News Release

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June 3, 1999

Canada's House Declares Support For Medical Marijuana

        June 3, 1999, Ottawa, Ontario:  Canada's House of Commons passed a motion last week urging the government to "take steps" toward approving the limited use of medical marijuana.
        Members of Parliament approved the measure, M-381, as amended, by a 204-29 vote.  The revised motion implores health officials to develop guidelines for the medical use of marijuana, including the establishment of clinical trials and a legal supply.
        Health Minister Allan Rock says that his office is already exploring the issue.
        MP Bernard Bigras (Bloc Quebecois-Rosemont), who sponsored the bill, said that its passage "ensure[s] that the government keeps its word on this question."  Bigras has repeatedly criticized Rock for his failure to follow through on promises to introduce regulations allowing patients legal access to medical marijuana.
        Bigras' motion originally proposed the government to undertake "all necessary steps to legalize the use of marijuana for health and medical purposes."  Bloc Party members opposed amending it, but eventually voted for the watered down version to put the House on record in support of medical marijuana.  Bigras emphasized that he still favors making medical marijuana available to some patients before the completion of new clinical trials.
        "I'm sure I'll have seriously ill people coming up to me in coming days, saying these [upcoming] clinical trials won't give them access to marijuana for three years, so what we're saying is we favor clinical tests but we [also] need immediate access to the drug," Bigras said.
        Rock said he will announce details of the impending trials this month.  His office has already received 26 formal requests from patients seeking legal access to the drug.
        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.

Florida High Court Dismisses State's Challenge To Medical Marijuana
Necessity Defense

        June 3, 1999, Tallahassee, FL:  The Florida Supreme Court let stand today a decision allowing seriously ill patients to raise the defense of "medical necessity" against criminal prosecution if they are using marijuana medicinally.
        "This is a pivotal decision for the thousands of patients in Florida who need marijuana to relieve pain and suffering," said NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq.  "Without the protection offered by this defense, patients would be subject to harsh jail sentences for using the only medicine that helps them."
        The Court dismissed a petition by the state to overturn an appeals court ruling affirming the defense. Florida courts had previously exempted glaucoma and AIDS patients from criminal prosecution because they demonstrated a bona fide medical need to use marijuana.
        The defendant in this case, George Sowell, cultivated marijuana to treat glaucoma and combat nausea.  NORML Legal Committee member Grant Shostak of St. Louis, Missouri, filed an amicus curaie brief for The NORML Foundation in support of Sowell.
        For more information, please contact Grant Shostak of the NORML Legal Committee @ (314) 725-3200 or R. Keith Stroup, Esq. of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

NIDA Solicits Would Be Pot Farmers For Marijuana Research Projects

        June 3, 1999, Washington, D.C.:  The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is seeking "qualified organizations" to grow, harvest, and supply marijuana for clinical research, according to an announcement posted on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) website.  NIDA oversees a marijuana farm at the University of Mississippi at Oxford and is the only legal U.S. producer of marijuana for research purposes.
        "NIDA's 25 year stranglehold on marijuana research may be loosening," NORML Foundation Executive Director Allen St. Pierre said.  "For too long, NIDA has hand-picked its marijuana research protocols and researchers, which have consistently been anti-marijuana."
        The NIDA announcement states that organizations wishing to grow marijuana "must possess the necessary field or growing facility, laboratory space, instrumentation and experience to conduct the work."  The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) must approve security for the facility, and register researchers to handle the drug.
        NIDA will accept proposals from interested parties until August.
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.  NIDA's guidelines for marijuana production appear online at: <>.

England: Nearly 100 MPs Support Bill To Legalize Medical Marijuana

        June 3, 1999, London, England:  Ninety-five House members have signed on to a motion to legalize the medical use of marijuana.  The record showing of support steps up pressure on the government to allow physicians to prescribe marijuana to seriously ill patients.
        "Public opinion is overwhelmingly in favor of this change," bill sponsor MP Paul Flynn (Labour-Newport West) said.  "I believe the government has accepted the principle that cannabis will one day be authorized.  The only question is 'When?'  In the meantime, my bill should be accepted and the cruel, wasteful persecution and jailing of seriously ill people should end."
        Flynn's motion states: "This House deplores the continuing criminalization of thousands of otherwise law abiding people who use cannabis medicinally to relieve chronic pain and distress caused by multiple sclerosis, AIDS and the side effects of chemotherapy; and supports the simple change in the law recommended by the House of Lords Select Committee on Science to allow a limited number of doctors to prescribe cannabis to named patients in the same way that millions of other prescriptions are now dispensed."
        The House of Commons is scheduled to debate the bill on Friday, June 11.
        In November, a House of Lords panel recommended legalizing the use of marijuana by prescription after completing a one year inquiry on the subject.  However, government officials immediately rejected the findings, and said that Parliament will not change the law until more research is completed.  Human trials regarding inhaled marijuana's medical value in the treatment of multiple sclerosis and chronic pain began this year.
        For more information, please contact R. Keith Stroup, Esq. of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.  A listing of motion co-sponsors is available online at: <>.