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January 2, 1998

Canadian Federal Health Agency Says It's Ready To Approve Limited Use Of Medical Marijuana
Proposal May License Toronto University To Grow The Drug For "Emergency" Purposes

        January 2, 1998, Toronto, Ontario:   The Canadian Department of Health appears ready and willing to approve the use of marijuana as a legal medicine in "emergency" situations, the Ottawa Citizen reported on December 19, 1997.  As a result, University of Toronto professor Dr. Diane Riley is lobbying for permission to begin growing the drug at the school's year-round greenhouse.
        "There is no problem, basically, with marijuana as a medicine," said Health Canada spokesman Dann Michols.   "Marijuana is no different than morphine, no different than Aspirin."   Michols explained that physicians who wish to prescribe marijuana may apply to Health Canada's Emergency
Drug Release Program, and must present evidence that marijuana is therapeutically beneficial to a particular patient.  In addition, Michols said that physicians must also provide the agency with the name of the drug's federally approved "manufacturer."  However, no licensed institution is presently growing marijuana, he said.
        Enter Dr. Riley, whose proposal would authorize the University of Toronto to grow marijuana for medical use.  "I think Health Canada is implying that they are ready to let people have access to marijuana as medicine," she said.  "I'd like to see a situation where physicians ... could come to U of T and say: 'We need access to your marijuana.'  ... I've worked with AIDS people and I know marijuana can help them."
        Michols said that there is "a good chance" his agency will approve Dr. Riley's plan if she gets permission from the university to grow marijuana.  He said approval could come within a month.
        "I've done some preliminary investigations at the U of T [and] ... I get the sense that they would be favorable toward doing it," Riley said.  "It shouldn't be a problem."
        Presently, California state Senator John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara) is lobbying the legislature to authorize a similar proposal in that state.  Senate Bill 535, introduced by Vasconcellos in 1997 and held over until this year, seeks to establish a Medical Marijuana Research center at a campus of the University of California.  The center would grow marijuana for scientific medical trials.
        For more information, please contact either Paul Armentano or Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

France Approves Experimental Use Of Medical Marijuana, Anticipates Eliminating Criminal Penalties For Recreational Use

        January 2, 1998: Paris, France:   French health ministry officials announced that the government will begin conducting medical marijuana trials in a limited number of hospitals this year.  The announcement came at the conclusion of a two-day national conference on drug policy, held at the health ministry last December.
        Officials also announced that the federal government will begin serious debate on merits of marijuana decriminalization.  More than 200 doctors, drug experts, scientists, teachers, and social workers who attended the conference recommended that the government abolish criminal penalties for possession of small quantities of marijuana, The London Independent reported.
        "French criminal penalties for marijuana are presently some of the most severe in Western Europe," said Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of The NORML Foundation.  "This apparent relaxing of the marijuana laws for medical and recreational use indicates that France may be falling in line with the more enlightened, harm reduction-based policies shared by most of its neighboring countries."
        Although government officials doubt that the panel's recommendations will immediately lead to a formal change in the nation's drug laws, spokesmen did announce that administrative changes regarding drug-law enforcement could take place.  "We can act ... without waiting for a change in the law," Health Minister Bernard Kouchner said.  Kouchner also said that he favored prescriptive access for marijuana.
        Ministry officials also announced that the government has commissioned a scientific study to better compare the relative dangers of legal and illegal drug use.
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

Ontario Farmers Anticipate Planting Commercial Hemp Plots This Spring

        January 2, 1998, Sarnia, Ontario:   Proposed regulations released by Canadian Health Minister Allan Rock may open the door for widescale hemp farming in southwest Ontario this spring.  Local politicians, who lobbied on behalf of the regulations, said they expect the language to be finalized in time for the spring planting season.
        "Hopefully, the regulations will be in place and we'll be ready to grow by the first of March," said MP Paul Steckle (L-Huron-Bruce).
        At least one regional company anticipates that the approved regulations will allow them to contract farmers to cultivate thousands of hectares of the plant.  "We're hoping for a couple of thousands acres this ... year," said Jean LePrise of Kenex Ltd.  "There is lots of interest.   We have 300 to 400 [farmers] signed up wanting acreage."
        Over the past few years, Canada has licensed a limited number of farmers to cultivate small test plots of industrial hemp for research purposes.  The forthcoming regulations will allow farmers to grow commercial plots of the crop for the first time in 50 years.
        According to a preliminary draft of the regulations published in The Canada Gazette, anyone growing, processing, or exporting hemp must possess a license from Health Canada.  The regulations also mandate that farmers may not grow the crop within one kilometer of school grounds or any public place frequented by persons under eighteen years of age.  Industrial hemp must be stored in a locked container or location, and samples of crop have to be tested at a laboratory to determine THC content.
        For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.  Text of the regulations is available on the Health Canada website at: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hpb-dgps/therapeut/drhtmeng/hemp.html.

DEA Temporarily Ceases Threats To Subpeona Names Of Marijuana Book Buyers

        January 2, 1998, Washington, D.C.:   Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials are backing off attempts to subpoena the names of individuals who purchased a marijuana cultivation book.  The agency withdrew its demands after legal challenges from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and an acknowledgment from Assistant U.S. Attorney John Stevens that the subpeonas were "unduly burdensome."
        Ronin Publishing Inc. of Berkeley, California, and a gardening specialty store in Tempe, Arizona, both received subpoenas in October to reveal the identities of Arizona residents who bought Marijuana Hydroponics: High-Tech Water Culture.  The Arizona store was also requested to turn over the names of customers who purchased grow lights, fans, and certain fertilizers.
        ACLU lawyer Nick Hentoff chastised the DEA for initiating legal action in this case.  "This was a fishing expedition by the DEA to see who they could go after," he said.
        For more information, please call either Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751 or Dale Gieringer of California NORML @ (415) 563-5858.