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

January 16, 1997

Class Action Suit Blocking Federal Sanctions Against Physicians Who Recommend Medical Marijuana Filed In Federal Court

        January 14, 1996, Los Angeles, California:  A group of physicians and patients filed a class action suit in federal court in San Francisco seeking an injunction to prevent federal officials from taking any punitive action against physicians who recommend the medical use of marijuana to their patients in compliance with California law.
        The lawsuit is a direct response to the Clinton administration's December 30 announcement of its plan to oppose the implementation of Proposition 215 by threatening California doctors with a wide range of punishments if they recommend medical marijuana.  The defendants in the suit are: Gen. Barry McCaffrey, Director of White House Drug Control Policy; Thomas Constantine, Administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration; Janet Reno, Attorney General of the United States; and Donna Shalala, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.  Representing the plaintiffs are the San Francisco law firm of Altshuler, Berzon, Nussbaum, Berzon & Rubin and the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California.
        Graham Boyd, an attorney with the firm said, "Our view is that the federal effort to gag physicians is blatantly unconstitutional. Discussions between a physician and patient about the risks and benefits of medical marijuana constitute protected speech under the First Amendment."
        Dr. Marcus Conant, a San Francisco specialist in AIDS treatment and the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit said, "The federal government has threatened me and doctors like me with dire consequences simply for discussing medical marijuana with my patients.  My colleagues and I have seen marijuana work to relieve nausea and stimulate appetite where other drugs fail, and scores of studies support our observations."
        The lawsuit was filed by Bay Area Physicians for Human Rights, a group of about 150 doctors who treat AIDS; Being Alive, an organization of people with AIDS or the AIDS virus; nine individual physicians, and four patients -- including former San Francisco police commissioner Jo Daly.
        "The federal government has no right to interfere with the privileged relationship between a seriously ill patient and his or her physician," said NORML Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre.
        For more information, please contact Dave Fratello of Americans for Medical Rights (AMR) @ (310) 394-2952 or Allen St. Pierre of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

New Hampshire Legislator Introduces Marijuana Decriminalization Bill

        January 16, 1996, Concord, New Hampshire:  A bill has been introduced in the New Hampshire state legislature (H.B. 118-FN) that would reduce the penalty for possession of less than one and one-half ounces of marijuana from a class A misdemeanor to a violation.  The measure was introduced by Rep. Tim Robertson (18th-District) and four co-sponsors.
        Under current state law, possession of marijuana is punishable by a one-year sentence and/or $1,000 fine.  Under this new measure, individuals possessing small amounts of marijuana would receive a ticket and a small fine.
        NORML Legal Committee Member Michael Cutler, Esq. of Boston, Massachusetts, has been working with Rep. Robertson in support of the legislation.  Cutler said that he expects the bill to be referred to a study committee before being voted on by the legislature.
        For more information, please contact R. Keith Stroup or Allen St. Pierre of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.  Rep. Robertson may be reached @ (603) 271-3529. Attorney Michael Cutler may be contacted @ (617) 439-4990.

California Doctor Threatens Drug Czar With Lawsuit

        January 10, 1996, Washington, D.C.:  California physician Tod Mikuriya is demanding a formal retraction from Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey over statements made during a December 30 press conference.  At the conference, during which Clinton administration officials threatened to prosecute doctors who recommend or prescribe marijuana to seriously ill patients under state law, McCaffrey falsely identified Dr. Mikuriya as the "Medical Advisor" for Proposition 215 and held him up to ridicule by implying that he had recommended marijuana for the treatment of a number of trivial ailments such as recalling "forgotten memories," "writer's cramp," and the "removal of corns."
        Mikuriya denies that he has ever recommended that a patient use marijuana for those specific purposes and said that McCaffrey's statement's were derived from a draft of a proposed book he is writing on all of marijuana's possible and claimed uses historically.  On January 10, Attorney Rufus King of the Washington, D.C. law firm Berliner, Corcoran & Rowe, L.L.P., delivered a letter to the Drug Czar's office asking for a clarification, apology, and appropriate retraction.  "Apparently you were referring to a draft of a proposed book I circulated for comment a few months ago, but every word of your reference, and your reference to me, was dishonest, and I charge knowingly so," wrote Mikuriya.  "You simply ignored the clear context of what I was saying, which you could not have overlooked in good faith.
        "This gross damage to me, my reputation and my medical practice is obvious," Mikuriya continued.  "I demand a[n] ... apology ... in a venue and context equivalent to the initial publication."
        If McCaffrey fails to respond to Dr. Mikuriya's request by January 20, Mikuriya says that he will take legal action against him.
        For more information, please contact Dr. Tod Mikuriya @ (510) 843-0279 or Attorney Rufus King of Berliner, Corcoran, & Rowe, L.L.P. @ (202) 293-5555 ext. 340.

Court Ruling Allows San Francisco Cannabis Buyers' Club To Reopen

        January 15, 1996, San Francisco, CA:  Citing the recent passage of Proposition 215, a Superior Court judge authorized the not-for-profit cultivation and sale of marijuana for medical purposes by the San Francisco Buyers' Club.  The club's founder, Dennis Peron, and five others still face felony marijuana charges stemming from the August 4 raid by state law enforcement on the nearly 12,000 member club.  Peron reopened the club, now known as the San Francisco Cultivators' Club, on Wednesday.
        Judge David A. Garcia lifted a five month injunction on the club on January 8 despite objections from California Attorney General Dan Lungren.  The judge made it clear that his ruling applied only to the San Francisco Club and would have no legal force outside of the city.  He also mandated that the sale of marijuana be strictly non-profit for legitimate medicinal purposes.  Citing the passage of Proposition 215, Garcia stated, "The people of California have spoken [and] I don't think [Dan Lungren] or I are going to say that the people of California were ineffectual."
        "This is the first time that a ruling permitting the cultivation of marijuana for medical patients has ever been handed down by a judicial officer," said Attorney David Nick, counsel for Peron.
        "It feels like a victory," Peron told reporters during a ribbon-cutting ceremony held to mark the reopening of the club.  "I've never seen my name with marijuana that wasn't on an indictment."
        Peron added that the new club is taking precautions to limit membership to only those who possess a doctor's recommendation for a legitimate medical illness.  The club says it will verify the legitimacy of the doctor by checking the state medical board's registry of Northern California physicians.  The club will also contact the doctor for an oral confirmation.  Members will also be given computer-generated ID cards with a photo and unique ID number.
        Peron maintained that data on physicians who recommend marijuana to their patients will not be kept on the premises.  "No matter what happens, we're going to protect our doctors," said Peron.  "If the club is raided, our doctors will be safe."
        For more information, please contact Dennis Peron of Californians for Compassionate Use @ (415) 621-3986 or Dale Gieringer of California NORML @ (415) 563-5858.