News Release

1001 Connecticut Ave, NW - Ste 710 - Washington, DC 20036
Tel. 202.483.8751 - Fax 202.483.0057 - E-mail - Internet

July 22, 1999

Congress Considers Lifting Ban On D.C. Medical Marijuana Vote

        July 22, 1999, Washington, D.C.:  A Congressional House Committee voted this week to remove a federal provision barring the D.C. Board of Elections from counting the results of last November's medical marijuana initiative.
     "This is thrilling; it's a triumph for democracy," said ACT-UP's Wayne Turner, who coordinated the initiative.  "This is an issue of creating access for people who are dying of serious illnesses."
     Exit polls indicate that nearly 70 percent of District voters approved Initiative 57, which legalizes the possession and cultivation of medical marijuana under a doctor's supervision.  However, District officials withheld the vote results because an amendment by Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.) to D.C.'s 1999 Appropriation Act prohibits them from spending funds on any measure that reduces marijuana penalties.  City election officials estimated it will cost about $1.30 to push a computer button to tabulate the results electronically.
     "Congress, and Bob Barr specifically, have held democracy hostage for eight months," NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. said.  "By voting to lift this tyrannical restriction, the House Appropriations Committee has stood up for the rights of D.C.'s voters and the seriously ill."
     The House will likely vote next week on the D.C. appropriations bill, and Republicans may attempt to re-insert the Barr amendment then.  If the budget bill passes without the medical marijuana ban, Congress may still overturn the initiative within 30 days after it becomes District law.
     For more information, please contact Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

Hawaii: Gov. Signs Hemp Cultivation Bill, Legislators Anticipate Fall Planting

        July 22, Honolulu, HI:  Governor Ben Cayetano (D) signed legislation this month authorizing hemp cultivation for research purposes.
     "This law is the result of years of hard work from state activists and legislators dedicated toward making hemp a legal cash crop in Hawaii," NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. said.
     Hawaii is the third state this year to pass legislation allowing for hemp cultivation.  In April, North Dakota became the first state in over 50 years to make hemp farming a non-criminal offense.
     House Bill 32 permits "privately funded ... research on the agronomic potential of industrial hemp."  Bill sponsor Rep. Cynthia Thielen (R-Kailua) said that researchers will request state and federal permit applications shortly, and anticipates an initial fall planting.  Test plots will be grown on a plot of land at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
     Alterna Applied Research Laboratories, a California company that markets hemp-based hair products, is investing $200,000 to help finance the cultivation project.  The Alterna grant will help pay for geneticist Dr. David West, co-founder of the North American Industrial Hemp Council and author of the report "Hemp and Marijuana: Myths and Realities," to develop a hemp seed ideal for Hawaii's climate and environment.
"This first crop is just a political act," he said.  West added that regulators will have to expand the cultivation trials statewide to better ascertain hemp's viability as a cash crop.
     For more information, please contact Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

Canada: Addictions Specialist Backs Medical Marijuana

        July 22, 1999, Calgary, Alberta:  The founding president of the International Society for Addiction Medicine backs the use of marijuana as a medicine, The Calgary Herald reported.
     "Doctors, nurses, and patients know that medical marijuana works," NORML Foundation Executive Director Allen St. Pierre said.  "It remains only politicians and law enforcement who oppose allowing seriously ill patients access to this often-times lifesaving medicine."
     ISAM head Dr. Nady el Guebaly said that he supports Health Canada's recent efforts to allow patients limited access to medical marijuana in clinical trials.  Guebaly said that marijuana should be used medicinally under a doctor's supervision.  Ideally, he said that patients should only use marijuana on a short-term basis to prevent against risks inherent to smoking.
     Guebaly's recommendations echo those of the Institute of Medicine, which in March endorsed granting some seriously ill patients temporary access to smoked marijuana.
     Dozens of international medical societies, including the American Public Health Association, the Australian Medical Association, the Federation of American Scientists, and the AIDS Action Council, support legalizing medical marijuana.
     For more information, please contact Paul Armentano or Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.  A directory of medical organizations supportive of medical marijuana is available on NORML's website at: <>.

Drug Czar Attacks Calif. Medical Marijuana Task Force Recommendations, Bill

        July 22, 1999, Washington, D.C.:  The White House Drug Czar lashed out this week at pending California legislation that would register medical marijuana users.
     "No one elected General Barry McCaffrey to run California drug policy, but he keeps trying to do it," charged Bill Zimmerman, head of Americans for Medical Rights.  "[He] failed to convince the voters of California to defeat Prop. 215, he failed to convince voters in four other states to defeat similar initiatives, and he deserves to fall now in his effort to ride roughshod over elected officials to defeat responsible legislation."
     Senate Bill 848 seeks to implement recommendations of the "Attorney General's Task Force on Medical Marijuana" that would allow the state to issue ID cards to qualified patients and caregivers.  Persons holding the cards would be immune from arrest under state law for the possession, transportation, delivery, or cultivation of medical marijuana.  The Assembly Health Committee recently passed the measure by a 9 to 3 vote, but Gov. Gray Davis (D) announced that he may veto the bill.
     McCaffrey said that the "continued strict regulation of cannabis as a Schedule I drug is essential" in a press release opposing the California bill.
     For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre or The NORML Foundation or Dave Fratello of Americans for Medical Rights @ (310) 394-2952.