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

August 28, 1997

Attorney General, Law Enforcement Back California Medical Marijuana
Research Bill

          August 28, 1997, Sacramento, CA:  Attorney General Dan Lungren, the California Narcotics Officers Association, and the California District Attorneys Association announced their support on Monday for legislation to establish a Medical Research Center at a campus of the University of California.  S.B. 535, currently in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, would provide $1 million for the first year of study and recommend similar financing over the next two years.
          The endorsement increases the likelihood that the Legislature will approve S.B. 535 this session.  Additional supporters of the legislation include the American Cancer Society and the California Medical Association.
          California NORML Coordinator Dale Gieringer said he welcomed the Attorney General's endorsement.  "We are glad to stand on common ground with Attorney General Lungren and law enforcement in support of S.B. 535.  We have no doubt that honest research will lead to federal approval of marijuana as medicine.  Thanks to the passage of Prop. 215, California is breaking the federal roadblock against medical marijuana research."
          The bill's sponsor, Sen. John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara), said he appreciated Lungren's cooperation.  "After two months of negotiations, we have an agreement that maintains the integrity of the bill's research goals while responding to law enforcement concerns.  The Attorney General and I share a commitment to pure, unbiased research, a goal which S.B. 535 embodies."
          Negotiations between Lungren and Vasconcellos resulted in some modifications of the bill.  Major amendments to S.B. 535 include the following:
          * The state program must comply with research guidelines developed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) unless NIH fails to provide such guidelines within six months of the state's request.
          * The program must use marijuana supplied by either the National Institute on Drug Abuse or alternative sources approved by the Attorney General.
          * Private donations to research are prohibited if they come with any conditions or restrictions.
          * Research protocols must be reviewed and approved by the state's existing Research Advisory Panel.
          "California needs a definitive study," Lungren announced at a news conference.  "I do not fear the findings of an unbiased research project."
          Lungren's endorsement contrasts his vocal opposition to Proposition 215 prior to last year's election.  Lungren incurred the ire of medical marijuana proponents last August when he ordered state agents to raid San Francisco's largest cannabis buyers' club.
          Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of The NORML Foundation, said he was cautiously optimistic about the recent developments in California.  "The broad coalition backing medical marijuana research in California is a positive step toward the passage of S.B. 535," he said.  "However, recent modifications to the bill -- specifically those mandating the state program to comply with federal guidelines and supply sources -- may stall necessary research from taking place."  St. Pierre noted that similar proposals in Washington and Massachusetts have been delayed indefinitely while awaiting federal cooperation.
          The California State Senate overwhelmingly approved S.B. 535 on June 6.
          For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.  Dale Gieringer of California NORML is available @ (415) 563-5858.

New Book Links Marijuana To Melatonin Production

          August 28, 1997, Washington, D.C.:  Smoking marijuana stimulates melatonin production in the human body at greater levels than any other known method, allege authors of a new book entitled Your Body's Natural Wonder Drug: Melatonin.
          Authors J. Reiter, Ph.D. and Jo Robinson cite an Italian study that discovered significantly higher melatonin levels in subjects who consumed marijuana within the last half-hour than those who abstained.  The authors speculate that some of marijuana's therapeutic properties could be linked the increased production of melatonin.
          "The fact that smoking marijuana is accompanied by a dramatic increase in melatonin production may explain some of the drug's positive effects, [including] ... being used to counteract the toxicity of chemotherapy, treat migraines, reduce intraocular pressure, minimize pain, treat menstrual cramps, and moderate wasting syndrome in AIDS patients," the authors state.

Federal Court Upholds Unlawful Prosecution Suit By Hemp Activists

          August 28, 1997, Hilo, HI:  A federal appeals court upheld a $3 million lawsuit brought by hemp activists Roger Christie and Aaron Anderson against Hawaii County prosecutors for unlawful prosecution.
          Anderson and Christie were indicted for "commercial promotion" of marijuana in 1992 after Anderson ordered sterilized hemp seeds from China.  Current law allows individuals to import and possess such seeds.  Prosecutors subsequently dropped criminal charges against Christie, but have scheduled a September 23 trial date for Anderson.
          During an early hearing in Anderson and Christie's suit, Deputy Prosecutor Kay Iopa testified that her office would not prosecute a "little old lady" if she possessed hemp seeds.  Iopa did suggest that she would prosecute an individual who "is very vocally, very outwardly, advocating the legalization of marijuana."  The U.S. District Court in Honolulu later dismissed charges against Iopa and her superior Jay Kimura, but allowed the case to stand against the county.  The recent appeals court ruling reaffirms that decision.
          "We are grateful for the light shining on the cannabis plant," said Christie.  "We are hoping this becomes the last marijuana trial in Hawaii."
          County attorney Steve Christensen said that he plans a new appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.  "Anderson will be an old man before we conclude this," he said.
          For more information, please contact Roger Christie @ (808) 961-0488.

Canadian Activist Vows To Take Constitutional Challenge To Supreme Court

          August 28, 1997, London, Ontario:  Canadian marijuana activist Chris Clay -- who two weeks ago lost his bid to strike down federal laws outlawing the use of marijuana -- says that he will take his case to the Supreme Court.  "This is just the first round," Clay told reporters last week.
          Clay's lawyers, Toronto law professor Alan Young and attorney Paul Burstein, expect to file an appeal by mid-September.  "We've come this far, so we won't stop now," Young said.
          Clay launched his constitutional challenge after law enforcement officials raided his retail store in London, Ontario in December 1996 for selling non-sterilized marijuana seeds.  Clay admitted during the trial that he was on a campaign to change the marijuana laws when arrested.  He will be sentenced on criminal possession and trafficking charges on September 5.
          Although agreeing with Clay that marijuana is relatively harmless and does not cause criminal behavior, Justice John McCart ruled that elected politicians -- not the courts -- must lead the way in establishing public policy on such issues.  McCart did admit, "The national governments of Canada and the United States appear to be somewhat out of step with most of the western world [in regards to their marijuana laws.]"
          For more information, please contact attorney Paul Burstein @ (416) 204-1825 or visit the Hemp Nation website at: www.hempnation.com.