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

April 3, 1997

Heavy Long-Term Marijuana Use Does Not Impair Lung Function,
Says New Study

        April 3, 1997, Los Angeles, CA:  Habitual marijuana smokers do not experience a greater annual rate of decline in lung function than nonsmokers, according to the latest findings by researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Medicine.  The results of the eight-year study appear in Volume 155 of the American Journal of Respiratory & Critical Care Medicine.  Dr. Donald P. Tashkin, who headed the study, is one of America's foremost experts on marijuana smoking and lung function.
        "Findings from the present long-term, follow-up study of heavy, habitual marijuana smokers argue against the concept that continuing heavy use of marijuana is a significant risk factor for the development of [chronic lung disease]," concluded the UCLA study.  "Neither the continuing nor the intermittent marijuana smokers exhibited any significantly different rates of decline in [lung function]" as compared with those individuals who never smoked marijuana.  Researchers added: "No differences were noted between even quite heavy marijuana smoking and nonsmoking of marijuana."  These findings starkly contrasted those experienced by tobacco-only smokers who suffered a significant rate of decline in lung function.
        Researchers also failed to find any synergistic effect between marijuana and tobacco cigarettes.  According to the report, individuals who smoked both did not suffer any faster rate of decline in lung function than individuals who smoked marijuana alone.
        "The long-term findings of this study clearly refute the prohibitionist argument that marijuana smoking poses a significant danger to lung function," stated NORML Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre.
        A total of 394 young Caucasian men and women agreed to participate in the study.  Researchers classified 131 of the participants as heavy marijuana smokers who did not smoke tobacco cigarettes, while 112 smoked both tobacco and marijuana.  An additional 65 men regularly smoked tobacco only and the remaining 86 participants were nonsmokers.  All participants were screened for pre-existing chronic chest diseases and found to be healthy upon entering the study.
        Each participant underwent pulmonary function testing at the start of the study, and again on multiple occasions over the course of the next eight years.  During that interval, a number of patients were lost to follow up, but 255 participants (65 percent) completed the study and were tested again at up to six additional sessions.
        The results of this latest long-term study on marijuana and health echo findings reached by an Australian group of researchers at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre just one month ago.  That study, which involved interviews with 268 marijuana smokers and 31 non-using partners and family members, concluded that the health of long-term marijuana users is virtually no different from that of the general population.
        Researchers from both studies cautioned that their results do not imply that regular marijuana smoking is free of all potentially harmful pulmonary effects.  Both groups stated that regular marijuana smokers were more likely to suffer mild respiratory problems such as wheezing and bronchitis than nonsmokers.
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.  A summary of the UCLA study appears in the March 1997 edition of Forensic Drug Abuse Advisor.

American Medical Association Demands Clinical Trials To Determine
Marijuana's Medical Effectiveness

        April 3, 1997, Boston, MA:  Well designed clinical trials are necessary to properly determine marijuana's medical effectiveness, states the April 7 editorial in American Medical News, a newspaper of the American Medical Association (AMA)
        Citing interest from the medical establishment and majority support from the public regarding the use of marijuana as a medicine, the editorial calls on the federal government to permit and fund clinical tests on the subject.  "Current curiosity over [this issue] will not fade away, regardless of how much the administration may hope it might," states the AMA.  "Well-designed clinical tests ... are what's needed.  ...The sooner researchers start on this course the better."
        "Ultimately, the federal government will have to sponsor the demonstration of marijuana's clinical efficacy," said NORML Board Member Dr. Lester Grinspoon of Harvard Medical School.  Grinspoon said that marijuana's safety is already well-established, but argued for clinical trials to determine more precisely which ailments could be best alleviated by the drug's use.
        The AMA states that it has called for such medical marijuana trials "for years."

North Dakota To Conduct Year-Long Study On Industrial Hemp

        April 3, 1997, Bismarck, ND:  Legislation requiring North Dakota State University to study the feasibility and durability of industrial hemp production was signed into law on March 23.
        House Bill 1305, introduced by a coalition of both representatives and senators, mandates the study to include "an analysis of required soils and growing conditions, seed availability, harvest methods, market economies, environmental benefits, and law enforcement concerns."  It is undetermined whether test plots of hemp will be grown for the study.  Researchers will report their findings and recommendations to the state legislative council by Aug. 1, 1988.
        "Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were both industrial hemp producers," Rep. David Monson (R-Osnabrock) told reporters.  "This is as American as baseball and apple pie."
        North Dakota is the third state to commission a study on the economic viability of domestic hemp cultivation.  A prior study commissioned by the Hawaii state legislature was completed this past January and a second study is currently underway in Vermont.
        For more information on industrial hemp or pending hemp legislation, please contact Paul Armentano or Allen St. Pierre of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

Maryland Brewing Company Gets OK To Distribute Hemp Beer In 23 States

        April 1, 1997, Frederick, MD:  Frederick Brewing Company (FBC) of Maryland announced that it has gained federal approval to distribute the first-ever U.S. craft beer brewed with hemp seeds.  The beer, which will be marketed under the name Hempen Ale, will be made available for distribution on April 28 in 23 states and Washington, D.C.
        "American farmers and manufacturers are being denied the opportunity to grow and process a valuable crop that can replace many acres of clear-cut forest lands and relies much less heavily on petrochemicals than the crops and products it would replace," said Kevin Brannon, FBC's chairman and chief executive officer.  "We support those who are attempting to awaken policymakers to the vast potential of a renewed American hemp industry, and we're doing our part -- one beer at a time."
        Hemp seeds do not contain psychoactive qualities and are sometimes used in cooking for their nutritional benefits.  Hemp seeds contain 25 percent high quality protein and 40 percent fat in the form of an excellent quality oil.  According to physician and best-selling author, Dr. Andrew Weil of the University of Arizona College of Medicine, many of the compounds found in hemp seed oil are exceptionally "beneficial to health."
        Beer brewed with hemp seeds is already available in parts of Europe.
        For more information on hemp seed nutrition, please contact NORML board member Don Wirthshafter of The Ohio Hempery @ (614) 662-4367.