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October 15, 1997

NIDA Okays Study On Marijuana Use In HIV-Positive Patients
San Francisco Researcher Gets Go Ahead After Five Year Struggle

        October 15, 1997, Washington, D.C.:   The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) officially announced Dr. Donald Abrams of UC-San Francisco will receive his full grant request of $978,000 for a study of the use of smoked marijuana, oral dronabinol, and a placebo, in HIV-positive patients.  Abrams waited five years and submitted three separate research protocols before finally receiving approval from the federal government.
        "The earth has shifted," announced MAPS President and NORML board member Rick Doblin, whose organization donated $5,000 for the preparation of Abrams' application.  "Celebration is in order."
        The aim of Abrams' study is to determine the safety/toxicity profile of cannabinoids in persons with HIV infection.  Doblin estimates that the study will take over one year to complete and research is scheduled to begin in 1998.  If the study demonstrates that smoked marijuana does not have serious short-term side effects on the health of HIV-positive patients, Abrams would next research safety and efficacy of the chronic use of marijuana for HIV-associated anorexia and weight loss.
        NIDA's approval of Abrams' protocol comes on the heels of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) report urging the federal government to play an active role in facilitating clinical evaluations of medical marijuana.  The report -- assembled by a panel of NIH experts and researchers from February's "Workshop on the Medical Utility of Marijuana" conference -- concluded that marijuana "looks promising enough [in the treatment of certain serious illnesses] to recommend that there be new controlled studies done."  Researchers called upon NIDA to make available "adequate supplies of marijuana ... to investigators," and insisted that future trials should not hold marijuana to higher scientific standards than those applied to other medications or required by law.
        Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of The NORML Foundation, praised the apparent change of heart among NIH officials toward the possibility of medical marijuana research.  "The Abrams' study will be the first FDA-approved study of the use of smoked marijuana in a patient population in nearly a decade," he emphasized.
        However, St. Pierre remained critical of the five year delay in getting the Abrams' study off the ground.  "In 1992, Dr. Abrams embarked on a simple pilot study to determine whether marijuana stimulates weight gain in HIV-positive patients.  That protocol, although FDA approved and was rejected by both NIDA and the DEA on three separate occassions.  Only after Abrams revised the study to limit its scope to determining only if there are risk factors associated with the use of marijuana by HIV-positive humans did NIH allow the trial to go forward.  This approved protocol is a far cry from what Abrams proposed five years ago."
        The San Francisco study requires 63 volunteers to undergo 25-day stays at the city's general hospital.  One-third of the subjects will smoke marijuana cigarettes while others will be given either synthetic THC or a dummy pill that resembles dronabinol.  Because of limited space at the hospital, only three or four patients will be studied each month, The San Francisco Chronicle reported.
        For more information, please contact either Rick Doblin of MAPS @ (704) 334-1798 or Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.  Dr. Donald Abrams may be contacted @ either (415) 476-9554 or (415) 476-9553.

Jury Votes 9-3 To Acquit In Hawaii Hemp Seed Trial

        October 15, 1997, Hilo, HI:   The case of a Hawaiian activist on trial for possessing legal hemp bird seeds ended in a mistrial on October 8 after a jury voted 9-3 to acquit.  The verdict brought a temporary close to a five year battle between local hemp activists Roger Christie and Aaron Anderson and Deputy Prosecutor Kay Iopa.  Iopa has six weeks to decide whether to retry the case.
        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 later dropped charges against Christie, but brought Anderson to trial after claiming that a marginal percentage of the seeds germinated.
        "I can't think of a bigger waste of taxpayer dollars than the money spent prosecuting Aaron Anderson for purchasing a product recognized as legal under both state and federal law," charged Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of The NORML Foundation.  "It has been apparent all along that prosecutors put Anderson on trial for his beliefs rather than his actions."
        Deputy Prosecutor Iopa testified that her office would not prosecute a "little old lady," if she possessed hemp seeds, but would file charges against an individual who "is very vocally, very outwardly, advocating the legalization of marijuana."  Based upon these statements, a federal appeals court recently upheld a $3 million lawsuit brought by Christie and Anderson against Hawaii prosecutors for unlawful prosecution.  That case is expected to go to trial next summer.
        For more information, please contact Roger Christie @ (808) 961-0488 or NORML board member Don Wirtshafter @ (614) 662-4367.

Cures Not Wars Wheelchair March Underway In Northeast

        October 15, 1997, New York, NY:   A wheelchair protest trek sponsored by the New York city-based drug law reform coalition Cures Not Wars is bringing attention throughout the Northeast to the plight of medical marijuana patients.  The approximately month long journey began in Boston, Massachusetts and intends to culminate in Washington, D.C. on October 30.
        Protest organizer Dana Beal said that the purpose of the march is to raise awareness of marijuana's medical utility.  Beal also promotes the effectiveness of the drug Ibogaine in treating addiction.  "We are asking the government to reinstate the program of compassionate access, where
people can get marijuana as needed and extend it to Ibogaine," Beal told spectators at a recent stop at the University of Connecticut.
        Currently, marchers are in New Jersey as they continue en route to the nation's capitol.
        For more information, please contact Cures Not Wars @ (212) 677-7180.