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February 19, 1998

Leading Research Magazine Claims WHO Suppressed Report Showing
Marijuana To Be Safer Than Legal Intoxicants

        February 19, 1998, London, England:   Health officials at the United Nations suppressed a report confirming that marijuana poses less of a public health threat than alcohol or tobacco, according to an article in the current issue of a leading English research journal, New Scientist.
        "The analysis concludes not only that the amount of [marijuana] smoked worldwide does less harm to public health than drink and cigarettes, but that the same is likely to hold true even if people consumed [marijuana] on the same scale as these legal substances," states the article, entitled: What the WHO doesn't want you to know about cannabis.
        The World Health Organization's summary report on marijuana -- its first in 15 years -- was published in December, but the magazine alleges that a comparison study of marijuana and legal substances was dropped because the findings might call into question federal policies criminalizing the
drug.  Sources leaked a draft version of the report to the magazine shortly after WHO officials decided to kill the story.
        "It is understood that advisers from the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse and the U.N. International Drug Control Programme [sic] warned the WHO that it would play into the hands of groups campaigning to legalise [sic] marijuana," the article stated.  "Insiders say the comparison was scientifically sound and that WHO caved in to political pressure."
        Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of The NORML Foundation, called the WHO comparison study the latest in a long line of favorable marijuana findings suppressed by political officials.  "Let's hope that this report doesn't fall into history's scrap pile like it's numerous predecessors: the British Indian Hemp Drug Commission of 1894; the Panama Canal Zone Report of 1925; the LaGuardia Commission Report of 1944; the Canadian LeDain Commission Report of 1970; the 1972 National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse; or the 1982 National Academy of Science Report: Marijuana and Health.  When the scientific communities continuously recognize marijuana as a substance that presents little harm to public health or safety, citizens must ask the question: 'Why do governments like the United States so vehemently oppose the consistent recommendations of the very commissions they appoint?'"
        According to New Scientist -- whose special report on marijuana appears today -- the WHO report found that marijuana "fared better in five out of seven comparisons of long-term damage to health."   For example, the report stated that "in developed societies, [marijuana] appears to play little role in injuries caused by violence as does alcohol."
        The magazine said WHO researchers also found that marijuana smoke did not lead to blocked airways or emphysema or impact on lung function, and that it was less addictive than alcohol or cigarettes.  New Scientist further stated that the use of marijuana did not appear to lead to the use of harder drugs.
        NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. said that the suppressed report appears to corroborate many of the organization's own arguments.  "NORML does not suggest that marijuana is totally harmless or that it cannot be abused.  That is true for all drugs, including those which are legal," he said.  "We do believe that moderate marijuana use is relatively harmless -- far less harmful to the user than either tobacco or alcohol, for example -- and that any risk presented by marijuana smoking falls well within the ambit of choice we permit the individual in a free society."
        For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751 or Keith Stroup of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.  The complete text of the article can be found at marijuana.newscientist.com/nsplus/insight/drugs/marijuana/

Medical Marijuana Activists To Open Medical Marijuana Dispensaries
Across Eastern Canada

        February 19, 1998, Toronto, Ontario:   As part of an ongoing campaign to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana in Canada, activists in Ontario announced the launch of at least eight medical marijuana dispensaries in the region.  Proponents announced that the clubs -- commonly known as Cannabis Buyers' Clubs (CBCs) -- will be "wheelchair accessible," and in "commercial areas, not private residences."  Medical marijuana distributed at the clubs will be sold at cost.
        "We're not going to be hiding," Peter Young -- one of the organizers for the clubs -- told the Ottawa Citizen.  He added that any police officer posing as a patient could "easily" track down a sales venue, but said that "if they're going to bust us, fine.  But the next day we'll be open again."
        Presently, buyers' clubs exist in Toronto and Vancouver, the Toronto Star reported.  Additional clubs are expected to open shortly in Toronto, London, Peterborough, Kitchener, and Guelph.  Club organizers in Mississauga, Oakville, and Etobicoke are currently accepting applications, the paper said.
        Efforts to legalize medical marijuana in Canada have increased in recent months.  On February 5, a 53 year old Toronto AIDS patient filed a civil suit against the Canadian government asking the court to find an exemption for the medical use of marijuana.  The federal challenge came two months after a Canadian trial court judge ruled that bona fide medical marijuana users are exempt from criminal marijuana possession penalties.  In addition, recent statements from a spokesman at the Canadian Department of Health indicate that the agency may begin approving use of the drug in "emergency" situations.
        Buyers' clubs -- though illegal under U.S. federal law -- first began to appear in California in the early 1990s.  Medical marijuana advocates estimate that 40 such clubs  presently operate in the United States.
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

Criminalization Of Marijuana Coincides With Explosion In Use, Federal Data,
American Journal of Public Health Indicates

        February 19, 1998, Washington, D.C.:   The American Journal of Public Health reported that more than 50 percent of adolescents born between 1956 and 1965 admit to having experimented with marijuana.   This figure compares with just over two percent of teens born between 1930 and 1940. 
        "Although only a small minority of American adolescents  used marijuana in the years leading up to the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act in 1937, literally half of the 'baby boomer' population tried the drug as teenagers after its use had been prohibited for decades," Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of The NORML Foundation, observed.
        The authors propose that the steady decline in two-parent families may have contributed to the rise in marijuana use after World war II.
        Researchers based their findings on data from the government-sponsored National Household Survey on Drug Abuse.
        For more information, please contact Richard Cowan @ MarijuanaNews.com or see the American Journal of Public Health, 1998; 88 (1): 27-33.