News Release

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June 10, 1999

Health Canada Authorizes Patients To Use Medical Marijuana,
Announces Plan To Grow Pot For Medical Research

        June 10, 1999, Ottawa, Ontario:  Health Minister Allan Rock announced yesterday that the government has authorized two patients to legally grow and possess marijuana for medical purposes.  The agency also declared that they are developing a business plan for the creation of a government-approved farm to supply domestically grown marijuana for human patient trials.
        "This is a significant breakthrough in the drive to make marijuana available to seriously ill patients in Canada," NORML Foundation Executive Director Allen St. Pierre said.  "This announcement surely puts pressure on U.S. government officials to adopt a more compassionate stance on this issue."
        The House of Commons approved a motion late last month urging Health Canada to "take steps" toward approving the limited use of marijuana.  Yesterday the agency issued guidelines for a series of upcoming medical marijuana clinical trials as well as plans to grow and import the drug for medical purposes.
        "Moving forward on a research plan that includes establishing a quality Canadian supply of medicinal marijuana and a process to access it, is significant," Rock said.  "The plan reflects compassion and will also help build the evidence base needed regarding the use of marijuana for medical purposes."
        Rock said that he intends to import medical marijuana from the United States' National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to use in the initial trials.  Patients will smoke marijuana short-term in those studies, he said.
        Patients in later trials will use marijuana extracts and non-smoked forms of the drug, the agency guidelines state.
        Health Canada also announced that it had granted two patients permission to use marijuana for their own personal medical use.   One of the patients, Jean Charles Pariseau, who uses marijuana to combat the effects of nausea and the AIDS wasting syndrome, said that he was "more than happy" with Health Canada's historic decision.  "If you gave me a choice between a million dollars and [this] announcement, I would choose the announcement," he said.
        Rock said that 30 additional patients are awaiting permission from Health Canada to use marijuana.  The agency said that they intend to review those requests within "15 working days."
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.  To download a copy of Health Canada's medical marijuana research plans, please visit: <>.

Georgia DUI Law Targeting Marijuana Smokers Found Unconstitutional

        June 10, 1999, Atlanta, GA:  A state statute criminalizing recreational marijuana smokers who drive with trace levels of nonpsychoactive metabolites in their system is unconstitutional because it exempts medical marijuana users from prosecution, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled.
        The Court unanimously found that the law violates constitutional equal protection rights by exempting prescription users of the drug even though the drug's effects are the same for recreational users.  "We are unable to hold that the legislative distinction between sanctioned and unsanctioned users of marijuana is directly related to the public safety purpose of the legislation," Chief Justice Robert Benham determined.  "We conclude that the distinction is arbitrarily drawn, and the statute is an unconditional denial of equal protection."
        Georgia is one of several states that allow patients to legally use marijuana if they are participating in a state research program.   The program, which distributed marijuana cigarettes to cancer patients in the early 1980s, is now dormant.
        The Court found no equal protection problem with the fact that the law penalized unimpaired drivers with traces of marijuana metabolites in their system because it served a legitimate state interest.  "We conclude that a statute which makes it unlawful to drive while marijuana residue is circulating in the driver's body fluids bears a rational relationship to a legitimate state purpose -- protection of the public," it determined.
        Marijuana metabolites, nonpsychoactive compounds produced from chemical changes of the drug in the body, are detectable by urinalysis for days or even weeks after past consumption.  The presence of marijuana metabolites on a drug test does not indicate impairment, frequency, recency, or amount of drug use.
        NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. questioned the Court's reasoning.  "While the outcome is laudable, we were disappointed the Court held that unimpaired drivers who test positive for trace amounts of marijuana metabolites may be treated differently than other unimpaired drivers," he said.
        Several states have laws allowing police to charge individuals with driving under the influence if a drug test detects any amount of drug metabolites in a person's bodily fluids.
        For more information, please contact Keith Stroup of NORML @ (202) 483-5500 or David Clark, Esq., who handled the case, @ (770) 338-2338.  A summary of the decision, Love v. State, is available online at: <>.

UK Drug Czar Says Marijuana Can Help Patients

        June 10, 1999, London, England:  The United Kingdom's Drug Czar, Keith Hellawell, told BBC News Online Wednesday that he supports the use of medical marijuana.
        "I support the use of cannabis on medical grounds," he said.  "I also have a great deal of sympathy because I've met a lot of people who have got genuine illnesses and feel that this substance can help them."
        Hellawell said that does not think marijuana should be available by prescription until more clinical trials are completed, but said that England is "leading research" in this field.
        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 Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.