News Release

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May 13, 1999

Long-Term Marijuana Smoking Doesn't Impact Cognition,
Study Says

        May 13, 1999, Baltimore, MD:  Long-term use of marijuana does not lead to a decline in mental function, according to the results of a large-scale John Hopkins University study.
        "There is no convincing evidence that [even] heavy long-term marijuana use impairs memory or other cognitive functions," said NORML board member Dr. John P. Morgan of City University of New York (CUNY)
Medical School.  "During the past 30 years, researchers have found, at most, minor cognitive differences between chronic marijuana users and nonusers, and the results differ substantially from one study to another."
        The most recent John Hopkins study examined marijuana's effects on cognition on 1,318 participants over a 15 year period.   Researchers gave subjects specialized tests, called Mini-Mental State Examinations (MMSE), in 1981 and 1982.  Subjects took follow-up MMSE tests 12 to 15 years later and scientists measured rates of cognitive decline among marijuana smokers and nonsmokers.
        Researchers reported "no significant differences in cognitive decline between heavy users, light users, and nonusers of cannabis."  They also found "no male-female differences in cognitive decline in relation to cannabis.
        "These results ... seem to provide strong evidence of the absence of a long-term residual effect of cannabis use on cognition," they concluded.
        The study is the first to investigate the long term effects of marijuana on cognition in a large epidemiological sample.
        Researchers did conclude that cognition declines over long time periods in all age groups, but found this decline "closely associated with aging and educational level, [and] ... not ... associated with cannabis use."
        The study appears in the May 1, 1999, issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.
        For more information, please contact John P. Morgan of CUNY Medical School @ (212) 650-8255 or Allen St. Pierre @ (202) 483-8751.   To read an abstract of this study online, please visit: <>.

Medical Marijuana Patient Exempt From Criminal Prosecution,
Canadian Appellate Court Rules

        May 13, 1999, Toronto, Ontario:  An AIDS patient awaiting permission from the government to use marijuana may smoke it legally in the interim, according to a ruling this week by the Ontario Superior Court.  The judge granted AIDS activist Jim Wakeford a "constitutional exemption" from criminal prosecution under Canada's drug laws so he may possess and grow medical marijuana without having to "fear being treated like a common criminal."
        "This decision shows that a court would be willing to provide constitutional remedies if the government is unwilling to help" medical marijuana patients, said Wakeford's attorney, Prof. Alan Young.   "Anybody who is in a similar situation to Jim's could apply for a constitutional exemption while the government scrambles to figure out its marijuana policy."
        Wakeford filed a civil suit against Parliament last year asking the court to exempt him from criminal marijuana penalties.  Justice Harry LaForme dismissed his demand, noting that Wakeford could request a special exemption to use medical marijuana from the Ministry of Health.  Wakeford, along with 19 other patients, placed requests, but Justice Department lawyers admitted that the Health Ministry only adopted preliminary guidelines this week to review the applications.   They testified that they did not know when the Health Ministry might approve Wakeford.
        Judge LaForme called Wakeford a "bona fide" medical marijuana user, and ruled he should not face arrest or prosecution for his marijuana use while officials review his application.
        Young said that the Court's ruling could influence Parliament to "accelerate" its medical marijuana application process.   Government officials now know that the courts "will intervene if they don't take action," he said.
        Health Minister Allan Rock said the Justice Department will not appeal the ruling.
        Presently, Parliament has one bill before them that seeks to legalize medical marijuana.  They are scheduled to vote on the legislation, M-381, in June.
        For more information, please contact R. Keith Stroup, Esq. of NORML @ (202) 483-5500 or attorney Alan Young of Osgoode Hall Law School @ (416) 736-5595.

U.K. Government To Subsidize Hemp Housing

        May 13, 1999, Bury St. Edmunds, England:  England's government is getting into the hemp housing business.  The Housing Corporation, a government agency that develops low-cost housing, will spend more than $150,000 building two homes out of compressed hemp fiber, the Financial Times reported Wednesday.
        "Hemp composites, including paneling and fiberboard, comprise one of the fastest growing segments of the wood products industry," NORML Foundation Executive Director Allen St. Pierre said.  He noted that several European countries, including France and Germany, already use hemp hurds in housing construction.
        The Housing Corporation will construct the homes using a method popularized in France that secures a mix of hemp and hydraulic lime on a timber frame.
        Many companies are exploring the use of hemp as a building material because it provides significant thermal and sound insulation, is fire repellent, and recyclable.
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751 or NORML board member Don Wirtshafter of The Ohio Hempery @ (740) 662-4367.

Police May Not Detain Passenger During Traffic Stop,
Florida Appellate Court Rules

        May 13, 1999, Palm Beach, FL:  Police officers may not arbitrarily prevent passengers from leaving a vehicle during a routine traffic stop, the Florida District Court of Appeals ruled last week.  The unanimous decision reversed a lower court's denial of a motion to suppress evidence found during a search of passenger Jeff Wilson.  Wilson later pled guilty to possession of marijuana, cocaine, and drug paraphernalia.
        "A command preventing an innocent passenger from leaving the scene of a traffic stop to continue on his independent way is an ... unreasonable interference ... on personal liberty ... [and] the freedom of movement," the Court ruled.  "A wholly innocent passenger should have the right to choose whether to continue on with his business or return to the vehicle by his driver-companion's side."
        NORML Foundation Litigation Director Tom Dean praised the decision.  "The court correctly held that without reasonable suspicion that a passenger is involved in criminal activity or presents a threat to an officer's safety, police lack authority to interfere with his or her liberty and privacy," he said.
        For more information, please contact NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. or Tom Dean of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.