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

May 15, 1997

Regular Marijuana Users Have No Higher Rates Of Mortality,
Long-Term Study Concludes

        May 15, 1997, Oakland, CA:  Conclusions from a comprehensive, long-term study by Kaiser Permanente show no substantial link between regular marijuana smoking and death, but suggested that marijuana prohibition may itself pose a health hazard to the user.
        The study looked at 10 years of mortality statistics for more than 65,000 men and women who received health check-ups at Kaiser's Oakland and San Francisco facilities between 1979 and 1985.  Patients were divided into groups ranging from those who had never tried marijuana to those who use it currently or regularly.  Mortality statistics for all patients were followed until 1991 and analyzed for any association between marijuana and death.  The study's statistical methodology controlled for the use of tobacco and alcohol so that deaths from marijuana smoking could be clearly defined.
        Researchers found no increase in deaths among the more than 14,000 patients who reported they were marijuana users as compared to those who had never used marijuana.
        They further noted that the total mortality risks associated with marijuana use were lower than those for tobacco-cigarette smoking for both men and women.  Women who used marijuana also had a lower risk of total mortality as compared to those who consumed alcohol regularly.
        The study noted that marijuana smokers with AIDS did have a significantly higher death rate than non-smokers, but said that their mortality was virtually the same as it was for AIDS patients who didn't smoke marijuana.  Researchers stressed that the links they found between marijuana use and death were associations and not an indication that marijuana was a cause of death.
        In additions to reporting their findings on mortality, researchers also criticized the federal government's current War on Drugs and stated that marijuana has medical value.  The following excerpt is taken from the "Discussion" section of the Kaiser Permanente report:

        "... Relatively few adverse clinical health effects from the chronic use of marijuana have been documented in humans.  [However,] the criminalization of marijuana use may itself be a health hazard, since it may expose the consumer to violence and criminal activity.  [Emphasis added. -ed.]  While reducing the prevalence of drug abuse is a laudable goal, we must recognize that marijuana use is widespread despite the long-term, multibillion dollar War on Drugs.  Therefore, medical guidelines regarding its prudent use should be established, akin to the commonsense guidelines that apply to alcohol use.  Unfortunately, clinical research on potential therapeutic uses for marijuana has been difficult to accomplish in the United States, despite reasonable evidence for the efficacy of ... THC and marijuana as antiemetic and antglaucoma agents and the suggestive evidence for their efficacy in the treatment of other medical conditions, including AIDS.  [Emphasis added. -ed.]"

        The Kaiser Permanente report is the third study published this year demonstrating that long-term, regular marijuana use poses few serious risks to health.  The study, entitled "Marijuana Use and Mortality," appears in the April 1997 issue of the American Journal of Public Health.
        For more information or a copy of the Kaiser Permanente study, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8571.

(Meanwhile) New "Study" Rejecting Medical Marijuana Not Really
A Study At All

        May 15, 1997, Philadelphia, PA:  An article by longtime medical marijuana opponents Drs. Eric Voth and Dr. Richard H. Schwartz of the International Drug Strategy Institute -- an anti-drug think tank based in Topeka, Kansas -- rejecting the use of marijuana as a medicine should not be interpreted as a new research study, cautioned Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of The NORML Foundation.
        The article, published Wednesday in the Annals of Internal Medicine, is based on the assumptions of the authors after reviewing a portion of the hundreds of existing studies published in the 1970s and 1980s pertaining to marijuana's medical potential.  The authors admit that they failed to consider anecdotal accounts of marijuana's medicinal effectiveness when drawing their conclusions.
        The findings of Drs. Voth and Schwartz differ dramatically from similar efforts conducted by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Institute of Medicine (1982), the Australian Government's National Task Force on Cannabis (1994), and the National Institute's of Health's (NIH) own findings this past February.  After reviewing the scientific evidence, all three entities concluded that there exists ample evidence demonstrating marijuana's medical potential in the treatment of various illnesses such as AIDS wasting syndrome, glaucoma, spasticity disorders, and the nausea associated with cancer chemotherapy.
        "Drs. Voth and Schwartz represent the most strident wing of America's anti-medical marijuana crusade," explained St. Pierre.  "Their 'review' of the modern scientific literature hardly qualifies as research and represents little more than their preconceived opinion."
        For more information or for a copy of NORML's position paper: Review Of Human Studies On Medical Use Of Mariiuana, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8571.

Arizona Tax Stamp Repealed By Legislators, May Be Challenged
By Referendum

        May 15, 1997, Phoenix, AZ:  Fourteen year old legislation requiring individuals who possess marijuana to obtain both a dealer's license and tax stamps from the State Department of Revenue was repealed by the state legislature and signed into law by Gov. Fife Symington on April 28.
        The law had fallen under scrutiny after a North Phoenix judge dismissed marijuana charges against NORML activist Peter Wilson because of taxes he had previously paid to the state to possess and sell cannabis.  Judge John Barclay wrote that, "The facts in this case prohibit prosecution for the possession of marijuana because the tax imposed prior to the prosecution served a punitive purpose."  Constitutional protections forbid an individual from being punished criminally twice for the same offense.
        Since Barclay's ruling was handed down, hundreds of activists and residents have applied and received tax stamps from the state of Arizona.
        "Most cannabis dealers don't even know their licenses are in jeopardy," said Arizona NORML founder Bill Green, who noted that there was no media coverage regarding the tax stamp repeal.
        Green announced that he will form a new political organization called Let the People Decide and intends to ask the Secretary of State for a referendum to bring the issue to a public vote.  Activists could block the legislature's recent change if they collect the necessary number of signatures by July to place the referendum on the November 1998 general election ballot.
        "I have been a licensed cannabis dealer for three years and have been helping sick and dying patients obtain medical cannabis," announced Green.  "Whether legal or not, I plan on continuing.  The legislature should justify their actions and cannabis should remain legal and taxed in Arizona."
        For more information, please contact either Bill Green of Arizona NORML @ (602) 831-7003 or Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.  Copies of Judge Barclay's November 1, 1996 decision are available upon request from The NORML Foundation.  Further information regarding tax stamps may be found on the Arizona NORML website at: http://www.amug.org/~az4norml.



From: tornado@best.com
Date: Wed, 14 May 1997 21:54:24 -0700
To: carl-olsen@mchsi.com
Subject: Milwaukee Decriminalizes Cannabis

The following is taken from the May 14, 1997 edition of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  The text of this article has come from: http://www.onwis.com/news/0514council.html

Milwaukee aldermen cite fairness in easing marijuana punishment

Norquist OKs making pot possession a municipal matter, as it is in suburbs

By Mike Nichols of the Journal Sentinel staff
May 14, 1997

At a time when politicians of all stripes preach punishment and take a hard line against drug offenders, the Common Council voted 9-8 Tuesday essentially to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana.

Mayor John Norquist immediately signed the legislation into law, and a spokesman for him called it "reasonable."

"It is fair to the citizens of Milwaukee," said Norquist aide Jeff Fleming, "and with the penalty provisions in the ordinance, this new law maintains firm consequences for anyone convicted of marijuana possession."

Council members were split as to whether the move was a foolish retreat from the war on drugs or a gutsy stand against excessive penalties.

Proponents of decriminalization argue that, like it or not, many people in society have used marijuana and gone on to successful and productive lives.

Until now, that's been easier in the suburbs, where first-time offenders -- often wealthier, white youths -- are usually given municipal tickets and a second chance.  In Milwaukee, offenders who often are African-American have been subject to criminal penalties and records that can bear a lifelong stain.

Ald. Michael Murphy, sponsor of the decriminalization, said his position "is not politically popular, but quite honestly it is an issue of fundamental fairness."

Opponents countered that decriminalization is not an issue of color, but of right and wrong.  They worry about the message being sent to children, but also cite more tangible concerns such as the use of marijuana as a gateway drug and the effects on healthy bodies of what some argue is increasingly potent pot.

Ald. James Witkowiak said he is not opposed to giving someone a break for a first offense, but he questioned whether those who are labeled first-time offenders are really novices.  Most start using marijuana, he suggested, long before they are caught by police.

"If anything," he said, "we should lobby the suburbs to change their laws to match ours."

The ordinance passed Tuesday allows prosecutors to charge 25 grams or less of marijuana as a municipal ordinance violation rather than a crime.  Fines will range from $250 to $500 or imprisonment of up to 20 days.  Offenders would also have the option of performing community service or getting substance abuse education.

Prosecutors still could bring more serious charges under state law, so technically Murphy's proposal is not outright decriminalization.  District Attorney E. Michael McCann supports the ordinance, however, and has indicated he would prefer that charges be brought in municipal court.  McCann was a key topic of discussion Tuesday.

Aldermen said they were unable to get clear statistics regarding prosecutions, but Ald. Thomas Nardelli suggested McCann might be "dumping" some of his workload on the municipal courts.  Ald. Daniel Schramm said he thought aldermen were being "snookered" by the district attorney's office.

Ald. Fred Gordon took exception to the remarks, defended McCann and said the issue is one of fairness and equality.  McCann could not be reached Tuesday evening, but he has said he supports the ordinance because of inequities between how similar cases are handled in the suburbs and the city.  His office also has denied that the issue has anything to do with workload.

Tuesday was not the first time the Common Council has voted in favor of decriminalization.  In 1985, aldermen did the same thing, but Mayor Henry Maier vetoed it.

Thanks to Tom at http://www.best.com/~tornado for the article.