthetic drug is not working for a patient, it only makes sense they should be able to have access to organic marijuana."
        Activists should be advised that the medicinal marijuana appropriations could potentially fall victim to a section-item veto by the governor. However, Sen. Kohl's office tells NORML that she has been assured by the governor's staff that he will not take such action.
        For more information or for the latest status on the Washington state medical marijuana appropriations, please contact Sen. Jeanne Kohl's office @ (206) 285-1869 or the office of Sen. Bob McCaslin @ (360) 786-7606.

Domestic Hemp Cultivation Bill Heads To Colorado Senate

        March 22, 1996, Denver, CO:  Legislation (SB 67) introduced by Sen. Lloyd Casey (D-Northglenn) to allow Colorado to become the first state to grow industrial hemp in almost 40 years is heading for the Senate floor.
        In a move that stunned both proponents and opponents alike, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 5-4 to send the bill to the full Senate for debate.  A similar bill was introduced by Casey in 1995, but only received one vote of support in its first committee.
        "We're talking about not just growing, but about the textile mills, the paper mills, [and] the food-processing products.  We're talking about all the value-added things that can result from this," explained Casey.
        The Colorado Industrial Hemp Production Act permits the planting of no more than 40 acres of industrial hemp (defined by the bill as marijuana containing no more than 0.5% THC) in Colorado in 1996 for agricultural, commercial, and scientific research.  The legislation allows for full scale hemp production to begin in 1998 and has been endorsed by the Colorado Farm Bureau, the Colorado State Grange, and the National Federation of Farm Bureaus.  The bill has also received support from Hollywood actor and hemp businessman Woody Harrelson.
        Working diligently over the past year to gather support for this bill is the Colorado Hemp Initiative Project (CO-HIP), a grassroots organization of activists who have donated their time to volunteer on this campaign.  CO-HIP notes that the bill currently has support in the Senate, but is probably three to five votes shy of a majority.  Nevertheless, the group remains confident that the bill will pass the Senate and is actively pursuing the help of farm organizations and professional lobbyists to drum up support among legislators.
        Colorado's legislative session ends on May 8, 1996.
        For more information on this bill, please contact the office of Senator Lloyd Casey @ (303) 866-4865 or CO-HIP @ (303) 784-5632.  For more information on the value of industrial hemp, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

Washington State Medical Marijuana User Found Guilty Of Drug Possession And Manufacture Charges

        March, 1996, Tacoma, WA:  A Pierce County resident who used marijuana to alleviate pain and seizures stemming from head injuries he suffered in a 1988 motorcycle accident was found guilty of charges that he possessed and manufactured marijuana.  His sentencing is set for April 10.
        Jess Williams, aka Fat Freddy, claims that he grew marijuana to combat the symptoms of his injury after discovering that cannabis worked more effectively than any conventional prescription drugs.  Law enforcement agents who raided Williams home maintained that Williams possessed more plants than necessary for personal use.  Williams attorney, NORML Legal Committee member Jeffrey Steinborn, asserts that he will appeal the decision.  "This case is a long way from over," he says.
        William's case had risen to the forefront of the battle for medical access to marijuana in Washington State.  While Steinborn admits that an acquittal would not have invalidated the law, he maintains that a "not guilty" verdict might have made prosecutors wary of bringing similar cases to trial.  Previously, medical marijuana user Ralph Seeley won a declaratory judgment from Pierce County Superior Court Judge Rosanne Buckner affirming that a cancer patient's need to use marijuana as a medicine overrides the state's interest in outlawing its prescription.
        Some activists who attended William's trial noted that they felt the jury might have ruled differently had the defendant suffered from cancer or glaucoma.  Williams was the "Freedom Fighter" of the month for the May issue of High Times magazine.
        For more information on William's case, please contact Attorney Jeffrey Steinborn of Seattle @ (206) 622-5117.

Rally For Medical Marijuana To Be Held This Saturday

        March 28, 1996, Sacramento, CA:  A rally to bring awareness to the medical efficacy of marijuana and gather support for an initiative to allow doctors to prescribe marijuana as a therapeutic agent will take place on March 30 on the north steps of the Capitol in Sacramento.
        Coordinated by activist Peter Keyes -- an independent organizer for Californians for Compassionate Use (CCU) -- the rally will be held from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. and will feature a variety of bands, disc jockeys, and speakers.  Tentatively scheduled to appear include hemp activist and author of "Hemp: Lifeline to the Future," Chris Conrad and San Francisco Cannabis Buyer's Club Director, Dennis Peron.
        For more information on this event, please contact Peter Keyes of Speed Up The Process @ (916) 484-4176.  For more information on the California medical marijuana initiative, please contact Dennis Peron of Californians for Compassionate Use @ (415) 621-3986.