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. . . a weekly service for the media on news items related to marijuana prohibition.

July 10, 1997

British Medical Association Says Yes To Medical Marijuana

          July 10, 1997, Edinburgh, Scotland:  The British Medical Association (BMA) overwhelmingly called for the legalization of marijuana for medical use at a July 2 conference in Edinburgh, Scotland.
          More than 400 doctors voted in favor of the resolution following presentations from members of a BMA working committee that described some patients' experiences with the drug.  Leading the charge was Dr. Uprenda Pati, a northwest England physician and medical marijuana advocate.  Pati told conference attendees that many cannabinoids have therapeutic value in the treatment of nausea, spasticity disorders, and other serious diseases.  "We don't want our patients to use unlicensed cannabinoids that could be dangerous," Pati explained.
          Since 1971, doctors in England have been forbidden by law to prescribe marijuana.  Currently, British physicians may prescribe only two marijuana derivatives for medical treatment.  These drugs may solely be prescribed in hospitals and may be distributed only to patients undergoing cancer chemotherapy.
          Harvard medical professor Dr. Lester Grinspoon praised the BMA for addressing the issue of legal access to medical marijuana.  "The BMA appears to be quicker than the American Medical Association (AMA) to recognize not only the medical usefulness of cannabis, but also to overcome the hoary myths surrounding the drug," he said.  "It is just a matter of time before organized medicine everywhere recognizes the many uses of this valuable medicine."
          The association stressed that it did not favor legalizing marijuana for recreational use.
          For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

Prosecutors Drop Charges In Interstate Medical Marijuana Case

          July 10, 1997, Carson City NV:  Nevada state prosecutors dismissed felony marijuana possession charges against a California cancer patient on June 16 after the district attorney conceded that the marijuana was for medical use only.
          Law enforcement officials arrested Douglas Burton in February after he purchased marijuana from the Cannabis Cultivators Club in San Francisco and drove to Nevada to visit his parents.  Burton's lawyer, Richard Sears, argued that his client suffers from thyroid cancer and uses marijuana to help cope with pain and nausea.  Sears also said that his client was unaware that California law permitting the legal use and cultivation of marijuana with a doctor's recommendation did not extend beyond the state's borders.
          The dismissal order followed a pre-trial hearing last week during which District Judge Mike Fondi rejected a prosecution move to block reference's to Burton's cancer.  Fondi called the prosecution's request "absurd."  District Attorney Noel Waters later admitted that Burton could make an adequate "medical necessity" defense and conceded that he probably wouldn't be able to get a conviction in the case.
          "On balance, it is respectfully submitted that the interests of justice would best be served by dismissal," Waters said.
          Legal analysts emphasize that this case is the first interstate proceeding involving medical marijuana purchased in California.  In a similar case scheduled to take place later this month, best-selling author Peter McWilliams will stand trial in Michigan for marijuana possession.  McWilliams, who is a California resident, uses marijuana medicinally to alleviate the side effects of both AIDS and cancer.  He was arrested last December at Detroit's Metropolitan Airport after an officer asked if he was carrying marijuana.  McWilliams' trial will begin on July 18.
          For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

State Law Must Distinguish Between Marijuana And Hemp,Kentucky Judge Affirms

          July 10, 1997, Irvine, KY:  A Kentucky circuit court judge upheld a trial court decision declaring that there exists a legal difference between industrial hemp and marijuana.
          The decision was the second victory for Hollywood actor and industrial hemp proponent Woody Harrelson, who was arrested last June for planting four hemp seeds.  Harrelson planted the seeds to deliberately challenge the state law forbidding the cultivation of all varieties of cannabis sativa.  Harrelson called the law excessively broad and argued that marijuana prohibition never intended to outlaw legitimate hemp farming.
          In January, Lee District Judge Ralph McClanahan II agreed with Harrelson and ruled that Kentucky's ban on marijuana was "unconstitutionally defective due to its overbroad application."  McClanahan called the current law "an arbitrary exercise of power by the General Assembly over the lives and property of free men."
          Circuit Court Judge William Trude upheld the lower court's decision on July 3.  Lee County Attorney Tom Jones said he will take the case to the Kentucky Court of Appeals.
          Standing on the steps of courthouse shortly after the ruling, Harrelson declared the day as "Independence day for Kentucky's farmers."  Harrelson explained that Kentucky was once the number one hemp producer in America and expressed confidence that it would soon be again.
          Often described as marijuana's misunderstood cousin, industrial hemp is from the same plant species that produces marijuana.  Unlike marijuana, however, industrial hemp has only minute amounts of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient that gives marijuana its euphoric and medicinal properties.  Currently most of Europe and Asia grow hemp for industrial purposes.  Both Australia and Canada engage in hemp cultivation for research purposes.
          Recently, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) representative Gregory Williams testified before the Kentucky General Assembly that the agency remains strongly opposed to the legalization of industrial hemp.  He also stated that anyone seeking to grow plots of industrial hemp must first receive approval from the federal agency, regardless of whether such cultivation is permitted under state law.  Williams testified that the DEA has rejected all recent applications.
          For more information, please contact either Burl McCoy, attorney for Woody Harrelson and a member of NORML's National Legal Committee, @ (606) 254-6363 or Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

European Union Proposes Paying Morocco Millions To Stop Growing Marijuana

          July 10, 1997, Rabat, Morocco:  European Union (EU) officials hope to steer $610 million worth of investment projects toward Morocco to dissuade the country from growing marijuana, Reuters News Service reported on Tuesday.
          Leaders and ambassadors from EU nations and Morocco established a joint "guidance council" to encourage funders to invest in the northern-African nation's economy.  Morocco presented 71 feasible projects that would help strengthen the country's economy at the inaugural meeting.  European leaders are hopeful that they can replace Morocco's lucrative marijuana trade by stimulating the country's tourism and agricultural industries.
          Federal drug experts estimate that Morocco cultivates 150,000 acres of marijuana annually, the bulk of which is exported to Europe.
          For more information, please call Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.