News Release

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April 8, 1999

Marijuana Like Chemical Could Hold Key To Treating
Movement Disorders

        April 8, 1999, Irvine, CA:   A marijuana like chemical produced naturally in the brain appears to help regulate body coordination and may hold hope for patients suffering from movement disorders like Parkinson's disease and schizophrenia.
        Researchers at the University of California at Irvine announced that the brain's nerve cells use the chemical, called anandamide, to modify the effects of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is responsible for stimulating movement and other motor behavior.  Scientists believe that excessive dopamine production causes some symptoms of schizophrenia and the sudden spasms associated with Tourette's syndrome, while a lack of dopamine induces the tremors and movement hesitation characteristic of Parkinson's disease.
        "This [study] shows for the first time how anandamide works in the brain to produce normal motor activity," Daniele Piomelli, an associate professor of pharmacology at UCI, said.
        "Patients with schizophrenia and other diseases have reported that marijuana appears to relieve some of their symptoms, but scientists have never found a physiological reason why.  By understanding how the anandamide system works similarly to marijuana, we can explore new ways to treat these [type of] diseases more effectively."
        Previous research on anandamide, which was first identified in 1992, indicated that it inhibited inflammation and extreme sensitivity to pain without carrying the risks associated with the use of opiates.  Scientists dub the chemical an "indigenous cannabinoid" because it binds to the same brain receptors as do compounds in marijuana.
        NORML board member Dr. Lester Grinspoon of Harvard Medical School called the UIC findings the "tip of the iceberg."
        "Endogenous cannabinoids and their receptors will play a major role in the neurobiological understanding of the brain and, as a consequence, help us understand and treat a number of diseases," he said.
        The findings of the UIC study appear in the April issue of the journal Nature Neuroscience.
        For more information, please contact either Dr. Lester Grinspoon of Harvard Medical School @ (617) 277-3621 or Dr. John Morgan of the City University of New York (CUNY) Medical School @ (212) 650-8255.

Illinois Bill Criminalizes Marijuana Information On The Internet

        April 8, 1999, Springfield, IL:   The state House of Representatives unanimously approved legislation that would impose criminal penalties on those who transmit information pertaining to marijuana on the Internet if they "know that the information will be used in furtherance of illegal activity."
        NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. called the proposal one of the "dumbest" he'd ever heard.  "First, it illustrates the phobia many legislators hold toward marijuana," he said.   "Under this measure, someone could legally transmit information about potentially violent activities like building bombs, but face criminal prosecution for posting messages about the documented medical uses of marijuana.  Second, this is an attempt to circumvent the first amendment guarantee of free speech by turning the transmission of certain factual information via the Internet into a 'thought crime.'   Proponents of this type of legislation are the equivalent of modern day book-burners."
        House Bill 792, introduced by Rep. Gerald Mitchell (R-Rock Falls), seeks to make the transmission of "information about cannabis by the Internet" a Class A misdemeanor if the provider is aware the information could be used for an illegal activity.  The Senate Judiciary will hold hearings on the proposal next Wednesday.
        The House approved the measure 114 to zero.
        For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.  To read more about H.B. 792 or additional pending state marijuana legislation, please visit the NORML website at:

California County Submits Medical Marijuana Research Proposal To
Federal Government

        April 8, 1999, San Mateo, CA:   San Mateo County officials submitted a proposal to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) seeking approval to conduct clinical trials on medical marijuana.  The study hopes to better determine inhaled marijuana's medical benefits on patients suffering from severe nausea and weight loss.
        "What we've done is we have pushed the envelope as San Mateo County is the first [California] governmental entity that's been willing to put its money up to conduct clinical trials," County Supervisor Mike Nevin said.  "Our hope is that these trials will ultimately lead the United States of America to change the law."
        NIDA is the sole supplier of marijuana for research purposes and must approve all clinical trials on the drug.  The agency has approved almost no medical marijuana research proposals this decade.
        San Mateo County is the third state governmental agency to submit a medical marijuana research proposal to NIDA since 1996.   Previous proposals by the Washington and Massachusetts state boards of health were rejected by the agency.  NIDA rejected a separate protocol from private researchers to study marijuana in migraine treatment last fall.
        In addition to NIDA approval, federal guidelines require the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to provide primary funding for all medical marijuana trials.  Private donations may not fund the research.  No other drug must meet such requirements.
        NORML Foundation Executive Director Allen St. Pierre said he applauded Nevin's efforts to get medical marijuana into the hands of local patients, but doubted that NIDA would approve his proposal.  "While the government publicly invites researchers to study medical marijuana, it privately works to quash these proposals," he said.
        For more information, please contact either Dale Gieringer of California NORML @ (415) 563-5858 or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

Nearly Eight Out Of Ten Canadians Favor Medical Marijuana

        April 8, 1999, Edmonton, Alberta:   Seventy-eight percent of Canadians support legalizing medical marijuana, a Decima Research Inc. poll reported Wednesday.
        "Medical marijuana is an international issue, and supported by the voting public here and abroad," NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. said.
        The polling firm asked 2,026 Canadian adults whether they strongly agree, agree, oppose or strongly oppose the federal government's consideration of legalizing marijuana as a medical treatment.  Recently, Canadian Health Minister Allan Rock said his office is considering developing federal guidelines for medical marijuana trials, although it is not the first time he has made such statements.  The House of Commons is expected to vote on a separate motion to legalize medical marijuana this June.
        The Canadian poll comes days after a Gallup poll found that 73 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana as a medicine.
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.  To read the results of previous medical marijuana polls, please visit the NORML website at: