News Release

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March 11, 1999

Judge Denies California AIDS Patient's Urgent Plea
For Medical Marijuana

        March 11, 1999, Los Angeles, CA:   A federal judge refused this week to alter the conditions of release that bar a California AIDS patient from using potentially life saving medicine, marijuana, ruling that the denial is not a violation of his constitutional rights.
        "They're just going to let me die," said patient Peter McWilliams, a New York Times best-selling author who uses medical marijuana to alleviate side effects of the AIDS wasting syndrome and the nausea associated with his AIDS medications.  "My doctor and I have tried every [other medication,] and we made this very clear in the documents filed with the court," he said.  "Medical marijuana was the only alternative."
        McWilliams physician, Dr. Daniel Bowers, an AIDS specialist at Pacific Oaks Medical Center in Beverly Hills, said that his patient's viral load has skyrocketed from undetectable to dangerously high levels since a federal magistrate barred McWilliams from smoking marijuana.  Bowers said that McWilliams risks permanent damage to his immune system if his levels are not reduced.
        A judge ordered McWilliams to stop smoking marijuana as a condition of his bail release last fall after a federal grand jury charged him and eight others with conspiracy to cultivate marijuana for commercial sale.   This week's ruling by U.S. District Judge George King upholds that ban despite McWilliams' worsening health.
        "We conclude that imposing the aforesaid conditions of bond does not violate any of the defendant's constitutional rights," Judge King ruled.  "We do not mean to express indifference to the defendant's situation, [but] we are not empowered to grant the defendant what amounts to a license to violate federal law," he said.  King made no mention of California's law legalizing marijuana for medical use.  McWilliams is a California resident.
        King also refused McWilliams' request that he be placed in a federal program that supplies medical marijuana to a handful of patients with serious diseases.  McWilliams said he will appeal the ruling.
        McWilliams' criminal trial on marijuana charges is scheduled to begin on September 7, 1999.
        For more information, please contact either NORML Foundation Executive Director Allen St. Pierre or Litigation Director Tanya Kangas, Esq. @ (202) 483-8751.  Peter McWilliams' attorney Thomas Ballanco may be contacted @ (310) 259-6976.

Marijuana Successfully Treats Tourette's Syndrome, Study Shows

        March 11, 1999, Hanover, Germany:   German researchers report that the consumption of the marijuana compound THC alleviates symptoms of Tourette's Syndrome.  The researchers published their findings in this month's issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.
        "Earlier reports suggested beneficial effects in Tourette's syndrome when smoking marijuana," the German research team wrote.  "We report a successful treatment of Tourette's syndrome with delta-9-tetrahydocannabinol, the major psychoactive ingredient of marijuana."
        Tourette's syndrome is a complex neuropsychiatric disorder that is characterized by sudden spasms, so called "tics," that occur especially in the face, neck, and shoulders.
        The researchers found that a 25-year-old patient treated with 10 mg of THC experienced marked improvement of both vocal and motor tics associated with behavioral disorders.  "The improvement began 30 minutes after treatment and lasted for about seven hours," the researchers reported.   "No adverse effects occurred."
        Researchers stated, "This is the first report of a successful treatment of Tourette's syndrome with delta-9-THC."  They said they are planning to confirm their preliminary results in an upcoming double-blind, placebo controlled, crossover study.
        NORML board member Dr. Lester Grinspoon of Harvard Medical School called inhaled marijuana's effects on patients suffering from Tourette's "impressive," and said that the drug holds tremendous potential as a course of treatment for the disease.
        For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751 or NORML board member Dr. Lester Grinspoon of Harvard Medical School @ (617) 277-3621.

New Hampshire Considers Medical Marijuana, Decriminalization Legislation

        March 11, 1999, Concord, NH:   NORML board member Dr. Lester Grinspoon of Harvard Medical School and former New Haven, Connecticut Police Commissioner Nick Pastore testified before the New Hampshire legislature yesterday in favor of a pair of bills that would allow the use of medical marijuana, and decriminalize simple possession of the drug.
        NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. endorsed the legislative proposals.  "People are tired of filling our jails and prisons with nonviolent marijuana smokers," he said.  "It is a positive sign that states like New Hampshire are beginning to take a serious look at reforming these laws, and debating decriminalization as a legitimate policy option."
        NORML coordinated witnesses for yesterday's hearing and is working closely with Rep. Tim Robertson (D-Cheshire), primary sponsor of both bills, to lobby for the reform legislation.  House Bill 87 proposes changing possession of less than one ounce of marijuana from a class A misdemeanor to a violation.   House Bill 202 proposes legalizing the possession and cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes.  Both bills await action from the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.
        "I just think prohibition doesn't work," Robertson says.  "Marijuana decriminalization is a subject we ought to be discussing in this country."
        For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

Federal Judge Allows Medical Marijuana Class Action Suit To Proceed;
Questions Why Government Supplies Medical Marijuana To Some Patients, Not Others

        March 11, 1999, Philadelphia, PA:   A U.S. District Judge ruled this week that a government program that supplies medical marijuana to a small group of seriously ill patients, but refuses to enroll new applicants suffering from similar diseases, may violate "equal protection of the law" guaranteed by the Constitution.  District Judge Marvin Katz's ruling allows a federal medical marijuana class action suit launched by Philadelphia attorney Lawrence Hirsch to proceed forward.  Hirsch filed the suit on behalf of more than 100 patients who find medical relief from marijuana.
        "We are gratified by Judge Katz's decision to recognize the central equal protection of law claim of the plaintiffs' class that it is fundamentally unfair, and apparently irrational for the United States government to supply therapeutic cannabis to a total of seven or eight Americans because it is medically necessary for their conditions, [but deny it to others,]" Hirsch said.
        The federal Compassionate Investigational New Drug (IND) program began distributing marijuana cigarettes to select patients in 1978.   The program ceased accepting new applicants in 1992, but continues to supply 300 marijuana cigarettes monthly to eight patients suffering from diseases such as glaucoma and epilepsy.  Similar statewide programs also distributed medical marijuana to approximately 1,000 patients in the 1980s, but are no longer active.
        Judge Katz dismissed in his ruling several other constitutional violations alleged by the plaintiffs.
        NORML Legal Committee members Michael Cutler, Esq. of Boston Massachusetts and William Panzer, Esq. of Oakland, California have joined as co-counsel in the suit.
        For more information, please contact either NORML Foundation Executive Director Allen St. Pierre or Litigation Director Tanya Kangas @ (202) 483-8751.  Attorney Michael Cutler may be contacted @ (617) 739-9093 and William Panzer, Esq may be reached @ (510) 834-1892.