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August 22, 1996

Latest Edition Of Household Survey Fuels Election Year Fodder
NORML Responds To Calls To Escalate The Drug War

        August 21, 1996: Washington, D.C.:  Illicit drug use (defined as use at least once in the past month) among adolescents age 12 to 17 rose 33 percent since last year and now stands at 10.9 percent, reports the latest annual findings from the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse.  The use of marijuana, the illicit drug used primarily by adolescents, increased from 7.3 percent to 8.2 percent.
        Not surprisingly, both prohibitionists and politicians are using the latest statistics to call for increased anti-drug efforts.  "This is nothing short of a national tragedy," said Republican nominee Bob Dole.  "Starting next January, I'm going to make the drug war priority No. 1 once again."
        In light of the recent data, NORML issued the following statement.  As always, NORML remains committed to the notion that adolescents grow up drug-free.
        "The statistics indicating rising levels of teen marijuana use cited by the National Household Survey should be an issue of concern for both parents and political leaders alike.  However, there is no evidence to demonstrate that increasing penalties against adult users will amend the problem.  In fact, federal statistics indicate that just the opposite is true.
        "Despite criticism that the Clinton administration has abandoned the drug war, FBI figures from its annual Uniform Crime Report illustrate that nearly one-half million Americans were arrested on marijuana charges in 1994 -- more than 83 percent of them for simple possession.  This inflated figure is a remarkable 42 percent increase over the average yearly total for marijuana arrests under the Bush administration and equates to an arrest every 65 seconds!
        "Yet, in spite of this significant increase in the enforcement of drug and marijuana laws, recent studies such as the Household Survey indicate that the use of narcotics and marijuana is rising in popularity -- especially among adolescents.  Specifically, the fact that the use of marijuana is rapidly growing at the same time that law enforcement officials are arresting record numbers of users clearly confirms that marijuana prohibition does not effectively deter marijuana consumption.
        "In addition, it must be noted that today's rates of adolescent drug use are rather moderate when put in historical perspective.  For example, as late as 1988, during the height of the Reagan/Bush 'Just say 'no' campaign,' the number of adolescents age 12 to 17 who reported using an illicit substance within the past month stood at 9.2 percent, just slightly below today's so-called 'emergency levels.'  In addition, today's use rates -- despite the recent increase -- still remain well below the peak levels recorded in the late i970s and early 1980s.
        "We will probably never know why marijuana use-rates go up and down over time.  However, it is worth noting that the recent increase occurred among the same population of young people who had been exposed to a decade-long anti-marijuana campaign in the schools and the media.  That campaign, based on exaggerations of marijuana's alleged harms and a 'Just say no' ideology has clearly failed."
        For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of NORML at (202) 483-5500 to request a copy of N0RML's position paper, "Weeding Through the Hype: The Truth About Adolescent Marijuana Use."

Study To Determine Whether Marijuana Helps Individuals Suffering From AIDS Wasting Syndrome Rejected By National Institutes of Health

        August 7, 1996, San Francisco, CA:  Dr. Donald Abrams of UC-San Francisco learned that his proposal to conduct a pilot study into the use of smoked marijuana in the treatment of the AIDS wasting syndrome was rejected by a peer-review committee of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).  This means the study cannot proceed because the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) arbitrarily required that it pass the NIH peer-review process to qualify for receiving marijuana from NIDA.  This condition has not been previously required of other FDA-approved studies.  NIDA retains a monopoly on the legal supply of marijuana for research purposes.
        NIAID will send a letter explaining the reason for the rejection in six to eight weeks.  At that time, Dr. Abrams will evaluate the comments to see if, in his opinion, they are scientifically justified or politically motivated.  A decision regarding the revision and resubmission of the protocol will be made at that time.
        NORML board member Rick Doblin of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) has been working closely with Dr. Abrams for four years to sponsor this study.  He noted that this was the second time a specific pilot study proposed by Dr. Abrams to investigate the use of smoked marijuana in the treatment of weight loss in patients suffering from the AIDS wasting syndrome has been rejected by federal health officials.
        Although having an initial protocol design extensively reviewed, critiqued, modified, and approved by the both the FDA and the California Research Advisory panel in 1994, Abrams was denied receiving the marijuana necessary for his study by NIDA in April of 1995.  After addressing several of NIDA's concerns -- including revising the protocol to an all in-patient study -- Abrams resubmitted a grant proposal to NIH on May 1, 1996.
        This latest rejection "delays [us] at least a year, if not permanently," said Doblin.  "In 1992, DEA Administrator Robert Bonner stated: 'Those who insist that marijuana has medical uses would serve society better by promoting or sponsoring more legitimate scientific research.'  All we are asking for is simply to conduct that research."
        "The events of the past weeks in San Francisco make the bankruptcy of the government's policy glaringly evident," said California NORML Coordinator Dale Gieringer.  "Why is it easier for your kids to get marijuana than for researchers, physicians, and patients?"
        For more information, please contact Rick Doblin of MAPS @ (704) 358-9830 or Allen St. Pierre of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

Swiss State To Legalize Marijuana

        August 19, 1996, Zurich, Switzerland:  The government of the state of Zurich in Switzerland approved a proposal that could legalize the use of cannabis, reported the Reuters news agency.
        In a 85-40 vote, the state council endorsed a resolution by the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) that calls for a change in the narcotics law through a referendum.
        The FDP argued that using marijuana should no longer remain a punishable offense because 20 years of federal prohibition have not proved to be an adequate deterrent of either marijuana use or availability.  Therefore, the proposal recommends that the sale of cannabis be organized and regulated by the state in order to insure quality and eliminate the black market.

Board Strikes Down Proposal
To Declare Medical Marijuana 'Emergency' For San Francisco's Sick

        August 16, 1996, San Francisco, CA:  A measure to declare a city-wide state of emergency allowing marijuana to be used for medical purposes has been struck down by San Francisco city officials.  The proposal, spearheaded by city Board of Supervisors member Tom Ammiano, was introduced following a raid by state narcotics officers on the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers' Club.
        On the advice of the city's District Attorney Terence Hallinan and Director of Health Sandra Hernandez, a Board of Supervisors committee backed off from the declaration.  Many officials claimed that approving such a controversial measure could jeopardize the city's needle-exchange program that currently operates under an emergency declaration.  The decision came one day after Mayor Willie Brown withdrew his support for the proposal.
        "If it were up to me, I would have a state of emergency, but given the [advice], it doesn't look a state of emergency is going to fly," said Ammiano.
        Brown said that he also felt a declaration of a medical marijuana emergency could legally endanger the clean needle program.  He added that city officials were attempting to work out an agreement with the state attorney general's office to let another organization distribute marijuana to patients.
        "If they say that it can't be done [by the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers' Club and] it has to be done [by] some other organization that's free of any taint, then we'll do that," Brown said at his bi-weekly press conference.
        "My interest is to get [medical marijuana] to an organization that has no history with legal or illegal use of marijuana," added police commissioner Pat Norman.  "[This] should not be a political issue; it should be provided as treatment."
        Responding to the possibility that city officials may attempt to procure an outside entity to distribute medical marijuana, San Francisco Cannabis Buyers' Club founder Dennis Peron told the San Francisco Chronicle that he would support any and all efforts to viably get medical marijuana to the sick.
        For more information, please contact Mark Capitolo of Californians for Medical Rights @ (916) 457-5546 or Dale Gieringer of California NORML @ (415) 563-5858.  For the latest information on the status of the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers' Club please contact Californians for Compassionate Use @ (415) 621-3986.

(Meanwhile) San Francisco Church Sponsors Medical Marijuana Giveaway

        August 19, 1996, San Francisco, CA:  A city church distributed marijuana on Sunday to patients who possessed a doctor's recommendation in wake of the temporary injunction closing the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers' Club.
        About 25 patients showed up for the giveaway, news of which was spread through word of mouth.  Those possessing valid documentation were provided with one-eighth of an ounce of marijuana.
        "I believe the moral stance [in this instance] is to break the law to make this marijuana available," said Rev. Jim Mitulski of the Metropolitan Community Church of San Francisco.  "Our church's spiritual vitality has always come from a willingness to act where people have been reluctant to act.  This is not a bystander church."
        Allen White, a community activist who helped organize the event, said he had notified Mayor Willie Brown, Assistant Police Chief Earl Sanders, and District Attomey Terence Hallinan Saturday night about the church's plan to distribute marijuana.  Organizers said that they knew of no other church that had conducted such an operation.
        Mitulski did not specify whether he would hold repeat giveaways, but added that there were no plans to do distribute marijuana on a long-term basis.  He said he hoped other churches will become actively involved in the issue.
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.