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

February 27, 1997

Latest National Poll Shows Strong Support For Medical Marijuana

        February 18, 1997, Washington, D.C.:  Americans reject the idea of sanctioning physicians who prescribe or recommend the use of marijuana as a medicine to seriously ill patients by 68 percent to 24 percent, according to a recent poll conducted by the Lake Research polling firm in New York City.
        At the same time, the public supports the right of physicians to prescribe marijuana by two-to-one, 60 percent to 30 percent.
        "Like the results of the 1995 poll conducted by the American Civil Liberties Union demonstrating that 85 percent of voters favored legal access to medical marijuana for specific illnesses, this latest survey further emphasizes the overwhelming support among voters for medical marijuana," said NORML's Deputy Director, Allen St. Pierre.
        The questions were worded as follows and asked in the following order:
        * Should doctors be able to prescribe marijuana for medical purposes to seriously or terminally ill patients?
        * As you may know, voters in two states recently passed laws allowing doctors to prescribe marijuana to seriously ill patients for medical purposes.  The federal government says that doctors who prescribe are violating federal law, and has threatened to prosecute them or suspend their license.  Which comes closer to your views [rotate order of choices]: doctors should be able to prescribe marijuana for medical uses in states where it is allowed by law, or the federal government should penalize doctors who prescribe marijuana, regardless of whether state law allows them to?
        Lake Research conducted the nationwide poll of 1,002 Americans between February 5-9 for the Lindesmith Center, a drug-law reform organization from New York City.
        For more information, please contact Ethan Nadelmann of The Lindesmith Center @ (212) 887-0695 or Celinda Lake of Lake Research @ (202) 776-9066.  For information on additional polls demonstrating strong support for medical marijuana, please contact Allen St. Pierre of NORML @ (202) 483-5500 or visit NORML's website @:

Health Organizations Support Medical Marijuana Lawsuit

        February 23, 1997, San Francisco, CA:  Four prominent state medical groups have entered a lawsuit aimed at preventing federal officials from taking punitive action against physicians who recommend the medical use of marijuana to their patients in compliance with California law.
        "We believe that physicians have a right and a duty to discuss anything regarding a patient's medical health," Dr. Toni Brayer of the California Pacific Medical Center told the San Francisco Examiner.  Brayer is the immediate past president of the San Francisco Medical Society, one of the organizations that recently joined the lawsuit, and has been an outspoken proponent of the California Medical Marijuana Initiative since August.
        Also supporting the plaintiffs with an amicus curiae (friends of the court) brief filed late Friday are the 6,000-member California Academy of Physicians, the 1,800-member Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, and the 400-member Marin Medical Society.
        Plaintiffs contend that threatening to punish physicians who recommend the use of marijuana as a therapeutic agent to their patients is a violation of the First Amendment.  In their friend-of-the-court brief, the four medical groups contend that: "The unprecedented application of the nation's drug laws to physician-patient dialogue has severely chilled vital communications between physicians and their patients.  Forced to choose between the risk of prosecution and providing patients with potentially useful information, often the physician's only choice is to remain silent."
        Oral arguments in this matter will be heard before U.S. District Judge Fern M. Smith on March 21.
        "With the addition of these four respected medical organizations, there are now approximately 10,000 state-licensed doctors waging a legal battle against the federal government over access to medical marijuana," said NORML's Deputy Director, Allen St. Pierre.  "It is clear that many doctors do not share the government's hard-line approach to this issue."
        The suit was filed on January 14 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 five patients -- including former San Francisco police commissioner Jo Daly.  San Francisco prosecutor Keith Vines, who uses marijuana medicinally to combat effects of the AIDS wasting syndrome, has also signed on to the suit, known as Conant v. McCaffrey.
        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.

California Congressional Delegation Urged To Support Prop. 215 And Stave Off Federal Assault On Physicians And Their Medical Patients

        February 27, 1997, Washington, D.C.:  U.S. Representative George Brown (D-CA) has circulated a letter to his fellow 51 California House members urging them to join him in sending a letter to President Clinton asking him to refrain from imposing federal penalties on California physicians who might recommend marijuana to their patients.  Thus far, five members have signed on:

        Rep. Brown's letter reads in part: "As Members of the California Congressional Delegation we are concerned with the actions of the Administration to threaten sanctions against the physicians of our state for recommending the use of marijuana for medical purposes under exceptional circumstances."
        "...Federal agency officials are now threatening to revoke physician's licenses to prescribe drugs, bar Medicare and Medicaid participation, and encourage state licensing boards to revoke physician's license.  However, dozens of scientific and medical studies since the late 1970's have shown marijuana to be beneficial to suffering patients...".
        "Yet, Federal officials are now interfering with the expressed will of a majority of Californians.  This is not a matter for the government to involve itself..."
        "We ask that you reconsider your position and order all Federal agencies to refrain from taking actions against physicians and allow physicians in California to recommend marijuana in accordance with the Compassionate Use Act [Prop. 215], thus helping the thousands now suffering in dire straits."
        For more information on Rep. Brown's delegation letter, please contact Allen St. Pierre of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.  For more information specific to marijuana policy in California, please contact Dale Gieringer of CA NORML @ (415) 563-5858.  If you live in California and don't know who your congressional representative is, please call the congressional switchboard operator @ (202) 225-3121.