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April 23, 1998

Alaskan Voters Will Decide On Legalizing Medical Marijuana In November

        April 23, 1998, Anchorage, Alaska:   Alaskans will decide this fall whether to legalize the medical use of marijuana under a physician's supervision.  On Tuesday, the Secretary of State affirmed that petitioners Alaskans for Medical Rights qualified their medical-use proposal for the November ballot.
        "The federal government's failure to act on the medical marijuana issue leaves proponents no choice but to bring this question straight to the voters," NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. said.
        The Alaska initiative seeks to allow patients suffering from a "debilitating medical condition" and holding a state-issued identification card to legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana.  Registered patients would also be able to cultivate marijuana for medical use.  Cultivation limits are set at six plants, with no more than three plants producing usable marijuana at any one time.  The initiative also
permits non-registered patients to raise the "affirmative defense of medical necessity" if they face state criminal marijuana charges.  Patients who cultivate or possess larger quantities of medical marijuana than specified by the initiative may also qualify to use the affirmative defense. 
        Those who obtain marijuana for medical use would be prohibited from using it in public places, selling or distributing the drug, or "endangering the health and well-being" of others by its use.
        "The model proposed by Alaskans for Medical Rights is more narrowly defined than the California medical marijuana initiative passed in 1996," Stroup said.  "It addresses the concerns of some opponents who felt that Prop. 215 was drafted to loosely and attempts to minimize many of the
legal gray areas that arose in California after the vote."
        Similar initiative efforts are pending in Colorado, the District of Columbia, Maine, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.
        For more information, please contact either Alaskans for Medical Rights @ (907) 276-4704 or Keith Stroup of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

DEA Marijuana Eradication Program Under Review: Department Of Justice
Requests Public Comments

        April 23, 1998, Washington, D.C.:   Citizens concerned about the environmental and health hazards posed by the aerial spraying of herbicides in DEA-sponsored marijuana eradication efforts may testify at five public meetings set to take place next month.  The public forums are part of an ongoing review of the "environmental impact" posed by the agency's use of herbicides, particularly glyphosate, to eliminate wild growing marijuana.  The DEA has not conducted such a review since May 1986.
        "Evidence from the environmental and scientific community indicates that glyphosate poses serious threats to health and safety when sprayed from aircrafts," said Paul Armentano, Director of Publications and Research at The NORML Foundation.  Armentano cited incident reports collected from dozens of Hawaiian residents who reported flu-like symptoms like nausea and headaches shortly after the DEA conducted overflights in 1996.
        "There is a high risk in aerial spraying," Luis Edwardo Parra, senior researcher at Columbia's National Drug Council, told Reuters News Service last June.  "There is a risk to those who may be exposed on the ground.  There is a risk of contamination of [the] rivers."
        Environmental journals have long criticized the aerial use of glyphosate in marijuana eradication efforts.  A report in the February 1993 issue of Global Pesticide Campaigner called the tactic "unsuccessful" and highlighted the chemical's potential dangers.  "Reports from other countries where aerial spraying has been used in anti-drug programs are not encouraging," it states.  "International health workers in Guatemala report acute poisonings in peasants living in areas near eradication spraying, while farmers in these zones have sustained serious damage to their crops."
    The winter 1995 edition of the Journal of Pesticide Reform reported similar cases in the U.S.  "In California, ... glyphosate was the third most commonly reported pesticide illness among agricultural workers," the journal reported.  "Among landscape maintenance workers, glyphosate was the most commonly reported cause."  The author added that, "Glyphosate exposure damages or reduces the population of many animals, including beneficial insects, fish, birds, and earthworms, [and] in some cases is directly toxic."  The journal also reported that aerial movement of the chemical through unwanted drift is "unavoidable." 
        Currently, the DEA rarely engages in the aerial spraying glyphosate outside of Hawaii and South America.  However, many drug-reformers believe that the agency intends to popularize the activity in the United States after it completes this latest review.
        "This is an opportunity for citizens to voice their concerns over glyphosate spraying before the DEA brings it to your state," Armentano said.
        For more information or a listing of the upcoming public forums, please contact Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

British Nurses To Vote On Medical Marijuana Issue At Annual Conference

        April 23, 1998, Bournemouth, Scotland:  The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) will decide on a motion calling for patients suffering from multiple sclerosis, cancer, and other serious medical conditions to be prescribed compounds in marijuana.  The vote is expected to take place at this week's RCN annual conference.
        Celia Manson, an advisor for the group, complained that federal marijuana prohibition compromises research into the drug's therapeutic properties.  "Few doctors are able to prescribe [cannabinoids] at the moment," she said.  "Nurses from the [Royal College] feel there is potential for much greater use and these should at the very least be investigated."
        Presently, British law only allows doctors to prescribe one medication derived from marijuana compounds, Naboline.  Similarly, U.S. law only allows doctors to prescribe oral THC, marketed as the drug Marinol. 
        Six state nursing associations in the U.S. currently support prescriptive access to whole-smoked marijuana.
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751 or visit the website Marijuananews at: http://www.marijuananews.com.

San Francisco Medical Marijuana Dispensary Reopens As "Healing Center"

        April 23, 1998, San Francisco, CA:   San Francisco's largest medical marijuana dispensary continues to service patients, despite a judge's order last week to close its doors. 
        Renaming itself the Cannabis Healing Center, and operating without the leadership of Dennis Peron, the club will remain a supplier of medical marijuana for its nearly 9,000 patients.  The new club will be run by 79-year old medical marijuana patient Hazel Rogers, and will only distribute marijuana to individual patients.
        Local authorities, including County Sheriff Michael Hennessey and District Attorney Terence Hallinan, said that they will not move against the club.  "This organization is serving a beneficial public need," Hennessey said. 
        Peron said that he believed the name change, along with a shift in how the club is managed would be enough to conform to last week's Superior Court ruling against the club.
        For more information, please contact The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.