News Release

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January 14, 1999

Body's Own Marijuana-Like Agents Holds Hope For High Blood
Pressure Patients

        January 14, 1999, Nottingham, England:  Marijuana-like compounds produced naturally by the body may hold the key to reducing high blood pressure, research at the University of Nottingham Medical School suggests.
        "These are natural substances present in all our bodies that seem to have important effects on our circulation," said Professor Brian Pentecost, medical director of the British Heart Foundation.   "Hopefully, this project will shed new light on how we could use these effects to help heart patients."
        The British Heart Foundation is funding the Nottingham study.  Preliminary research reveals that anandamide, an endogenous marijuana like substance, relaxes blood vessels and may reduce blood pressure.
        "This research should tell us a great deal more about how these substances affect our circulation," said Dr. David Kendall of The Queen's Medical Centre.  "This is a new and exciting area of research which could ultimately lead to better treatments for a range of cardiovascular diseases."
        Researchers first identified anandamide in 1992 and are just now beginning to study how the agent interacts with the body to control pain and other functions.  Scientists named the compound after the Sanskrit word for eternal bliss.
        For more information, please contact either Paul Armentano or Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

Marijuana For Pain, MS Trials Approved In England

        January 14, 1999, London, England:   Two government sanctioned clinical trials on the therapeutic value of marijuana will begin shortly, the governing body for British pharmacists announced this week.   The two protocols seek to determine marijuana's ability to control muscle spasms in multiple sclerosis patients and provide relief to post-operative pain sufferers.
        "The potential benefits of cannabis are absolutely enormous," said Dr. Geoffrey Guy, who is licensed by the government to grow marijuana for medical research.  "We are really only beginning to take the blinkers off that have been on this material for the last 30 years."
        The upcoming human trials will adhere to strict guidelines approved Monday by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain.  The new guidelines will give the results added scientific weight to groups like the World Health Organization, who remain skeptical of marijuana's medical value, a RPS spokesman said.
        The first study will involve approximately 600 MS patients.  Volunteers will be divided into three groups.  The first will receive conventional medication for controlling muscle spasms while a second group will consume standardized doses of marijuana.  A third will only receive doses of THC, an active compound in marijuana, to help researchers determine if constituents in marijuana other than THC have medicinal benefit.  Patients will likely consume marijuana through a special inhaler designed to administer measured amounts of the drug.
        The second series of trials will follow similar guidelines and involve approximately 300 volunteers suffering from acute post-operative pain disorder or cancer.
        Researchers said they expect to present their findings within two years.  Botanists recently harvested 5,000 marijuana plants from a secret, government farm to supply volunteers with the drug.
        Dr. Guy praised the British government's willingness to support medical marijuana research.  "We enjoy a very liberal research environment," he said.  "Our first objective is to get research done, not to find a thousand reasons to block it."
        For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

Support for Medical Marijuana, Industrial Hemp Strong, State Survey Shows

        January 14, 1999, Missoula, Montana:   More than two-thirds of Montanans support the use of marijuana for medical purposes and believe that legislators should legalize hemp cultivation, according to a survey conducted by Montanans for Medical Rights.
        "Montanans are known for their common sense and this survey confirms that," said John Masterson of Montana NORML.  The survey polled approximately 400 respondents from more than 50 counties.
        Sixty-nine percent of respondents said they supported the medically approved use of marijuana, and 65 percent said they would back a legislator who advocated medical marijuana reform.  The high degree of support mimics percentages found in national polls conducted by ABC News, CBS News, Luntz Research and others showing majority support for medical marijuana.  "With such a high percentage of Montanans saying they would support a legislator in favor of medical marijuana, it will be interesting to see which lawmakers rise to the occasion," Masterson said.
        Seventy percent of respondents said they supported the cultivation of hemp for industrial purposes.  At least 29 nations, including Canada, France, England, Germany, Japan, and Australia, allow farmers to cultivate the non-psychoactive crop for its fiber content.
        Sixty-four percent of respondents said that they believed marijuana's potential harm to health were no greater than those posed by alcohol.  Respondents were evenly divided on whether marijuana smokers should continue to face criminal penalties.
        For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751 or Montana NORML @ (406) 542-8696.  Raw figures are available online from Montana NORML at:

Oklahoma Governor To Decide Medical Marijuana Patient's Fate This Month

        January 14, 1999, Oklahoma City, OK:   Gov. Frank Keating will decide this month whether to accept or reject a parole board order to release medical marijuana patient Will Foster from jail.  Keating received Foster's unanimous recommendation for parole late last month and must
make a decision within 30 days.
        An Oklahoma jury sentenced Foster in 1997 to 93 years in jail for cultivating marijuana in a 25-square foot underground shelter and other lesser marijuana-related charges.  Foster maintains that he grew the marijuana to alleviate the pain of rheumatoid arthritis; however, Oklahoma law does not accept the defense of medical necessity as a basis for acquittal on a marijuana charge.
        This fall, an appeals court panel found Foster's sentence excessive and reduced the term to 20 years.  At Foster's first parole board hearing days later, officials unanimously voted to release him on parole upon approval from the governor.
        The NORML Foundation urges concerned parties to contact the governor and demand parole for Will Foster so he may be reunited with his family.  Contact Gov. Frank Keating at the following address:

State Capitol Building, Room 212
Oklahoma City, OK 73105
(P) (405) 521-2342
(F) (405) 521-3317 or (405) 523-4224

        For more information on Will Foster, please contact either Keith Stroup, Esq. of NORML @ (202) 483-5500 or Dave Borden of The Drug Reform Coordination Network @ (202) 293-8340.