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March 5, 1998

House Republicans Continue Assault On States' Rights,
Medical Marijuana Research
House Judiciary Okays Resolution Calling Marijuana a "Dangerous And Addictive Drug"

        March 5, 1998, Washington, D.C.:   A coalition of Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee approved a "sense of the House of Representatives" resolution on Wednesday stating that "marijuana is a dangerous and addictive drug and should not be legalized for medical use."   House Resolution 372 -- introduced by Crime Subcommittee chair Bill McCollum (R-Fla.) -- was approved by a voice vote despite efforts by several Democrats to kill or amend the measure.
        "Medical marijuana is a public health issue," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), who vigorously argued against the bill.   "[It] is not part of the 'War on Drugs.'"  Also speaking in opposition to the measure were Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), ranking Democrat on the committee, and Reps. William Delahunt (D-Mass.), Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Martin Meehan (D-Mass.), and Melvin Watt (D-N.C.).
        Before passing the resolution, Republicans rejected an amendment offered by Rep. Conyers that stated "States have the primary responsibility for protecting the health and safety of their citizens, and the Federal Government should not interfere with any state's policy (as expressed in a legislative enactment or referendum) which authorizes persons with AIDS or cancer to pursue, upon the recommendation of a licensed physician, a course of treatment for such illness that includes the use of marijuana."
        Republicans also rejected an amendment proposed by Rep. Martin Meehan (D-Mass.) calling on the House of Representatives to "consider this issue ... deserving of further study."
        Republicans argued that any lifting of the legal ban prohibiting marijuana, even for medical purposes, would send mixed and potentially dangerous messages to the American public about drug use.  Rep. McCollum --who sponsored legislation to permit the legal use of medical marijuana in 1981 and 1983 -- further charged that it would be "counterproductive" for Congress to encourage medical marijuana research or request the Food and Drug Administration to review the drug's prohibitive status.
        "[I] do not want to go on record supporting another study [on medical marijuana,]" McCollum said.   "[Congress] must send a clear message [that] ... marijuana is a highiy addictive Schedule I drug ... with no likelihood of FDA approval."  Rep. McCollum also said that he no longer supports the stance he took in the 1980s when he urged the federal government to make marijuana legal as a medicine.
        "The Republicans on the Judiciary Committee are willing to ignore the science and deny an effective medication to seriously ill patients in order to advance their political agenda," charged NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq.  For example, Stroup noted that Rep. James Rogan (R-Calif.) voted for the resolution despite declaring that he observed a seriously ill family member successfully use marijuana as a medicine.  Two Democrats who opposed the resolution also gave personal testimonials of a friend or family member's battle with terminal illness.  One representative also admitted that her friend found therapeutic relief from marijuana.
        "Republicans apparently are not willing to let scientific evidence, compassion, or common sense get in the way of arresting and jailing marijuana smokers -- even those who are seriously or terminally
ill," Stroup said.
        The resolution now goes for consideration before the full House.
        For more information or a copy of House Res. 372, please contact either Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

Canadian Farmers Will Grow Commercial Hemp Plots For First Time In 50 Years,
Health Minister Vows At Agriculture Conference

        March 5, 1998, Toronto, Ontario:   Commercial cultivation of industrial hemp will be legal nationwide early next month, Federal Health Minister Allan Rock vowed at a recent meeting of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.  Rock said that he is ready to formally approve regulations released in December by the Canadian Department of Health (Health Canada) to permit farmers to engage in wide-scale farming of the crop.
        "I'm pleased to report that by the beginning of next month, the cultivation of industrial hemp will be legal in Canada," he said.
        Since 1995, Canada has licensed a limited number of farrners 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 on the Health Canada website, anyone growing, processing, or exporting hemp will have to possess a license from the agency.  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.  Health Canada defines industrial hemp as a variety of the cannabis plant with less than 0.3 percent THC.
        Sally Rutherford, Executive Director of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, which represents 200,000 farm families nationwide, praised the upcoming change in federal law.
    "[Hemp] provides another commodity that people can produce and there appears to be a growing market for it," she said.  "For people looking for diversified crops to grow, it is good news."
        Senator Lorna Milne -- who has pushed for changing Canada's hemp laws for several years -- called hemp "an opportunity for Canadian farmers unmatched in this century."
        A spokesman for the health minister said that there will be "minor adjustments" to the proposed hemp regulations, but would not comment on what those changes may be.
        Presently in the United States, farmers may not grow industrial hemp -- even for research purposes -- it is illegal under federal law.   According to a 1995 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) "white paper," the Drug Enforcement Administration remains "opposed to any consideration of hemp as a legitimate fiber or pulp product."  The report further added that "legal issues" preclude the USDA from growing test plots of the crop for scientific purposes.
        For more information, please contact either Paul Arnentano or Allen St. Pierre of the NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

Nearly Half Of All Americans Say That Marijuana Is "Hot" In Annual Poll

        March 5, 1998, New York, NY:   Almost one out of every two Americans say that marijuana is "in," according to a new Roper Starch survey about what's hot and what's not.  The study involved face to face interviews nationwide with 2,000 representative adults age 18 or older.
        Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of The NORML Foundation, called the response "remarkable."
        "After 60 years of a blanket prohibition on marijuana, and despite the existence of a myriad of civil and criminal punishments, the plant still enjoys wide social approval," he said.  "As reform minded organizations such as The NORML Foundation better educate America about the harm associated with marijuana prohibition, public attitudes about marijuana will continue to move from one of dissonance to social change."
        Respondents ranked marijuana as one of the nation's thirty hottest items.
        Roper Starch Worldwide is one of the nation's largest market research and consulting firms.
        For more information, please contact either Dick Altman of Roper Starch Worldwide @ (212) 697-2620 or Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.