SUITE 1010

T 202-483-8751 • F 202-483-0057 • E-MAIL NORMLFNDTN@AOL.COM
. . . a weekly service for the media on news items related to Marijuana Prohibition.

June 5, 1997

H.B. 1782 -- The Federal Medical Marijuana Bill -- Introduced In Congress

          June 5, 1997, Washington, D.C.:  Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass) introduced legislation in Congress on June 3, 1997, to provide for the medical use of marijuana.  The bill is cited as House Bill 1782, the "Medical Use of Marijuana Act."  The bill is expected to be referred to the House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Crime.  That committee is chaired by Rep. Bill McCollum (R-Fla.), a two-time former co-sponsor of medical marijuana legislation.
          House Bill 1782 reschedules marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II under federal law, thereby making it legal to prescribe.  Rescheduling marijuana allows states to legally implement different systems for growing and distributing medical marijuana on a state-by-state basis.  It also removes the threat of federal prosecution physicians currently face in states that already allow doctors to prescribe or recommend marijuana under state law.  Presently, 24 states including the District of Columbia have laws endorsing the use of medical marijuana.
          Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) signed on to the legislation yesterday.
          For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of
NORML @ (202) 483-5500.  Rep. Barney Frank's office may be contacted @ (202) 225-5931.

California Senate Overwhelmingly Approves Medical Marijuana Research Bill

          June 5, 1997, Sacramento, CA:  The California State Senate voted 27-8 to approve bi-partisan legislation that would establish a state medical marijuana research program at the University of California to study the safety and efficacy of medical marijuana.
          The margin of approval was enough to qualify the bill as an "urgency measure," mandating that it will take effect immediately if passed into law.  The measure now stands before the full Assembly.
          "The sooner S.B. 535 becomes law, the sooner we will have the research needed to formulate intelligent rules and regulations for a legal pharmaceutical cannabis market," said California NORML coordinator Dale Gieringer, who supports the bill.  Gieringer said that the Senate was likely persuaded by the California Medical Association's (CMA) recent endorsement of S.B. 535.
          Under the bill, research would be conducted under controlled, scientific conditions on patients suffering from AIDS wasting syndrome, glaucoma, cancer, multiple sclerosis, seizure disorders, and from nausea associated with cancer chemotherapy.
          For more information, please contact either Dave Fratello of Americans for Medical Rights @ (310) 394-2952 or the office of Sen. John Vasconcellos @ (916) 445-9740.

Florida Medical Association Endorses Medical Use of Marijuana

          June 4, 1997, Fort Lauderdale, FL:  One of the nation's largest state medical associations favors the use of marijuana as a medicine and is urging the federal government to permit controlled clinical trials to further evaluate the drug's therapeutic potential.
          The Florida Medical Association (FMA) passed resolution #97-61 on June 1, 1997, which pronounces the following:
          * The FMA urges the state and federal governments and the U.S. Public Health Service to allow limited access to medical marijuana.
          * The FMA urges Congress, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to expedite unimpeded research into the therapeutic potential of smokable marijuana.
          * The FMA shall present this resolution to the American Medical Association.
          Dr. Mark LaPorta, Treasurer of the Dade County Medical Association, praised the FMA's decision to endorse the use of medical marijuana.  "Thousands of patients and doctors have found that marijuana is therapeutically beneficial.  It is unconscionable for our government to tell us we cannot even discuss marijuana in our offices," he explained.
          Toni Leeman, President of the Florida-based Coalition Advocating Medical Marijuana (CAMM), said that the FMA resolution could be a pivotal first step legalizing marijuana for medical use in Florida.  "We trust that by 1998 the patients in Florida will no longer have to suffer needlessly or risk incarceration" for using an effective medicine, she said.  "With the support of the FMA, we are that much closer to rational legalization in Florida."
          Florida case law already exempts some seriously ill patients who use marijuana as a medicine.
          For more information, please contact Toni Leeman of CAMM @ (305) 576-2337 or Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

Oakland City Council Passes Resolution Protecting Medical Marijuana Users

          June 5, 1997, Oakland, CA:  The Oakland City Council unanimously passed a resolution urging law enforcement not to arrest and prosecute individuals involved with the "possession, purchase, distribution, cultivation, manufacture, or transportation of marijuana or cannabis products for medical use."  The new resolution is the latest in a series of official policy pronouncements from the City of Oakland expressing a tolerant attitude toward medical marijuana activities.
          "A sensible marijuana policy is good for patients and good for the City of Oakland, and our elected representatives recognize that fact," said Robert Raich, Esq. of Oakland, who lobbied for the legislation.
          Resolution #73555 gives an official green light not only to the cultivation of marijuana for medical use, but also to the manufacture of products such as hashish, hash oil, tinctures, and all manner of baked goods and other edible preparations.
          For more information, please contact attorney Robert Raich @ (510) 338-0700 or Dale Gieringer of California NORML @ (415) 563-5858.

Connecticut To Emerge As One Of Few States Willing To Extend Welfare Benefits
To Marijuana Felons

          June 5, 1997, Hartford, CT:  Legislative leaders proposed that individuals convicted of marijuana felonies should remain eligible for entitlements such as welfare and food-stamps, despite a federal law passed last year allowing states to deny assistance-based benefits.
          "There's no reason to single out drug offenses from all others," state legislator Ellen Scalettar told the New York Times on May 29.  "Punishment [for drug offenses] shouldn't go on forever."  The newspaper reported that conservative governor John Rowland also supports the effort.
          Senate Amendment 4935, introduced by Sen. Phil Gramm on July 23, 1996, allows states to deny federal cash aid and food stamps to anyone convicted of felony drug charges, including most individuals found guilty of marijuana cultivation or sale.  The bill is not retroactive and only applies to future convictions.  President Bill Clinton signed the bill into law on August 22, 1996.
          NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup stated that Gramm's provision inappropriately targets marijuana smokers and applauded Connecticut's decision to extend federal benefits.  "Under current federal law, a murderer, rapist, or robber could receive federal funds and benefits, but not most individuals convicted of cultivating marijuana -- including those who do so for a legitimate medical need.  It is commendable that the Connecticut legislature is injecting some common sense to an irrational federal policy."
          Connecticut's decision to offer the benefits would set it apart from 24 other states that have proclaimed they will no longer offer entitlements to drug felons, a recent survey by the National Governor's Association found.  Five states -- Colorado, Hawaii, Minnesota, Oregon, and Rhode Island -- plan to continue the benefits to drug offenders who qualify for family welfare, the survey reported.
          The Connecticut General Assembly is expected to approve the language as part of a major welfare-reform bill in a special legislative session this summer.
          For more information, please contact either R. Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.