News Release

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July 24, 1998

Body's Natural Pain Controlling Agents Mimic Marijuana,
Nature Magazine Reports

        July 24, 1998, Naples, Italy:   Marijuana like compounds produced naturally by the body appear to help humans control pain, new research published in the July 16 issue of Nature Magazine suggests.
        NORML board member Dr. John Morgan of the City University of New York called the study "dramatic," and said that the research held significant implications for the use of marijuana as a medicine.  "This research nails down the fact that marijuana is an analgesic."  We now know that the human system reduces pain through the same chemical mechanism that is used by compounds found in the plant, he said.
        Researchers at the University of Naples in Italy demonstrated that anandamide, an endogenous marijuana like chemical, is released by the body when cells are damaged.  The chemical produces effects in the pain-processing areas of the brain and spinal cord that appear to ease the sensation of pain.  Researchers found that rats treated with a synthetic agent that blocked the action of anandamide demonstrated a longer and greater reaction to pain.
        Scientists also determined that the release of anandamide in conjunction with the endogenous compound PEA reduces pain 100-fold.
        Morgan suggested that this research could be readily replicated in human trials by administering similar blocking agents.   Presently, a French pharmaceutical company is awaiting approval to conduct such research, he said.
        Earlier research on anandamide, which was first identified in 1992, indicated that the chemical appeared to inhibit inflammation and extreme sensitivity to pain without carrying the risks associated with the use of opiates, such as addiction and tolerance.
        "These findings indicate that the administration of marijuana compounds and endogenous marijuana like agents to the site of injury may greatly reduce pain without incurring side effects," said Paul Armentano, Director of Publications for The NORML Foundation.
        NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. said that this new research directly challenges the government's position that marijuana is without medical value.  "To continue to deny medical marijuana to seriously ill patients in light of this growing body of medical evidence supporting the plant's therapeutic value is unjustified and inhumane," he said.
        For more information, please contact either Dr. John Morgan @ (212) 650-8255 or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

Oakland City Council Moves To Support Local Medical Marijuana Dispensary

        July 24, 1998, Oakland, CA:   The Oakland City Council approved the first reading of a medical marijuana ordinance designed to protect the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative from federal prosecution.
        The ordinance would allow the city to officially designate the Oakland club to enforce the state's medical marijuana law, California NORML Coordinator Dale Gieringer said.  Supporters argue that the ordinance will protect the club from an injunction aimed at closing the dispensary because federal law immunizes local officials who comply with local drug laws from federal sanctions.
        The proposal models itself after a statewide measure introduced by Sen. John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara) that sought to authorize local governments to establish medical marijuana distribution programs.  That measure fell two votes shy of passage in the Assembly Health Committee earlier this month.
        Ordinance sponsor, attorney Robert Raich, applauded the council's action.  "This proves again that good medical cannabis policy is good public policy," he said.  "The council has acted to protect patients as well as the public health and safety of all Oaklanders."
        For more information, please contact either Dale Gieringer of California NORML @ (415) 563-5858 or attorney Robert Raich @ (510) 338-0700.

California Senator Attacks Advertising By "Head Shops" On The Net

        July 24, 1998, Washington, D.C.:   California Senator Diane Feinstein (D) recently asked the Justice Department to take action against so-called "head shops" who advertise smoking accessories on the web.
        NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. criticized Feinstein's efforts.  "One would hope that Senator Feinstein has something better to do with her time than this," he said.
        Speaking recently before Congress, Feinstein said: "A search of the web reveals 15 websites which sell drug paraphernalia over the Internet."  She later asked Attorney General Janet Reno if her office was "aware of this practice, and has the Justice Department initiated any prosecutions?"
        Reno responded that her office would investigate the matter.
        Federal law forbids the selling of marijuana smoking accessories such as water pipes.  The Supreme Court unanimously upheld the Constitutionality of the ban in a 1994 decision.
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

Medical Marijuana Petitioners Confident Recount Will Place Initiative On Nevada Ballot

        July 24, 1998, Carson City, NV:   Petitioners pushing to change Nevada's state constitution to allow patients to use marijuana legally are confident that a review by the state elections committee will validate enough signatures to place the measure on this fall's ballot.   Representatives of Progressive Campaigns Inc., which gathered the signatures, said that many of the disqualified signatures should be counted.  In addition, they said that the county clerk miscounted the number of valid signatures in one county.
        Nevadans for Medical Rights, who are sponsoring the measure, were initially informed that their effort fell short by a total of 43 signatures in two counties.  Petitioners turned in more than a total of 74,000 signatures.
        Petitioners can appeal to the courts if the elections committee fails to validate the necessary number of signatures.
        State initiative guidelines require the proposal to win voter approval this November and again in November 2000 before it can become law.
        For more information, please contact either R. Keith Stroup of NORML @ (202) 483-5500 or Dave Fratello of Americans for Medical Rights @ (310) 394-2952.

Best Selling Author Indicted On Marijuana Conspiracy Charge

        July 24, 1998, Los Angeles, CA:   A federal grand jury charged author Peter McWilliams and eight others yesterday with conspiracy to cultivate marijuana for commercial sale.  McWilliams, who uses marijuana medicinally to alleviate the side effects of the AIDS wasting syndrome and cancer, rented housing to activist Todd McCormick.  Federal law enforcement agents arrested McCormick in 1997 after finding thousands of marijuana plants growing on the premises.
        The new indictment alleges McWilliams played a role in the grow operation.
        The Los Angeles Times reported that McCormick and others intended to distribute the marijuana to California Buyers' Clubs for medical purposes.  McWilliams, who is the best selling author of numerous books including "How to Survive the Loss of a Love" and "How to Heal Depression," has been an outspoken advocate for medical marijuana reform in recent years.  He also maintains a website online at:
        For more information, please contact Peter McWilliams at: