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

March 20, 1997

Long-Term Marijuana Users Suffer Few Health Problems, Australian Study Indicates

        March 20, 1997, Sydney, Australia:  The health of long-term marijuana users is virtually no different than that of the general population, according to the latest findings by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre in Australia.  The study, which involved interviews with 268 marijuana smokers and 31 non-using partners and family members, is one of the first ever conducted in Australia to determine the effects of long-term marijuana use.  Its findings were reported by the Sydney Morning Herald last month.
        "We don't see evidence of high psychological disturbance among the [long-term users,]" said chief investigator David Reilly.  "The results seem unremarkable; the exceptional thing is that the respondents are unexceptional."
        Reilly did note that regular marijuana users complained of mild respiratory problems such as wheezing at about twice the rate of non-users.  He warned that this result may be because nearly all of the marijuana users were also current or former tobacco smokers.
        "The greatest danger to health posed by marijuana is prohibition," stated NORML's Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre.
        The findings of the Australian study echo statements made approximately one-year ago by the premiere British medical journal, The Lancet, which proclaimed, "The smoking of cannabis, even long term, is not harmful to health."  The Lancet article further went on to recommend decriminalizing marijuana.
        For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre of NORML @ (202) 483-5500 or Jamnes Danenberg of HEMP SA of Australia @ (+61) 8 297-9442 or via e-mail at:

AMA Revises Medical Marijuana Guidelines For Doctors

        March 18, 1997, San Francisco, CA:  New guidelines issued by the American Medical Association (AMA) and its California affiliate (CMA) support a physician's right to freely discuss the use of marijuana as a therapeutic agent to his or her patient.  The guidelines were issued, in part, to encourage area physicians to settle a federal lawsuit against Clinton administration officials who have threatened to sanction doctors who recommend marijuana to their patients under California state law.  Many medical marijuana proponents feel the new guidelines represent a shift toward a growing acceptance of medical marijuana by America's leading medical establishment.
        "For the AMA, this is a very, very strong position to take," said Dr. Marcus Conant of San Francisco, one of the nation's most prominent AIDS physicians and lead plaintiff in the complaint against the government.  "I don't think organized medicine can make it any clearer.  ... The AMA has articulated ... the position that the federal government should get out of the business of dictating doctor-patient relationships."
        NORML Board Member Dr. Lester Grinspoon of Harvard Medical School was even more optimistic.  "These new guidelines are one more small step toward the AMA's inevitable, complete acceptance and support of cannabis as a remarkably useful, safe, and inexpensive medicine," he said.
        Under the proposed guidelines, which would be the basis for the settlement, physicians would be able to:

* Freely conduct a good faith discussion with a patient about the "risks and benefits of any potential medical treatment," including marijuana;
* Document the discussion in the patient's medical record;
* Testify about that discussion in court.

        "The guidelines address our fundamental concern that a physician be able to provide an honest, individualized opinion about the medical advisability of marijuana," stated Graham Boyd, attorney for the plaintiffs in the California suit.
        NORML's Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre sees the guidelines as a step in the right direction, but cautioned that the language still fell well short of the provisions of Proposition 215.  He noted that doctors are still encouraged to avoid taking any "intentional" steps to help a patient obtain the drug, such as deliberately "cooperate[ing] with a cannabis buyers club" or "issuing a written 'recommendation' whose ostensible purpose is to provide the patient with a defense against state prosecution."
        "Although the new guidelines provide support for the sanctity of the relationship between a physician and a patient, it fails to wholeheartedly endorse the needs of seriously ill patients in California who are relying on a doctor's 'recommendation' to legally possess medical marijuana," said St. Pierre.
        For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre of NORML @ (202) 483-5500 or Dave Fratello of Americans for Medical Rights @ (310) 394-2952.

Connecticut Lawmakers Discuss Medical Marijuana Legislation

        March 20, 1997, Hartford, CT:  Hearings took place today before the Joint Committee on Public Health to debate legislation (S.B. 1263) that would license physicians to possess and supply marijuana for the treatment of neurological disorders, AIDS wasting syndrome, glaucoma, or the side effects of chemotherapy.  State law in Connecticut already allows physicians to prescribe marijuana to seriously ill patients, but fails to provide guidelines regarding supply.
        The legislation also permits seriously ill patients and/or their caregivers to possess and cultivate marijuana for medical use.  If an individual's marijuana is wrongly seized by law enforcement, the measure mandates that the marijuana or drug paraphernalia be returned to the owner.
        S.B. 1263 also protects physicians under state law. Although issuing a prescription for marijuana remains in positive conflict with federal law, the measure exempts physicians licensed in Connecticut from any state criminal charges.  Currently, a federal lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia is challenging whether the federal government can legally sanction physicians who prescribe marijuana in compliance with state law.
        NORML Board Member Dr. John P. Morgan of City University of New York (CUNY) Medical School testified on behalf of the bill.  Morgan testified in favor of similar legislation in both Maine and Virginia earlier this year.
        The Joint Committee on Public Health is chaired by Sen. Tony Nathaniel Harp (10th District).
        For more information, please contact either Paul Armentano or Allen St. Pierre of NORML @ (202) 483-5500 or visit NORML's website for an up-to-date listing of all pending state marijuana legislation at:  Sen. Tony Nathaniel Harp may be contacted by writing to the Connecticut Legislative Office Building, Room 3000, Hartford, CT 06106, or calling (860) 240-0560.
        For more information on the federal lawsuit filed in Washington, D.C., please contact Attorney Rufus King of Berliner, Corcoran, & Rowe @ (202) 293-5555.

Colorado Hemp Bill Struck Down By Appropriations Committee

        March 20, 1997, Denver, CO:  Legislation introduced by Rep. Kay Alexander (R-Montrose) to permit Colorado State University to cultivate test plots of industrial hemp for research purposes was struck down today by the House Appropriations Committee by a vote of 6-4.  The bill had previously passed the House Agriculture Committee and proponents had not expected to face significant opposition in Appropriations.  The vote was a major setback for local hemp advocates who have lobbied on behalf of the measure for the past three years.
        Similar industrial hemp legislation is still pending in at least seven states.
        For more information, please contact Laura Kriho of the Colorado Hemp Initiative Project @ (303) 784-5632 or via e-mail at: For information on pending hemp legislation in other states, please contact Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500 or
visit NORML's website at: