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November 13, 1997

NIH Deals Medical Marijuana Proponents Setback
Rejects Proposed Study Examining Use Of Marijuana In Acute Migraine Treatment

        November 12, 1997, Washington, D.C.:   National Institute of Health (NIH) officials dealt a significant blow to medical marijuana research this month by rejecting a scientific protocol to examine the use of marijuana in acute migraine treatment.
        "This rejection was not unexpected though it is deeply disappointing," explained MAPS President and NORML board member Rick Doblin, whose organization donated $3,500 for the preparation of migraine-treatment study.  Doblin said he remains hopeful that NIH will eventually approve a version of the study, but conceded that this month's rejection delays the project "at least a year."
        Lead researcher Dr. Ethan Russo, a neurologist with The Western Montana Clinic in Missoula, called the NIH rejection discouraging, but announced that he will redesign and resubmit a follow-up protocol shortly.  This project "is not down and out," he said.  Dr. Russo expects to receive a formal critique from the NIH in mid-to-late December.
        Russo and a team of researchers originally submitted their proposal to NIH in May.  They set out to compare the use of inhaled marijuana, oral THC, and an injected narcotic painkiller in the treatment of migraine sufferers who do not respond to standard medication.  The proposed in-patient study had prior approval from the St. Patrick Hospital/Community Medical Center Joint Investigational Review Board, whose ruling was also accepted by the IRB of the University of Montana.
        Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of The NORML Foundation, said that NIH's denial of Russo's study is representative of the federal government's attitude toward medical marijuana research.  "It is a remarkable testimony to the failure of our national drug policy leadership that one-full year after the passage of medical marijuana initiatives in California and Arizona, not a single research study of medical marijuana is taking place," he said.   "Despite statements from NIH Director Harold Varmus that the NIH is 'open' to medical marijuana research, it appears business as usual in Washington."  St. Pierre noted that as recently as this past August, an Expert Committee of NIH researchers recommended the federal government to play an active role in facilitating clinical evaluations of medical marijuana."
        "Presently, it appears that NIH is choosing to ignore those recommendations," he said.
        Throughout the mid 1990's, many medical marijuana proponents have criticized the NIH for impeding research to better determine marijuana's medical value.  A 1992 proposal comparing the effectiveness of inhaled marijuana with that of synthetic THC as a treatment for the weight loss associated with the AIDS wasting syndrome was rejected on three separate occasions by federal officials.   NIH finally approved a revised version of the protocol in 1997, but only after researchers agreed to focus on determining the potential short-term harmful effects of marijuana on HIV-positive patients.  Similarly, two recent state proposals submitted by the Massachusetts' and Washington state boards of health regarding medical marijuana research have been delayed indefinitely while awaiting federal approval.
        "In 1982, the National Academy of Sciences strongly recommended the federal government to undertake definitive scientific studies to determine marijuana's therapeutic value," St. Pierre said.  "It is morally unconscionable that 15 years later, we are still battling to allow this research to take place."
        For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751 or Rick Doblin of MAPS @ (704) 334-1798.  Dr. Ethan Russo of The Western Montana Clinic may be contacted @ (406) 329-7453.  For more information on medical marijuana research, please contact Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation.

Fifty-One Percent Of Canadians Support Decriminalizing Marijuana Possession

        November 13, 1997, Ottawa, Canada:   Just more than half of all Canadians feel that marijuana possession should no longer be a criminal offense, according to the results of a November CTV/Angus Reid poll reported in the Canadian Globe and Mail Newspaper.
        In addition, an overwhelming 83 percent of respondents said that marijuana should be legal for medical purposes.  The public opinion poll surveyed over 1,500 adult Canadians between October 23 and October 28.
        "Clearly public opinion is ahead of the Canadian legislators on this issue," said NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq.
        The 51 percent who favored reforming Canada's laws criminalizing marijuana possession marks a dramatic change in public opinion from just one decade ago.  At that time, only 39 percent of Canadians said they favored decriminalization.
        "More and more Canadians are becoming aware of the failures of marijuana prohibition and educated to the variety of potential therapeutic uses marijuana offers," Stroup said.
        The poll reported that those over age 55 comprised the only group who said that marijuana possession should remain a crime.   Fifty-four percent of respondents between the age of 35 and 54 favored decriminalizing the drug.
        For more information, please contact R. Keith Stroup, Esq. of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

California Migraine Sufferer And Caregiver Set Free Under Proposition 215

        November 13, 1997, San Anselmo, CA:   Marin County District Court Judge William H. Stephens dismissed charges of marijuana cultivation against migraine headache sufferer Kymberly Marr and her husband/caregiver in two separate rulings activists are calling "firsts" for the medical marijuana movement.
        "This is the first migraine patient in the state to be set free under Proposition 215, and I'm very happy that the Marin County District Attorney's office is recognizing the patients' rights to medical marijuana under our new law," said Lynette Shaw, Director of the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana.  Shaw said that she believed Ms. Marr's husband is also the first caregiver freed under California's year-old medical marijuana law.
        Law enforcement officials arrested the Marr's and seized 14 marijuana plants after Ms. Marr's failed to produce sufficient documentation demonstrating she smoked marijuana for a bona fide medical need.  She later submitted evidence to the Marin County district attorney's office indicating that her physician approved of her marijuana use.  The district attorney's office reportedly encouraged Judge Stephens to dismiss the charges.
        "I'm pleased to have been able to help the Marr's with their case, and I commend the San Anselmo Police Department for their cooperation," said Shaw.
        For more information, please contact either Lynette Shaw of the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana @ (415) 256-9328 or Dale Gieringer of California NORML @ (415) 563-5858.

Washington D.C. Mayor Announces He Will "Probably" Support Medical Marijuana

        November 13, 1997, Washington, D.C.:   Washington D.C. Mayor Marion Barry announced that he will "probably" support a proposed District initaitive to legalize marijuana for medical use, according to a November 11 Associated Press report.
        Prior to Tuesday's announcement, Barry was a signator of a petition drive to put the issue on the city ballot.
        The District's Initiative 57 would legalize the possession and cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes under a physician's supervision.  Members of ACT-UP filed the initiative earlier this year after interim Council Chair Charlene Drew Jarvis and U.S. Attorney Eric Holder proposed legislation to stiffen penalties for the possession of marijuana.
        For more information, please contact ACT-UP @ (202) 547-9404.