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April 9, 1998

Senator Wants To Extend Marijuana Prohibition To Include
Medical Research

        April 9, 1998, Washington, D.C.:   The Senate approved a "sense of the Senate" resolution on April 3 denying funding for any future medical marijuana research projects.  The amendment -- introduced by Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Oregon) -- is included in Senate Concurrent Resolution 86, a measure outlining Congressional budgets for the next five years.  Although the amendment is not legally binding, the resolution may influence Congress when determining funding levels for health and research programs.
        "The language proposed by Smith represents the extreme position of those in Congress who stand against the use of marijuana as a medicine," said NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup.  "This amendment is a slap in the face to respected scientific and medical institutions such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the American Medical Association (AMA), the National Academy of Sciences, the American Cancer Society, and others -- all of which have recently urged the federal government to facilitate clinical trials to better determine marijuana's therapeutic potential."
        Senate Amendment 2180 states that "no funds appropriated by Congress should be used to ... fund or support, or to compel any individual, institution, or government entity to ... support any item, good, benefit, program, or service, for the purpose of marijuana for medicinal purposes."   Smith argued that his amendment will help ensure that America's children are not sent mixed messages on drug use. 
        Federal funds should only be spent on research to discover more effective prescription medications, and not on the "medicinal use of an illegal drug that is highly addictive and dangerous," he added.
        Presently, all scientific protocols to examine marijuana's medical potential must receive federal funds.  According to Rick Doblin -- head of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) -- this is because the only legal supplier of marijuana for research purposes remains the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and that agency will only consider providing marijuana to projects that have passed the NIH grant review process.  Presently, the NIH is funding only one study regarding marijuana's medical potential.
        "Senator Smith's amendment suggests that he cares more for anti-medical marijuana rhetoric than he does for people who suffer from the diseases for which marijuana is claimed to be effective in treating," said Doblin, who also serves of NORML's board of directors.  "Hopefully, neither he nor any of his loved ones will come to regret this triumph of ideology over medicine."
        Senate Con. Res. 86 now goes to the House for consideration.
        For more information, please contact either Paul Armentano or Keith Stroup of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

Use Of Thermal Imaging Without A Warrant Unconstitutional,
Ninth Circuit Rules

        April 9, 1998, Portland, OR:   The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled on Tuesday that the Constitution's Fourth Amendment protects citizens against the warrantless use of thermal imaging scanning devices to measure heat emissions from residences.  The Court rejected contrary case law from the seventh, eighth, and eleventh circuits on grounds that they improperly analogized excess heat from residential interiors to heat emanating from trash.
        "This decision affirms the right of individuals to be free in their home from unreasonable searches," NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. said.  Stroup noted that the conflicting decisions by the circuit courts may persuade the Supreme Court to rule on the issue.
        Thermal scanners detect heat from numerous sources inside the home such as bathing, ovens, indoor gardening, and sexual activity.   The technology is often used by law enforcement officials to identify possible indoor marijuana-grow operations.
        The details unveiled by a thermal imager are sufficiently intimate to give rise to a Fourth Amendment violation, declared Judge Robert Merhige, writing for the court.  "While the imager cannot reproduce images or sounds, it strips the sanctuary of the home of the 'right to be let alone' from arbitrary and discriminatory monitoring by government officials," he said.  "The use of a thermal imager to observe heat emitted from various objects within the home infringes on an expectation of privacy that society deems reasonable."
        Dissenting Judge Michael Hawkins argued the use of thermal imaging fails to constitute a search "under contemporary Fourth Amendment standards."
        Tanya Kangas, Director of Litigation for The NORML Foundation, praised the majority opinion.  "Fortunately, two of the three judges in this case looked to common sense and the privacy expectations of typical reasonable persons to be free in their homes."
        The case is United States v. Danny Lee Kyllo, No. 96-30333 (9th Cir. filed April 7, 1998).
        For more information or to notify the NORML Foundation of additional thermal imaging cases, please contact Tanya Kangas @ (202) 483-8751.  For more information on thermal imaging and the law, please contact NORML Legal Committee member John Henry Hingson @ (503) 656-0355.

Hawaii Health Committee Urges Federal Government To Expedite
Medical Marijuana Research

        April 9, 1998, Honolulu, HI:   Hawaii's House Committee on Health approved a resolution on Saturday urging the federal government to expedite research into the medical efficacy of marijuana. 
        "This measure makes it clear that the medical value of marijuana should be determined by science, not politics," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. David Tarnas (D-South Kohala).  "The state is taking this reasonable and measured step specifically because the federal government has a history of refusing to take action [on the medical marijuana issue.]"
        Earlier this year, Tarnas introduced legislation exempting patients and their primary caregivers who possessed or cultivated marijuana for medical use from criminal penalties.  The Health Committee rejected that bill in February, but Chairman Alex Santiago (D-Pupukea) encouraged Tarnas to draft a separate resolution endorsing research.
        "It is ... appropriate to urge the federal government to move more swiftly in its establishment of rigorous scientific protocol standards to reschedule marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule II drug," Santiago said.  At least five states -- California, Michigan, New Hampshire, and Missouri -- have previously approved resolutions urging the government to allow doctors to prescribe marijuana.
        NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. said he supported state resolutions aimed at reforming federal law, but emphasized that state laws are also necessary to protect patients already using medical marijuana from state criminal charges.  "States must realize that they can play a pivotal role in protecting the health and safety of bona fide medical marijuana patients," he said.
        For more information, please contact either Rep. David Tarnas @ (808) 586-8510 or Keith Stroup of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.