News Release

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August 12, 1999

MT NORML Files Suit On Killer Fungus Research

        Aug. 12, 1999, Missoula, MT:  A civil rights lawsuit has been filed by Montana NORML against Montana State University at Bozeman to retrieve all documents possessed by researchers there on the development of a mutant fungus that would destroy all plants in the cannabis family.
        "I think Montanans and indeed all Americans will be shocked to hear that a crop-killing fungus is being genetically engineered and tested in our communities," said Montana NORML Director John Masterson.  "What's particularly abhorrent about the cannabis-killing manufactured organism being created in a Montana laboratory is the fact that the Montana House of Representatives just passed a pro-industrial hemp resolution with a 95-4 vote."
        The fungus, known as fusarium oxysporum, is of the same strain that Florida state drug czar Jim McDonough wishes to use in his state to eradicate cannabis plants, despite claims that the fungus could be harmful to the environment.
        "This 'Jurassic Park' idea that the mutant fungus will simply go away after it has rid the United States of cannabis is contrary to all we know about biology and evolution," said Tom Dean, Esq., NORML Foundation Litigation Director.  "What will prevent the fungus from spreading to other countries where industrial hemp is an essential part of their economy?  How do we stop the fungus from evolving into a tomato or wheat killer?"
        For more information, please contact Tom Dean, Esq., Litigation Director @ (202) 483-8751, John Masterson of Montana NORML @ (406) 542-8696, or Allen Lee, Esq., (406) 549-0459.

Drug-testing Patch Provides Questionable Results

        August 12, 1999, Los Angeles, CA:  The reliability of a drug-testing patch worn primarily by federal probationers and parolees across the country has come into question due to conflicting studies and drug tests.
        The patch detects drug use through the wearer's perspiration, but in some cases provides false-positive results.  Preliminary research conducted by the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC, indicate that the patches are testing positive for drugs that the wearer did not ingest and that they can show a positive result from drug traces that linger in upholstery, clothing or money.
        Defense lawyers in northern California have begun compiling a list of dozens of people who failed the patch test, yet had clean urine and hair tests.
        Neil Fortner, the expert witness used by PharmChem, the developers of the patch, has successfully convinced courts nationwide that the patch is trustworthy.  Recent information published by the LA Weekly Online ( calls into question
his academic credentials and the ethical ramifications of serving as PharmChem's expert witness while also being a substantial stockholder in the company.
        "America's court system shouldn't be bushwhacked by either pseudo-science or it's practitioners," said NORML Foundation Executive Director Allen St. Pierre.  "Even worse, PharmChem wants to expand patch testing to the general workforce.  Employers would be able to monitor their workers 24 hours a day."
        For more information contact Allen St. Pierre of the NORML Foundation @ (202)483-8751.

California Medical User Sentenced To Prison By Federal Court

        Aug. 12, 1999, Sacramento, CA:  The protection afforded patients under California's Proposition 215 proved useless as a defense against federal marijuana cultivation and possession charges, as B.E. Smith received a sentence of 27 months in a federal prison.  Smith is the first California medical marijuana patient to be prosecuted under federal law since California voters passed Prop. 215 in 1996.
        Smith, a Vietnam veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, claimed his 87 plant marijuana crop was for his medical use and thus protected under state law.  He notified state and federal authorities that he was growing the plants.  When state authorities declined to bring charges, the federal prosecutor initiated prosecution.
        Early in the trial, U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. granted a motion by the prosecutor to ban any defense testimony regarding either state law or the medical properties of marijuana.  At sentencing Judge Burrell handed down a sentence of 27 months in prison, the top of federal sentencing guidelines range, citing what he called Smith's "utter disdain for federal marijuana law."
        Smith said, "He (Burrell) has blamed me for the 'great evil' that marijuana causes throughout our nation but he forgets or ignores the great medical value that even the federal government's own research shows can be gained from the proper use of medical marijuana, prescribed by competent medical doctors for a wide variety of illnesses, and for which there is no other known treatment."
        NORML Executive Director Keith Stroup said the case "broke no new legal ground."
        "We have always known that Prop. 15 changed state law, not federal law," he said.  "But it is a sad day when the federal government ignores the will of the citizens of California by prosecuting medical users."
        For more information, please contact Keith Stroup of NORML @ (202) 483-5500 or David Michael, Esq., @ (415) 986-5591.

Amendment To 'Meth Bill' Would Censor Marijuana Information On Internet

        Aug. 12, 1999, Washington, DC:  A wide variety of information available in books and on the Internet about how to grow or use medicinal marijuana as well as other drug-related information could be deemed illegal if a proposed bill is passed by the U.S. Congress.
        The Defeat Meth Act (S. 486) sponsored by John Ashcroft (R-MO), which includes harsher penalties for the production, distribution, and possession of methamphetimines, was amended on Aug. 5 in the Senate Judiciary Committee to include sweeping provisions to ban the distribution of information relating to the manufacture or use of controlled substances.  The amendment, offered by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), would make it a 10-year felony to "distribute by any means information pertaining to...the manufacture or use of a controlled substance, knowing that such person intends to use the ... information ... in an activity that constitutes a Federal crime."
        Additional language in the bill includes a ban on direct and indirect paraphernalia advertising via the Internet and requires anti-drug messages on government web sites.
        For more information, please contact Keith Stroup of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.