March 25, 1999
Bill To Restore Student Loans To Minor Drug
Introduced In Congress
March 25, 1999, Washington, D.C.:
Congressman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) recently introduced legislation to restore
student loan eligibility for marijuana offenders. House Bill 1053 seeks to repeal
provisions adopted by Congress in the Higher Education Act of 1998 that deny financial
assistance to any college student convicted of a drug offense, including the simple
possession of marijuana.
NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. praised Frank's bill and criticized Congress' mandatory ban on student aid to marijuana offenders. "While no one wants to encourage drug use, neither should we take away an individual's opportunity to obtain an education for such a minor offense," he said. "Congress' denial of student aid to minor drug offenders is a needlessly harsh penalty that will force many low-income students to drop out of college. It is further inappropriate because no other criminal offense disqualifies college students from receiving student loans."
The U.S. Department of Education opposes the provisions denying student aid to drug offenders, and notes that judges already have the power to strip eligibility to student aid if they feel that an individual case warrants such action.
Representative Frank said it was "unreasonable" for Congress to "impose an excessively rigid prohibition on an individual's ability to receive federal aid," particularly in cases "where individuals are convicted of minor drug offenses and are trying to get their lives back together through education."
For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup of NORML @ (202) 483-5500 or Adam Smith of the Drug Reform Coordination Network @ (202) 293-8340. Interested parties may fax their Congressman a letter supporting H.R. 1053 from NORML's website at: http://www.norml.org.
Nevada Legislature Mulls Bill To Decriminalize Marijuana Possession
March 23, 1999, Carson City, NV:
Assemblywoman Christina Giunchigliani (D-Clark) introduced legislation last week to
make minor marijuana possession a misdemeanor offense punishable by no more than a $100
fine. State law currently defines marijuana possession as a category E felony
punishable by up to four years in jail.
NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. endorsed Giunchigliani's proposal. "Marijuana smokers, like their nonsmoking peers, work hard, raise families, pay taxes, and contribute to their communities. They are not part of the crime problem and should not face arrest and jail," he said. "This legislation is long overdue in Nevada." Nevada is one of the only states that maintains felony criminal penalties for simple marijuana possession, he said.
Assembly Bill 577 awaits action by the Judiciary Committee. The committee must vote on the bill before April 9, 1999.
In ten states, simple possession of marijuana is a noncriminal offense. Last year, voters in Oregon rejected 2 to 1 a legislative measure to recriminalize marijuana possession.
For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500. To download a copy of this legislation, please visit: http://www.leg.state.nv.us/70th/bills/AB/AB577.html. To read about additional state marijuana reform legislation, please visit the NORML website at: http://www.norml.org/laws/stateleg1999.html.
Marijuana-Like Drug To Receive Patent For Use Treating Multiple Sclerosis
March 23, 1999, Iselin, N.J.:
A synthetic drug derived from marijuana received a "Notice of Allowance"
from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office covering its use in the treatment of multiple
sclerosis. The patent defines new therapeutic applications for the use of
Dexanabinol, a synthetic drug patterned after marijuana cannabinoids, and other synthetic
analogs of marijuana.
The announcement comes less than one week after an Institute of Medicine report determined that cannabinoids, active compounds in marijuana, likely play a role in relieving muscle spasms associated with MS.
"We are very pleased with the granting of this patent," said Haim Aviv, chairman and CEO of Pharmos Corporation, which licenses Dexanabinol. "Our expectations of Dexanabinol having multiple neurological applications are confirmed by, among other factors, its amelioration of the severity of multiple sclerosis in animals."
Compounds in marijuana, particularly cannabidiol (CBD), have historically demonstrated value as potential therapeutic agents for treating patients suffering from multiple sclerosis. Recently, England's House of Lords Science and Technology Committee said they were "convince[d] ... that cannabis ... ha[s] genuine medical applications ... in treating the painful muscle spasms and other symptoms of MS," and recommended legalizing medical use of the drug.
Previous Phase II human trials on Dexanabinol demonstrated that the drug reduced mortality and eased intracranial pressure in patients suffering from severe head injuries. A press release issued by Pharmos said that the worldwide market for Dexanabinol in the treatment of head trauma could reach "$1 billion annually, and is significantly larger if other neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis .. are [also] treated with the drug."
Aviv said that Pharmos hopes to begin final Phase III human trials on Dexanabinol shortly, and could potentially market the drug by next year.
For more information, please contact either Paul Armentano or Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.
IOM Findings Strengthen Administrative Challenge To Repeal
March 23, 1999, New York, NY:
Determinations released last week by the Institute of Medicine that marijuana holds
medical value and has a low potential for abuse supports an administrative petition that
seeks to remove marijuana's classification as a Schedule I prohibited drug.
Petitioners Jon Gettman, former NORML National Director, and Trans High Corporation, publisher of High Times Magazine, announced last week that the IOM findings back their administrative effort to reclassify marijuana. "The IOM findings support [our] petition to the DEA demanding the reclassification of marijuana from a Schedule I drug like cocaine and heroin to a lower classification consistent with its therapeutic potential and relative harmlessness," said NORML Legal Committee member Michael Kennedy, attorney for the petitioners.
By definition, all Schedule I drugs must have a "high potential for abuse" and "no currently accepted medical use in treatment." In contrast, the IOM report found that "few marijuana users develop dependence," and called the drug's withdrawal symptoms "mild and short-lived." IOM researchers further determined that there is no evidence marijuana acts as a gateway to harder drug use, and summarized, "Except for the harms associated with smoking, the adverse effects of marijuana use are within the range of effects tolerated for other medications."
Gettman and Trans High Corporation filed an administrative petition with the Drug Enforcement Administration in 1995 arguing that marijuana lacks the requirements necessary for classification as a Schedule I or Schedule II drug. Last year, the DEA requested the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to conduct a "scientific and medical evaluation of the available data and provide a scheduling recommendation" for marijuana and other cannabinoid drugs. That recommendation is still pending.
For more information, please contact either Jon Gettman @ (540) 882-9002 or Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.