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

August 21, 1997

Netherlands Hospital To Begin Research On Medical Marijuana
And Multiple Sclerosis

          August 21, 1997, Rotterdam, the Netherlands:  The academic hospital of the University of Groningen in Rotterdam will begin researching the therapeutic value of marijuana on patients suffering from spastic disorders, according to an August 19 article in De Volkskrant, a popular Amsterdam newspaper.
          Fifteen patients suffering from multiple sclerosis will participate in the research study to determine how effectively marijuana decreases muscle spasms.  The medical-ethical commission of the hospital approved the experiments earlier this week.
          "When marijuana shows to be of therapeutic value, we should work with great dedication to develop it further," said research professor Dr. J. de Keyzer.  Keyzer will head the Groningen study.
          There exists clinical and historical evidence that marijuana is effective in treating a variety of spastic conditions such as multiple sclerosis, paraplegia, epilepsy, and quadriplegia.  A number of animal studies and a handful of carefully controlled human studies have supported marijuana's ability to suppress convulsions.  A summary of these findings was reported by the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine in 1982.  Many of these studies specifically indicate cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive ingredient of marijuana, to be a potent anti-convulsant.  According to the United States government's premiere marijuana expert, Dr. Mahmoud ElSohly of the Marijuana Project at the University of Mississippi, "CBD [cannabidiol] is famous for [its] anti-convulsant activity."
          Recently, results of a study published in Volume 38 of European Neurology demonstrated that more than 70 percent of multiple sclerosis patients surveyed perceived that using marijuana reduced their spasticity.  Researchers concluded: "The ... results clearly indicate ... a high level of improvement after cannabis for the general categories of pain, spasticity, and tremor.  These results are consistent with those obtained in [previous] clinical trials.  ... The present study, taken together with the content of previous reports, strongly suggests that cannabis may significantly relieve certain symptoms of MS, particularly spasticity and pain."
          For more information, please contact either Paul Armentano or Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.  Copies of the study in European Neurology are available from The NORML Foundation upon request.

California Jury Deadlocks Over Whether Marin County Doctor Qualified Under
Proposition 215

          August 21, 1997, San Rafael, CA:  The first jury instructed to consider California's medical marijuana law as an affirmative defense deadlocked yesterday on whether to convict a Marin County man for growing marijuana he allegedly used to treat chronic back pain.
          Law enforcement officials arrested Dr. Alan Ager last September for growing 135 small marijuana plants.  Ager's lawyer, NORML Legal Committee member Lawrence Lichter, claimed his client smoked marijuana frequently to reduce back pain suffered in a 1978 car accident.  Before the trial, Marin County Superior Court Judge Vernon Smith ruled that the jury could consider Proposition 215 retroactively as an affirmative defense in the case.
          The jury decided 10 to 2 in favor of conviction after eight hours of deliberation.  Judge Smith declared a mistrial after deciding that the two holdouts could not be swayed.  Deputy District Attorney Teresa Leon has until September 3 to decide whether she will retry the case.
          NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. called the result a positive step for medical marijuana patients.  "Courts and juries in California appear to be interpreting Proposition 215 in accordance with the spirit of the voters," he said.  "When there exists a gray area in the law, they are giving sick people the benefit of the doubt."
          Nancy Bernard, one of the two jurors who voted to acquit, told The San Francisco Chronicle that she believed there was sufficient evidence that Ager grew marijuana under the guidelines of Proposition 215.  "I didn't think there was enough information for me to say he didn't use marijuana for medical reasons," she said.  "He has back pain.  He had a doctor's recommendation.  Who's to say what's too much?"
          Ager's marijuana was supported in court by his sister, Dr. Phyllis Ager.  Ms. Ager had previously conducted studies on the effects of marijuana on cancer patients, and testified that inhaled marijuana held therapeutic benefits unavailable in oral THC capsules.
          Alan Ager currently sits on the Board of Directors for the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, a non-profit Cannabis Buyers' Club.
          For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup, Esq. of NORML @ (202) 483-5500 or Lynette Shaw of the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana @ (415) 256-9328.

Prison Beating Caught On Video The Result Of War On Marijuana Smokers

          August 21, 1997, Jefferson City, MO:  The war on marijuana smokers played a role in the videotaped September 18, 1996, beating of Missouri prisoners by Texas deputies, charged NORML Chairman Dan Viets, Esq.
          The taped incident, which surfaced earlier this week, shows deputies donned in riot gear and at least one private guard kicking crawling inmates, allowing a dog to bite an inmate, and using a stun gun.  Jail officials said that suspicion of marijuana smoking among inmates prompted the show of force.
          Viets, a Columbia, Missouri attorney and member of NORML's Legal Committee, called the incident "shocking," and charged that state policies cracking down on non-violent drug offenders were partly to blame.  "Missouri jails are operating well over 100 percent capacity and forcing state inmates to be housed in other states like Texas," said Viets.  "This overcrowding is because 80 percent of inmates entering the Missouri Department of Corrections are non-violent offenders, many of them convicted on marijuana charges."  Viets added that he personally had clients serving time in Texas jails for marijuana violations at the time of the videotaped incident.
          "Have suspected marijuana users been demonized to the point where we allow them to be beaten, stunned, and bitten?" Viets asked in reference to the deputies' explanation for the assault.
          The emergence of the videotaped led Missouri to terminate its $6 million contract to house inmates in the Brazoria Texas County Detention Center.
          For more information, please contact Attorney Dan Viets @ (573) 443-6866.