News Release

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May 25, 1999

Policy Change May Allow For Non-Government Funded
Medical Marijuana Research

        May 25, 1999, Washington, D.C.:  Department of Health and Human Services officials announced new regulations Friday that may allow researchers access to medical marijuana for non-federally funded research.  The policy change, scheduled to take effect on December 1, 1999, adopts recommendations of a 1997 National Institutes of Health (NIH) panel that urged officials to supply medical marijuana for non-NIH funded research.
        "This is a step in the right direction," NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. said.  "But it is also further evidence that the wheels of change grind exceedingly slowly for medical marijuana reform."
        Health officials said that the new policy will facilitate medical marijuana clinical trials.  "The goal of this program must be to determine whether cannabinoid components of marijuana administered through an alternative delivery system can meet the standards enumerated under the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act for commercial marketing of a medical product," the guidelines state.
        Present NIH policy allows only those funded by the agency to use marijuana for research purposes.
        Under the new guidelines, non-NIH funded researchers must still submit their protocol to institutional peer review, secure a DEA registration to conduct marijuana research, reimburse the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) for the cost of the marijuana, and gain NIH approval for their study. Researchers who wish to conduct human trials must also proceed through the FDA process for filing an Investigational New Drug (IND) application.
        Stroup cautioned that the new policy offers little hope for individual patients wishing to gain legal access to the government's supply of medical marijuana.  "Despite recommendations from the Institute of Medicine to allow single patient medical marijuana trials, the NIH guidelines rebuff any efforts to allow individual patients access to the drug," he said.
        The regulations stipulate that "single-patient requests for marijuana ... would not ... be supported under this program."  In March, the IOM advised the government to treat medical marijuana patients with chronic conditions as "n-of-1 clinical trials, in which patients are fully informed of their status as experimental subjects ... and in which their condition is closely monitored a documented under medical supervision."
        "Federal officials are selectively implementing those recommendations from the IOM and NIH that pose little threat to medical marijuana prohibition, while ignoring any findings that challenge current federal policy," Stroup concluded.
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.  The NIH guidelines are available online at: <>.

American Drivers Association Campaigns Against Traffic Searches

        May 25, 1999, Dallas, TX:  A national truck drivers association is funding billboards to warn drivers about consenting to roadside searches by police.
        "Our members are like most people; they don't know they have a constitutional right to say 'no' when an officer asks to search" their vehicle, said American Drivers Association (ADA) President J.D. Davis, whose association represents 86,000 members.
        The ADA recently paid for a billboard along Interstate 20 in Texas that reads: "Just say no to vehicle searches.  Protecting your rights.  American Drivers Association."
        Davis said he hopes to erect billboards on every Texas interstate by year's end.
        Police may only search a vehicle if they have the driver's permission or probable cause to believe a crime is being committed; however, many drivers are unaware that they may legally refuse an officer's request.
        Last year, police confiscated 21 tons of marijuana during almost 11,000 vehicle searches in Texas, the Dallas Morning News reported.
        For more information, please contact NORML Litigation Director Tom Dean @ (202) 483-8751.

Californian With Pot Prescription Convicted By Feds For Cultivation

        May 25, 1999, Sacramento, CA:  A federal jury convicted a California resident on marijuana cultivation charges after a judge ruled that the defendant's medically supervised use of the drug did not protect him from federal prosecution.
        "It is a sad day when the federal government elects to prosecute a patient who clearly qualifies for the medical use of marijuana under state law," NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. said.   "It is unconscionable to treat seriously ill patients as criminals, even if federal law permits it."
        A jury found patient B.E. Smith guilty on marijuana possession and cultivation charges for planting an 87-plant garden in 1997.   Smith, who possessed a doctor's recommendation to use marijuana, notified state and local authorities that he was growing marijuana for medical use.  State authorities declined to prosecute Smith because of his apparent compliance with Proposition 215, the state's medical marijuana law, but federal prosecutors pursued the case.
        U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell, Jr. ruled before the trial that California's law legalizing medical marijuana could not shield Smith from federal prosecution.  Smith is the first California patient convicted in federal court since the passage of Prop. 215.
        Smith's attorneys said they will appeal the ruling to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
        For more information, please contact NORML Litigation Director Tom Dean @ (202) 483-8751.

Arizonans 2 to 1 Back Pot By Prescription

        May 25, 1999, Phoenix, AZ:  A majority of Arizonans oppose a federal policy that punishes doctors who prescribe marijuana.
        "Arizonans, like Americans everywhere, want the federal government to stop prohibiting access to medical marijuana," NORML Foundation Executive Director Allen St. Pierre said.  He noted that Arizonans voted on two consecutive occasions to allow doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to patients.
        The statewide survey showed 66 percent of respondents opposed federal sanctions for doctors who approve marijuana therapy.   Federal law permits justice department officials to revoke the license of doctors who prescribe marijuana, regardless of state law, but constitutional protections allow physicians to discuss medical marijuana with their patients.
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.  To view the results of previous medical marijuana polls, please visit: <>.