News Release

1001 Connecticut Ave, NW - Ste 710 - Washington, DC 20036
Tel. 202.483.8751 - Fax 202.483.0057 - E-mail - Internet

December 1, 1998

Premiere British Medical Journal Pronounces Marijuana Safer
Than Alcohol, Tobacco

        December 1, 1998, London, England:   Moderate use of marijuana poses less of a risk to health than alcohol or tobacco, according to editors of the influential medical journal, The Lancet.
        Available medical evidence demonstrates that "moderate indulgence in cannabis has little ill-effect on health, and that decisions to ban or legalise [sic] cannabis should be based on other considerations," editors opined in the November 14 issue.  They added, "It would be reasonable to judge cannabis less of a threat to health than alcohol or tobacco."
        Three years ago, the journal argued that "the smoking of cannabis, even long term, is not harmful to health."  The Lancet's latest statements came only days after a House of Lord's committee recommended amending federal law to allow physicians to prescribe marijuana as a medicine.
        NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. praised The Lancet for conducting an apolitical assessment of marijuana's effects on health.  "The Lancet's conclusions are reasonable based on the available scientific and medical literature," he said.  "It is clear that marijuana prohibition causes far more harm to the user and society than the responsible use of marijuana itself."
        An accompanying article by Australian professors Wayne Hall and Nadia Solowij in the same issue concluded the "most undesirable" effects of marijuana are: bronchial irritation, the risk of accidents while intoxicated, and possible "subtle" cognitive impairment and/or dependence with heavy, long term use.  However, the researchers added that most marijuana smokers do not become regular users, and cease smoking the drug altogether by their mid to late twenties.
        Although The Lancet's position received mainstream coverage internationally, no U.S. wire services have yet to report on the journal's findings.
        For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

Louisiana Drug Testing Statute Unconstitutional, Federal Judge Rules

        December 1, 1998, Baton Rouge, LA:   A state law requiring random drug testing for all elected officials is unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled late last month.
        NORML Legal Committee member William Rittenberg, who filed suit on behalf of state Rep. Arthur Morrell (D-Orleans Parish) praised the decision.  "The act of urination is considered the most private of bodily functions and all agree it is protected by privacy rights," he said.
        U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon said the drug testing proposal violates the Constitution's Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizures.  Judge Fallon relied heavily on a 1997 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found drug testing political candidates without individualized suspicion and absent "special needs" was unconstitutional.
        "There is no history of drug use among elected officials," Fallon said.  "There is established law that a drug test is a search ... [and] warrantless searches must depend on reasonableness."
        NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. hailed the judge's decision.  "The Court recognized that the desire to set a good example is insufficient to justify an exemption to the Fourth Amendment," he said.
        Governor Mike Foster, who personally argued before the court in favor of the drug testing provision, said that attorneys for the state will likely appeal the ruling.  Foster has historically supported programs mandating urine tests for any individual receiving state funds.
        Rittenberg said that separate state statutes requiring drug tests for welfare recipients, students on state scholarship, state employees, and others are also vulnerable to a constitutional challenge.
        For more information please contact either attorney William Rittenberg @ (504) 524-5555 or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.  The NORML Legal Committee is looking for plaintiffs to challenge additional aspects of Louisiana's drug testing law.  Interested parties should contact The NORML Foundation for more information.

Body Shop Hemp Product Line Continues To Meet Opposition Abroad

        December 1, London, England:   Law enforcement officials worldwide are stepping up the heat against a line of hemp-based skin-care products from Body Shop International.  Recent wire stories report that the company withdrew its hemp line from Greece and Hong Kong after authorities
alleged that the products -- which include lip conditioner, hand oil, soap and body lotion -- promote the use of illegal drugs.  Now, officials in South Australia are threatening to seize the soon-to-be-released hemp line because of allegations the products violate anti-marijuana laws.  In September, French officials made similar claims after seizing products from stores in the Aix-en-Province.  Canadian authorities also threatened to seize the Body Shop's products, but later recanted their position.
        Hemp store owner and NORML board member Don Wirtshafter strongly criticized placing any restrictions on the Body Shop's hemp goods.   "These products are legal in every country based on the definition of marijuana in the Single Convention treaty of 1961," he said.  "Nobody has ever figured out how to use a legitimate hemp product as a drug; so why are bureaucrats and law enforcement giving the industry problems?"
        The recent crackdown comes at a time when beauty products containing hemp seed oil are gaining popularity among consumers.  In Britain, the Body Shop's hemp accessories accounted for five percent of the company's total sales one month after they introduced the series.  Displays for the
Body Shop's hemp line include a picture of the hemp leaf and provide facts on the uses for industrial hemp.
        Mari Kane, publisher of the hemp industries trade magazine HempWorld, speculated that it is the Body Shop's hemp education campaign that is raising the ire of law enforcement, not necessarily the products.   "The goal [of the campaign] is to create a stir," and teach people about the differences between hemp and marijuana, she said.
        For more information, please contact either Don Wirtshafter of The Ohio Hempery @ (740) 662-4367 or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

DEA To Rule Shortly On Reclassifying Synthetic THC

        December 1, 1997, Washington, DC:   Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials will decide shortly whether to reclassify synthetic THC, marketed as the drug Marinol, as a Schedule III drug.  The public has until December 7, 1998, to file comments, objections, and requests for a hearing on the proposed reclassification.
        Federal officials announced their intent shortly after voters this fall approved the use of marijuana as a medicine in five states.   Marinol is an oral medication approved as an anti-nauseant for patients undergoing cancer chemotherapy, and as an appetite stimulant for patients suffering from HIV or AIDS.   It is presently classified as a Schedule II drug, the most restrictive category a legal drug can be placed in.
        "Marinol is a legal alternative to marijuana that has demonstrated varied effectiveness among patient populations," NORML Foundation Publications Director Paul Armentano said.  "Marinol often provides only limited relief to a select group of patients, particularly when compared to whole smoked marijuana therapy.  Marinol should remain an option to patients, but its availability should not preclude amending federal law to allow those patients unresponsive to synthetic THC the opportunity to use inhaled marijuana as a legal medical therapy."
        For more information, please contact Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.  Copies of the NORML report: The Need for Medical Marijuana Despite the Availability of Synthetic THC are available upon request.