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February 12, 1998

Canadian AIDS Patient Files Civil Suit Demanding Federal Government
Supply Medical Marijuana

        February 12, 1998, Toronto, Ontario:   A 53 year old Toronto AIDS patient filed a civil suit against the Canadian government on February 5 asking the court to find an exemption for the medical use of marijuana.  The suit also demands that the federal government begin distributing the drug to those seriously ill patients who need it.
        "It is our contention that it is a constitutional violation to criminalize therapeutic activity," said Toronto attorney Alan Young, who is assisting in the case.  "We want the court to declare that [this patient] is exempt from the drug act, meaning that he'd be entitled to possess and cultivate marijuana.  We also want a court [to order] the government to provide him with a safe and secure supply.
        Jim Wakeford, who was diagnosed with AIDS five years ago, credits marijuana for extending his life.  His doctor, Toronto AIDS specialist John Goodhew, agrees.
        "What has marijuana done for Jim Wakeford?   It has allowed him to live," he said.  Goodhew estimated that one-quarter to one-half of his patients on anti-HIV medication use marijuana on a "semi-regular" basis.
        "Patients who use [marijuana] continue to use it with my knowledge and consent," he added.  "Medically, I think it is a worthwhile cause.  It is absurd to criminalize a product that is so useful, effective, inexpensive, and so non-toxic compared to all the pharmaceutical alternatives.
        Wakeford's federal challenge comes two months after a Canadian trial court judge ruled that bona fide medical marijuana users are exempt from criminal marijuana possession penalties.  In that case, an Ontario judge 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 in Canada."
        Meanwhile, some medical marijuana proponents are continuing negotiations with the Canadian Department of Health to approve the use of the drug in "emergency" situations.  In December, a spokesman for Health Canada stated that the agency had "no problem" with the medicinal use of marijuana.  He added that the agency would likely approve a medical marijuana distribution plan if a university agreed to grow the drug.  Presently, a University of Toronto professor is lobbying for permission to begin growing marijuana at the school's year-round greenhouse.
        "There is increasing momentum toward changes that will allow legal access to medical marijuana in Canada," NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. said.
        The Ontario Court of Justice is scheduled to hear Wakeford's challenge on May 4.  Attorney Young said that he anticipates bringing several international physicians to testify that marijuana has medical utility.
        For more information, please contact attorney Tanya Kangas of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

Growing Number Of College Students Say They Support Legalizing Marijuana

        February 12, 1998, Washington, D.C.:   Thirty-five percent of college freshman support legalizing marijuana, more than double the number who endorsed it 1989, according to the results of a study by the University of California, Los Angeles for the Washington-based American Council on Education.
        "This is a growing trend among not only college students, but the American public at large," said Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of The NORML Foundation.  "As more Americans have first hand experience with marijuana, you have growing numbers of people rejecting the government's claims of 'reefer madness.'
        Federal statistics indicate that more than one third of Americans over age eighteen admit to having experimented with marijuana at some point in their lives.
        Pollsters commented that college students' growing support for marijuana comes at a time when many students are embracing more conservative positions on other cultural issues such as gay rights and abortion.
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

Circuit Court Judge Agrees To Retry Seven Year Old Marijuana Seed Case

        February 12, 1998, Hilo, HI:   A Circuit Court Judge complied with prosecutors' request to retry marijuana activist Aaron Anderson on a felony charge stemming from the possession of legal hemp bird seeds.  A jury voted 9-3 to acquit Anderson last October.
        "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 federal law," said Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of The NORML Foundation.
        Prosecutors are charging Anderson, age 60, with second-degree commercial promotion of marijuana, a class B felony that carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.  Charges were filed after Anderson ordered a 25-pound shipment of hemp seeds from the mainland in 1991.
        Although the importation and possession of hemp seeds is legal under federal law, prosecutors argue that the seeds fit the legal definition of marijuana under state law.  Last year, Deputy Prosecutor Kay Iopa testified that her office would not prosecute a "little old lady" if she possessed hemp seeds, but would file charges against an individual like Anderson who "is very vocally, very outwardly, advocating the legalization of marijuana."
        Presently, Anderson and former co-defendant Roger Christie -- who had the same charges against him dismissed -- are awaiting trial in a federal countersuit against the county alleging that they were targeted for prosecution because of their outspoken beliefs.
        Anderson's criminal trial is scheduled for September 14.
        For more information, please contact either Aaron Anderson of the Hawaii Hemp Council @ (808) 965-0300 or Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

Arbitration Court Rules Snowboarder May Keep Gold Medal Despite Positive Drug Test

        February 12, 1998, Nagano, Japan:   The Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) determined today that Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati may keep his gold medal, despite having tested positive for marijuana on a post-event drug screen.  The CAS based it's ruling on the fact that they and the International Olympic Committee have no formal agreement governing the use of marijuana by Olympic skiers or snowboarders.
        "It's purely a legal issue," said Jean Phillipe Rochat, secretary general of the CAS.  "It's not our role to examine the social issue at this stage."
        NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. praised the turn-around.  "First, marijuana is not a performance-enhancing drug.   Therefore, Mr. Rebagliati's marijuana use should be of no concern to the IOC.   Second, there is ample evidence demonstrating that a non-smoker exposed to second-hand smoke may test positive on a urine test, as alleged by Mr. Rebagliati.   Fortunately, in this instance the appeals panel reached a just result."
        For more information, please contact either Paul Armentano or Keith Stroup of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.