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September 25, 1997

Congress To Hold Hearing On Medical Marijuana
NORML Board Member, Others Scheduled To Testify

          September 25, 1997, Washington, D.C.:  Dr. Lester Grinspoon -- an international authority on medical marijuana and a member of NORML's board of directors -- will testify in favor of allowing seriously ill patients legal access to medical marijuana at an October 1 hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Crime.  Grinspoon is a professor at Harvard Medical School and the author of Marihuana, The Forbidden Medicine as well as over 140 articles in scientific journals.
          "This hearing is a golden opportunity to educate Congress on the medical utility of marijuana in the treatment of glaucoma, cancer chemotherapy, spasticity disorders, AIDS wasting syndrome, and chronic pain," announced NORML's Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, who testified at similar hearings held in March 1996.  "It is also a chance to gather Congressional support for H.R. 1782, the 'Medical Use of Marijuana Act.'"
          H.R. 1782, introduced by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) in June, would remove federal restrictions that currently prevent physicians from legally prescribing marijuana.  Presently six members of Congress -- Reps. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), John Olver (D-Mass.), Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Peter Stark (D-Calif.), and Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) -- are co-sponsors of the legislation.   Frank's bill is the fifth proposal in favor of legalizing marijuana for medicinal use to be introduced in Congress since 1981.
          "We welcome the opportunity to have someone with the qualifications of Dr. Grinspoon speak before this subcommittee on this important health issue," Stroup said.
          For more information, please contact R. Keith Stroup, of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

Florida Voters Favor Legal Access To Medical Marijuana By
Nearly 2-1 Margin

          September 25, 1997, Fort Lauderdale, FL:  Nearly two of every three Florida voters favor allowing licensed physicians to prescribe marijuana for medical reasons, according to the results of a Florida Voter poll released on September 22.
          Toni Leeman, Director of the Florida-based Coalition Advocating Medical Marijuana (CAMM) as well as Floridians for Medical Rights, said the results are consistent with other surveys demonstrating overwhelming support for permitting seriously ill patients to use marijuana under a doctor's supervision.   "Considering that we still are in the process of educating people [about marijuana's medicinal utility,] I think those are good numbers and I think it points to success."  Leeman's group is presently collecting signatures in each of the state's 67 counties to place a medical marijuana initiative on the 1998 ballot.
          Sixty-three percent of respondents said they would approve an amendment to the Florida Constitution legalizing marijuana for medicinal uses, the Fort Lauderdale-based survey said.  Only about one in four, or 28 percent, said they opposed such use.  The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.
          "I'm confident that we'll be able to get the signatures because there has already been so much interest in this," Leeman said.
          For more information, please contact Toni Leeman of CAMM @ (305) 576-2337 or Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

Nation's Fourth Largest School District To Administer Random Drug Tests To Students

          September 25, 1997, Miami, FL:  Dade County became the nation's largest school district to approve a high school drug testing program.  Students who have their parent's approval will be randomly drug-tested for marijuana, cocaine, opiates, barbiturates, and amphetamines, reported the Associated Press on Thursday.
          "It's total parental empowerment," said school board member Renier Diaz de la Portilla, who proposed the program.  "Not all parents have the time to make sure their kids aren't doing drugs," he said.  "We're doing this as a service [to parents.]"
          Dade plans to spend up to $200,000 to initiate the program and expects to begin testing as early as January.  Approximately 345,000 students attend Dade County public schools.
          "Drug testing students without reasonable suspicion is completely inappropriate and most likely unconstitutional," charged NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup.  He noted that the United States Supreme Court recently struck down a Georgia statute mandating political candidates to undergo a drug test before running for political office because it violated Fourth Amendment protections granted by the U.S. Constitution.
          For more information, please contact either R. Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.  NORML's position paper: A Look At The Historical Legal Basis For Urine Testing is available upon request.

Yale University Releases Revised Version Of Harvard Medical Professor's Book
On Medical Marijuana

          September 25, 1997, New Haven, CT:  Yale University Press released a newly revised version of the definitive book on medical marijuana on September 15.
          Marihuana, The Forbidden Medicine by Dr. Lester Grinspoon and James Bakalar, received high praise from reviewers and medical professionals when the hardcover first appeared in 1993.  This timely new edition features an expanded list of symptoms and disorders treatable with marijuana, and an update of the argument regarding how the drug should be made available.
          Dr. Robert Swift of the New England Journal of Medicine called the first edition "cogent and convincing. ...  The authors present a compelling argument for unrestricted access to [the] therapeutic agents derived from marijuana.  This book provides an excellent overview of the subject from a medical perspective."
          Dr. Rick Strassman of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) agreed.  "Grinspoon and Bakalar have provided a valuable compendium of marijuana's beneficial properties," he said.
          The first edition is currently available in nine languages.
          Copies of the second edition of Marihuana, The Forbidden Medicine may be purchased from NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

Paul McCartney Advocates Marijuana Decriminalization

          September 25, 1997, London, England:  Paul McCartney, singer and songwriter for the legendary band The Beatles, recently advocated decriminalizing marijuana in an interview with the New Statesman Magazine.
          "I support [the] decriminalization [of marijuana,]" McCartney said.  "People are smoking pot anyway and to make them criminal[s] is wrong."  He added that it was pointless to incarcerate marijuana smokers because that experience exposes them to a legitimate criminal element.
          McCartney noted that he spent nine days in a Japanese prison in 1980 after being found in possession of marijuana.  He said he learned nothing from it.
          "When I was jailed in Japan for having pot there was no attempt at rehabilitation," he said.  "They just stuck me in a box."