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December 17, 1997

Court of Appeals Reinstates Injunction Against San Francisco
Cultivators' Club
Ruling Threatens Existence 0f Clubs Throughout State

        December 17, 1997, San Francisco, CA:  Cannabis Buyers' Clubs in California do not qualify as "primary caregivers" and are not protected under the state's medical marijuana law, the state Court of Appeals, First Appellate District ruled on December 12.  The ruling reverses an earlier decision by Superior Court Judge David Garcia stating that CBC's were legal as long as they engaged in the not-for-profit sale of marijuana for legitimate medical purposes.
        The District Court ruling, which goes into effect in 30 days unless stayed by further appeals, reinstates an injunction barring the San Francisco Cultivators' Club -- the state's largest CBC -- from distributing medical marijuana.
        "The court has nullified the will of the voters as expressed in the success of Prop. 215," club founder Dennis Peron said.   He vowed to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.
        State Attorney General Dan Lungren -- who has consistently argued in favor of outlawing cannabis clubs -- praised the ruling and announced that law enforcement may move against other clubs if they do not voluntarily close within 30 days.  Presently, there are approximately 20 active clubs across the state.
        California NORML Coordinator Dale Gieringer said although the ruling was not unexpected, he believed it would be an injustice to shut down the state's chief suppliers of medical marijuana.  "Legally, this decision doesn't surprise us," he said.   "It was plain from the beginning that Prop. 215 doesn't legalize sales.
        "Still, it would be a serious mistake for the Attorney General to shut down the state's cannabis buyers' clubs.  In addition to supplying thousands of patient's [with their medicine,] club[s] ... provide a peaceful and hospitable haven for patients, keep drug dealers off the street, keep marijuana away from kids, and generate business for the community."
        Although some state counties have proposed distributing medical marijuana to certified patients from state-run facilities, no such plans are presently active.  A legislative proposal introduced this year to establish a Medical Marijuana Research Center at a campus of the University of California was held over by the state Assembly.
        "Cannabis buyers' clubs remain the only viable source of medical marijuana in California short of home cultivation or purchasing marijuana on the street," NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. said.  "To close these clubs would force thousands of seriously ill patients to suffer needlessly and force many patients to enter the black market or go without the medicine they need to survive.
        Peron said that he will keep the club's doors open as long as it is physically possible to do so.  "I feel like we're fighting the second revolution here," he said.  "I'm ready to go to jail.  I'm not going to send AIDS patients and cancer patients back out to the parks."
        Peron and five others still face felony marijuana charges stemming from an August 4, 1995, raid by state law enforcement agents on the San Francisco club.
        For more information, please contact either R. Keith Stroup of NORML @ (202) 483-5500 or Dale Gieringer of California NORML @ (415) 563-5858.  Dennis Peron may be contacted at Californians for Compassionate Use @ (415) 621-3986.

Canadian Court Strikes Down Medical Marijuana Prohibition

        December 17, 1997, Toronto, 0ntario:   A Canadian trial court judge ruled that bona fide medical marijuana users are exempt from criminal marijuana possession penalties, and ordered police to return seized marijuana plants to a longtime medical marijuana patient, in a December 10 ruling.
        Attorney Paul Burnstein of Toronto, who assisted with the case, said that the ruling strikes down marijuana prohibition as unconstitutional in cases where marijuana is used for legitimate medical purposes.
        Defendant Terry Parker, who uses marijuana to control his epilepsy, argued that the drug worked more effectively than prescribed medications in preventing epileptic seizures.  NORML board members Drs. John Morgan, and Lynn Zimmer testified to marijuana's medical value, and board member Dr. Lester Grinspoon submitted an affidavit.  Ontario Judge Patrick Sheppard agreed that the drug appeared to help Parker medically and declared, "It does not accord with fundamental justice to criminalize a person suffering [from] a serious chronic medical disability for possessing a vitally helpful substance not legally available to him in Canada."
        Judge Sheppard further ruled that Parker was not alone in his medical need of the illegal drug and issued an order exempting "persons possessing or cultivating cannabis for their own personal medically approved use."
        NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. called the ruling significant.  "This is a critical ruling by Judge Sheppard which includes specific findings of fact that marijuana presents few risks and offers impressive relief for many seriously ill patients," he said.
        The Crown said that it may appeal the ruling and argued that the decision should apply only to Parker and not other medical marijuana patients.
        Parker won a landmark ruling 10 years ago when he was acquitted of possessing marijuana for medical use.  However, legal analysts call the recent ruling far more significant because the earlier verdict failed to address the validity of the federal law that prohibits possession.
        For more information, please contact Tanya Kengas, Esq. of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

California NORML Testifies Before Institute Of Medicine Expert Panel On
Marijuana's Medical Utility

        December17, 1997, Irvine, CA:   California NORML Coordinator Dale Gieringer joined numerous medical marijuana patients and advocates on Sunday to present testimony at the Institute of Medicine's (IOM) first public hearing on medical marijuana.  The IOM will hold two additional hearings next year before issuing a comprehensive review of the health effects and potential medical value of marijuana.  The IOM conducted a similar review in 1982 and concluded, "Cannabis and its derivatives have shown promise in the treatment of a variety of disorders."
        Gieringer testified that throughout his 10 year tenure at California NORML, he encountered hundreds of patients using marijuana medicinally for a unique range of medical ailments.  He pushed for scientific research to better determine whether different strains of marijuana produce varying degrees of medical benefit, and stressed the need for the development of safer smoking devices for medical marijuana.
        Gieringer said the testimonials given before the IOM panel were "powerful" and stated that investigators appeared "sincere, open-minded, and sympathetic."
        The IOM team "did not express doubts about whether cannabis is a medicine, but rather expressed interest in how it worked, what different effects might be produced by different varieties, [and] how research should proceed," he said.
        "Having observed the IOM team, I can confidently predict that their report will put an end to the talk of marijuana as 'Cheech and Chong' medicine."
        For more information, please contact Dale Gieringer of California NORML @ (415) 563-5858.  For more information on the 1982 Institute of Medicine findings, please contact Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.