News Release

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September 17, 1998

Ninety-Three Members of Congress Stand Up For Medical Marijuana

        September 17, 1998, Washington, DC:   Nearly one hundred members of Congress expressed their support for a seriously ill patient's right to medical marijuana during a historic vote on the House floor Tuesday.   The vote marked the first time in recent memory the House has deliberated over the issue of medical marijuana.
        The strong show of support surprised majority Republicans, but failed to prevent the passage of a House Joint Resolution expressing opposition to statewide efforts to legalize medical marijuana under a doctor's supervision.  The House approved the measure by a vote of 310-93.
        NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup voiced a mixed reaction to the vote.  "On the down side, this vote demonstrates how out of touch Congress is with the American people on this issue," he said.  "On the positive side, we now have a significant base of support for medical marijuana on which to build in the next Congress."  Stroup noted that NORML waged a high profile campaign against the measure, and generated more than 4,500 faxes to House members in support of medical marijuana.
        Representatives William Delahunt (D-Mass.), Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Ron Paul (R-Texas), and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) led the charge against the resolution, sparking a heated, forty minute debate.   Also expressing their opposition to the measure were Reps. Julian Dixon (R-Calif.), Gerald Nadler (D-NY), and Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
        "Republican leadership ... want[s] to deprive seriously ill patients of potential therapies because they have a political agenda," said Rep. Waxman.  "They think we should just say no to sick and dying patients because it looks like we are getting tough on illegal drugs."
        Texas Rep. Lloyd Doggett agreed.  "The New England Journal of Medicine, one of the most respected publications in the medical community in this country, and a number of oncologists ... believe that [marijuana] has [medical] benefits, and for this Congress to mingle politics into medicine is a mistake," Doggett said.  "The basic difference we have on this issue is whether we entrust [a medical] decision to the scientific community, to the medical community, or repeatedly turn to Dr. Newt [Gingrich]."
        Longtime champion for medical marijuana reform, Rep. Barney Frank, criticized the resolution for failing to separate the medical use of marijuana from the issue of recreational drug use.  Such a policy diminishes the credibility of our nation's overall anti-drug campaigns, he argued.  Representative Delahunt agreed.
        "What [this resolution] is saying is that we are willing to allow patients to suffer excruciating, debilitating conditions so as to not send a signal to others who might wish to use [marijuana] recreationally," Delahunt argued.  "With all due respect, I do not believe that anyone who has watched an AIDS or cancer patient suffer ... could make such a statement.  That is not the signal that we want to send."
        Joint House Resolution 117 expresses a "sense of the Congress ... [in] support of the existing federal legal process for determining the safety and efficacy of drugs, and opposes efforts to circumvent this process by legalizing marijuana."  Backers of the measure significantly watered down
the bill's language at the last minute to assure passage.  An earlier version of the measure sought to express a "sense of the Congress that marijuana is "a dangerous and addictive drug [that] should not be legalized for medical use."   Resolution sponsor Bill McCollum (R-Fla.) also amended the measure to remove language urging the defeat of upcoming state ballot initiatives that seek to legalize medical marijuana.  Ironically, McCollum previously introduced legislation in Congress to permit the legal use of medical marijuana in 1981 and 1983.
        For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

Colorado Medical Marijuana Initiative Will Appear On November Ballot

        September 17, 1998, Denver, CO:   A Denver judge ordered state officials to place an initiative on the November ballot that would allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes.  Petitioners Coloradans for Medical Rights (CMR) sought the court ruling after discovering that the Secretary of State's office made frequent errors when processing a random-sample check of the more than 88,000 signatures gathered in support of the proposal.
        "We are delighted," initiative backer Martin Chilcutt said.  "I'm very happy that the citizens of Colorado and patients throughout the state have prevailed."
        State officials originally disqualified the initiative in August after a review of 4,500 signatures found that petitioners apparently failed to gather the necessary number of signatures to qualify for the ballot.   However, after petitioners reviewed the random sample, they discovered mistakes made by the Secretary of State's office and sufficient signatures to qualify for a line-by-line review.  District Judge Herbert Stern determined that there no longer remained adequate time to conduct such a review and authorized the initiative to appear on the ballot.
        The Colorado initiative seeks to allow seriously ill patients who have a doctor's recommendation to possess up to two ounces of marijuana or grow three plants for medical use.  Voters in Alaska, Oregon, Nevada, Washington, and most likely the District of Columbia will decide on similar medical marijuana initiatives this year.
        For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup of NORML @ (202) 483-5500 or Dave Fratello of Americans for Medical Rights @ (310) 394-2952.

University Study Gives Green Light For Hemp Cultivation In North Dakota

        September 17, 1998, Fargo, ND:   Hemp has the potential to be a profitable cash crop for state farmers, a one-year study by North Dakota State University determined this week.  The study recommends allowing farmers to grow test plots of the crop for experimental production and research purposes.
        "There's real potential for [hemp] as a rotation crop with North Dakota crops," said David Kraenzel of the NDSU agriculture economics department, who headed the study.  The state Legislature mandated the study in 1997 by overwhelmingly approving House Bill 1305.  North Dakota is the third state to authorize and complete such a study.
        Authors of the study predicted that hemp could yield profits as high as $141 per acre to farmers, particularly those in the eastern one third of the state.  Authors also noted that they will have a better understanding of the economics of hemp by observing Canadian efforts to commercially farm and process the crop.  At least 29 nations -- including Canada, France, England, Germany, Japan, and Australia -- allow farmers to cultivate hemp for industrial purposes.
        For more information, please contact either NORML board member Don Wirtshafter of The Ohio Hempery @ (740) 662-4367 or Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

DEA Raids Humbolt Cannabis Center, Destroys Patients' Medicine

        September 17, 1998, Arcata, CA:   Federal law enforcement officials raided the collective medical marijuana garden of the Humbolt Cannabis Center last week and destroyed over 150 plants intended for medical use by its members, reported California NORML Coordinator Dale Gieringer.
        Drug Enforcement Administration agents did not raid the center's office or arrest any of the medical marijuana dispensary's employees.   The DEA has executed similar operations against medical marijuana gardens at the San Francisco Flower Therapy Club and Dennis Peron's Lake County Farm.
        The Humbolt Cannabis Center is a patient collective with over 300 members.  It operates according to an Arcata city ordinance that explicitly recognizes the right of patients to form "medical marijuana associations" to help acquire their medication, Gieringer said.
        "This raid is an outrageous example of government piracy against what is widely respected as one of the best-run medical cooperatives in the state," Gieringer charged.
        For more information, please contact Dale Gieringer of California NORML @ (415) 563-5858.