News Release

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November 19, 1998

Government Health Officials Deny Marijuana and Pain Study, Again

        November 19, 1998, Washington, DC:   Federal health officials rejected a scientific proposal last week to conduct research on marijuana's effectiveness as a pain reliever in human patients.  The denial marked the second straight year National Institute of Health (NIH) officials refused to sponsor human trials regarding marijuana's analgesic potential.
        "There remains a remarkable disconnect between Washington bureaucrats who oppose any rational debate on the medical marijuana issue, and those doctors, nurses, and patients who strongly support research and therapeutic access to marijuana," said NORML Foundation Executive Director Allen St. Pierre.  "It is disturbing that NIH officials would deny legitimate medical marijuana research only days after voters in seven states overwhelmingly affirmed their support for the use of marijuana as a medicine."
        Neurologist Ethan Russo, M.D. of the Western Montana Clinic sought federal permission to compare smoked marijuana to synthetic THC and an injected painkiller in acute migraine treatment. Russo has attempted since 1996 to obtain official clearance to conduct an FDA approved clinical trial evaluating marijuana's therapeutic value on migraine patients.  He recently authored an authoritative review of marijuana's history as a treatment for migraine in the peer reviewed journal Pain, the official publication of the International Association for the Study of Pain.
        "I am disappointed that I will not have the opportunity to study this important clinical issue this year," said Russo, who speculated that as many as 10 million migraine sufferers could potentially benefit from inhaled marijuana.  "Our bureaucrats seem hopelessly mired in political place.   They are ignoring the science, as well as the rising tide of public opinion that is clamoring for clinical studies of cannabis."
        In the past year, a growing body of medical evidence has emerged indicating marijuana's effectiveness as a pain reliever.  At the 27th Annual Meeting of Neuroscientists, researchers announced, "Substances similar or derived from marijuana ... could benefit the more than 97 million Americans who experience some form of pain each year."  Recent animal studies demonstrate marijuana constituents relieve pain on par with those of opiate-based drugs like morphine.   Some researchers maintain that the use of cannabinoids like THC and other chemical compounds found in marijuana do not appear to carry the risk associated with the use of opiates, such as addiction and tolerance.
        Russo's latest rejection comes more than one year after a NIH expert panel recommended federal health agencies implement policy changes to expedite medical marijuana research.  So far, no visible changes have been made.
        "It remains federal officials -- not voters or the medical community -- that continue to thwart the use and study of marijuana as a legal medicine," St. Pierre said.  "In 1982, the National Academy of Sciences strongly recommended the federal government to undertake definitive scientific studies to determine marijuana's therapeutic value.  It is a morally unconscionable that 15 years later, we are still battling to allow this research to take place."
        For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.  Dr. Ethan Russo may be contacted @ (406) 329-7238 or via e-mail at:

House of Lords Backs Prescription Cannabis, But Parliament Balks

        November 19, 1998, London, England:   The government should allow doctors to prescribe marijuana for medical use, concluded a report by England's House of Lords Science and Technology Committee last week.   However, Health Minister George Howarth immediately rejected the findings, and said that Parliament will not change federal law until more research is completed.
        "Political stalling at the expense of patients who would benefit from the legal use of marijuana as a medicine is not confined just to America," said NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq.
        Lord Walter Perry, chairman of the House of Lords committee, said ample evidence already exists to legalize medical marijuana.   "[Clinical trials] take five or more years to complete and we felt that the evidence of the benefit to these patients with very distressing symptoms was such that we shouldn't make them wait that long."  The report found marijuana to be most effective at treating chronic pain and the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
        "We have seen enough evidence to convince us that a doctor might legitimately want to prescribe cannabis ... and that the criminal law ought not to stand in the way," Perry said.
        The report also noted that the development of marijuana derivatives and analogs as medicines should not preclude politicians from legalizing use of the whole plant for medical use.
        "This committee should be commended for placing science and compassion above politics," Stroup said.  The upper chamber of Parliament first began its inquiry into the medical potential of marijuana in April.
        For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.  Copies of the House of Lords report are available upon request on online at:

Drug Testing Negatively Impacts Employee Productivity, Study Concludes

        November 19, 1998, Syracuse, NY:   Companies adopting drug testing programs experience significantly lower productivity than those that do not, according to a new study by the Le Moyne College Institute of Industrial Relations.  The study found that pre-employment and random testing procedures result in nearly a 20 percent lower level of productivity.
        "Based on standards of increased workplace productivity, drug testing flunks big time," said NORML Foundation Executive Director Allen St. Pierre.
        The Le Moyne study examined 63 "high tech" firms using an economic model to estimate the effect of drug testing programs on productivity.  Authors found that "drug testing programs do not succeed in improving productivity," and speculated that such procedures may create "a negative work environment, or cause substitutions of more dangerous drugs or alcohol."
        The authors contend that their study is the first to examine the quantified potential productivity effects of workplace drug testing.
        NORML's St. Pierre praised the research study. "Despite it's popularity, drug testing is a bad investment for employers," he said.  He noted that The NORML Foundation opposes suspicionless drug testing, particularly urinalysis, because such procedures are intrusive searches that lack the ability to determine job impairment.  The Foundation further maintains that urine testing unfairly targets marijuana smokers who may test positive for weeks after the drug's euphoric effects have worn off.
        The release of the Le Moyne study comes less than one month after Congress approved legislation providing for federal incentives to encourage small businesses to adopt workplace drug testing.
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751 or Dale Gieringer of California NORML @ (415) 563-5858.