News Release

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February 11, 1999

Employee Fired For Legal Marinol Use Can Sue, Federal
Appeals Court Rules

        February 11, 1999, San Francisco, CA:  An airlines employee fired after failing a drug test can sue for disability discrimination, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week.
        United Airlines terminated employee Spero Saridakis after he tested positive for marijuana on a random drug screen.  The airline's medical review officer (MRO) refused to reverse the positive result even though Saridakis had a valid prescription for Marinol, a legal marijuana substitute.   Standard drug tests do not distinguish between the use of Marinol and marijuana.
        Saridakis argues that his dismissal violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Saridakis takes Marinol to treat pain and insomnia stemming from prior injuries.
        Without ruling on the merits of the case, the three judge panel unanimously agreed that Saridakis' claim of discrimination based on disability can be pursued in court.  The ruling reverses a lower court decision dismissing Saridakis' case because he failed to contest his termination under standard union grievance procedures.
        "No employer has the right to discipline or dismiss an employee for using a legal drug prescribed by a physician," NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. said.  "This is another example of the 'War on Drugs' run amok."
        For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup of NORML @ (202) 483-5500 or NORML Foundation Litigation Director Tanya Kangas @ (202) 483-8751.

No Link Between Miscarriages And Marijuana Use, Study Says

        February 11, 1999, Boston, MA:   Researchers found no link between marijuana use by pregnant mothers and miscarriages, Reuters News Service reported last week.  The study did document a strong link between tobacco consumption and miscarriages, and also showed an increased risk of miscarriage by mothers who use cocaine.
        NORML Board member Dr. John P. Morgan of City University of New York (CUNY) Medical School said it is unlikely marijuana plays a role in spontaneous abortions.  "Previous studies of newborns, infants, and children show no consistent physical, developmental, or cognitive deficits related to prenatal marijuana exposure," he said.  "Marijuana has no reliable impact on birth size, length of gestation, neurological development, or the occurrence of physical abnormalities."
        The study appeared in the February 4, 1999 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.
        For more information, please contact either John P. Morgan @ (212) 650-8255 or Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

County Requests Federal Okay To Conduct Medical Marijuana Study

        February 11, 1999, Redwood City, CA:   San Mateo county officials will apply for federal permission to begin medical marijuana trials on human patients.  Officials seek approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).  NIDA is the only legal supplier of marijuana for research purposes.
        Last year, the Redwood City Board of Supervisors appropriated $50,000 to conduct medical marijuana research.  The proposed three-year study hopes to include between 500 and 1,000 patients.
        County officials anticipate a federal response to their request by April 1, 1999.
        During the late 1970s and early 1980s, NIDA provided medical marijuana to state-sponsored research programs in seven states: California, Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, Tennessee, and Vermont.  Through these programs, thousands of cancer patients found relief from legal marijuana cigarettes.   NIDA discontinued supplying medical marijuana to these programs in the late 1980s, and most recently refused requests from the Massachusetts and Washington Boards of Health to allow those states to permit medical marijuana research.
        "NORML strongly supports San Mateo county's efforts to study the efficacy of whole smoked marijuana as a therapeutic agent," NORML Foundation Executive Director Allen St. Pierre said.   "Unfortunately, NIDA and other federal agencies have established a history of regularly denying requests for medical marijuana."
        For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

Air Force Forbids Use Of Legal Hemp Seed Oil

        February 11,1999, Washington, D.C.:   Air Force personnel may no longer use hemp seed oil products because military drug tests can not distinguish between the legal product and marijuana, the Air Force Print News reported.
        NORML board member Don Wirtshafter of The Ohio Hempery criticized the military's ban on legal hemp oil products.  "This is not a health issue," he said.  "The onus is on the drug testing industry and the employers.  They are the ones putting out a faulty product that is not able to differentiate between legal consumption of hemp products and the illegal consumption of drugs."
        Studies reported in The Journal of Analytical Toxicology demonstrate that regular users of hemp seed oil may test positive for low levels of THC.  This outcome is because trace amounts of THC-bearing flower parts sometimes adhere to the sterile seeds' outer shell.  Military courts acquitted a pair of officers last year of charges they smoked marijuana after hearing evidence that they consumed hemp seed oil.
        "In the interest of military readiness, good order and discipline, active duty, Reserve and Air National Guard members are now prohibited from consuming any products containing hemp seed oil," Lt. Col. Greg Girard told the Air Force news wire service.  He said that consumption of the products "effectively interferes" with the agency's ability to maintain a drug free force because personnel could use them to mask their use of marijuana.
        Hemp health products, such as hemp seed oil, are sold in nutrition stores and praised for their high concentrations of amino and fatty acids.
        Previously, the Hawaii Transportation Association and the New York City Department of Transportation warned employees that they will not accept hemp seed oil consumption as an excuse for a positive drug test.
        For more information, please contact either Don Wirtshafter of The Ohio Hempery @ (740) 662-4367 or Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

Congressman Introduces Bill Banning Research On Drug War Alternatives

        February 11, 1999, Washington, D.C.:   Freshman Rep. John Sweeney (R-New York) introduced legislation recently forbidding any federally sponsored research that would examine alternative drug policies such as harm reduction or legalization.  His bill, entitled the "Anti-Drug Legalization Act," awaits action by the House Committee on Government Reform.
        "It is a sad day when Congress drafts legislation that seeks to silence public discourse on one of this country's most hotly debated public policies," NORML Foundation Executive Director Allen St. Pierre said.
        Former New York Rep. Gerald Solomon (R) introduced similar legislation unsuccessfully throughout the 1990s.
        For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.  H.R. 278 may be found online at: