Portland NORML News - Tuesday, December 2, 1997

NORML Weekly News Release (Researchers Tout Marijuana's Medical Benefit
As Pain Reliever At Annual Neuroscience Conference; British Doctors
Praise Marijuana's Medical Properties, Argue For Change In Law;
New Hampshire Legislator Prepares To Introduce Bills Allowing For Medical
Marijuana, Domestic Hemp Cultivation In 1998)

From: NORMLFNDTN@aol.com
Date: Tue, 2 Dec 1997 17:38:25 -0500 (EST)
Subject: NORML WPR 12/2/97 (I)

The NORML Foundation	
T 202-483-8751 o F 202-483-0057
Internet http://www.norml.org

. . . a weekly service for the media on news items related to marijuana

December 2, 1997

Researchers Tout Marijuana's Medical Benefit As Pain Reliever At Annual
Neuroscience Conference

December 2, 1997, Washington, D.C.: Several of the nation's top researchers
in pain management unveiled new evidence indicating that some of the active
chemicals found in marijuana may serve as safe and effective analgesics to
patients suffering from chronic or severe pain.

Scientists from the University of California at San Francisco, the
University of Texas, Brown University, and elsewhere presented their
findings at the 27th annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience on
October 26.

"Cannabinoids, at least in animal models, can reduce pain," said Dr. Ian
Meng, a pharmacology expert at the University of California at San
Francisco. Meng noted that the effectiveness of specific cannabinoids as
pain relieving agents appeared comparable to those of opiate-based drugs
like morphine. Researchers added that the use of cannabinoids like THC and
other chemical compounds found in marijuana did not appear to carry the
risks associated with the use of opiates, such as addiction and tolerance.
For example, a team of Brown University scientists reported that low doses
of cannabinoids were not pleasure reinforcing in animals, while high doses
were aversive -- causing animals to avoid the place where cannabinoids were

Researchers from the University of Texas reported that the localized
injection of anandamide -- a cannabinoid-like chemical present in the brain
-- greatly relieved the inflammation associated with arthritis. An
additional team of scientists from the University of Minnesota found that
certain cannabinoids can also block the onset of an extreme sensitivity to
pain called hyperalgesia, a condition often associated with nerve disease
and spinal cord injuries.

"These results suggest that local administration of ... cannabinoid[s] to
the site of injury may be able to both prevent pain from occurring and
reduce pain which has already occurred without producing side effects,"
University of Texas researcher Dr. Kenneth Hargreaves said.

NORML board member Dr. John Morgan of City University of New York (CUNY)
Medical School said that these latest findings may hold larger implications
for medical marijuana research. "Not only do the studies provide strong
support for the use of cannabinoids -- including THC -- as analgesic
medications, but they also demonstrate that cannabinoids are minimally
subject to misuse and dependence."

Many of the neuroscientists attending the annual conference agreed that
marijuana's apparent utility as a painkiller would broaden the drug's appeal
as a medicine. "People who have serious illnesses will take the steps they
feel they have to take," explained Brown University psychologist J. Michael
Walker. "Certainly the new research [presented at the conference] would
lead people in that direction."

NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. said that the findings
directly challenge the federal government's position that marijuana is
without medical value. "To continue to deny medical marijuana to seriously
ill patients in light of growing medical evidence of the drug's therapeutic
value is unjustified and inhumane," Stroup said.

Presently, federal law forbids the medical use of any cannabinoid other than

For more information, please contact either NORML board member Dr. John
Morgan @ (212) 650-8255 or Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

Abstracts of cannabinoid studies presented at the Society for Neuroscience
conference are available from The NORML Foundation upon request @ (202)


British Doctors Praise Marijuana's Medical Properties, Argue For Change In Law

December 2, 1997, London, England: The British Medical Association
announced its support for legal changes to allow for the legalization of
chemical compounds in marijuana found to have medical value. The BMA's
recommendations appeared in a comprehensive report published by the Board of
Science and Education entitled: "The Therapeutic Uses of Cannabis."

The 80-page review concluded that "present evidence indicates that
[cannabinoids -- active chemical compounds in marijuana] are remarkably safe
drugs, with a side-effects profile superior to many [conventional] drugs."
Consequently, the Association is urging that marijuana prohibition be lifted
to facilitate further cannabinoid research and to allow cannabinoids to be
prescribed to seriously ill patients.

"The Government should consider changing the Misuse of Drugs Act to allow
cannabinoids to be prescribed to patients with particular medical conditions
whose symptoms are being inadequately controlled under present
arrangements," a November 18, 1997, BMA press release stated.

The BMA further suggested that law enforcement take a lenient view of those
currently using marijuana for medicinal reasons. "While research is under
way, the police, the courts, and other prosecuting authorities should be
made aware of the medical reasons for the unlawful use of cannabis by those
suffering from certain medical conditions," the report stated.

Recommendations from the BMA traditionally springboard a drug into federal
acceptance. Presently, the BMA represents the interests of over 100,000
physicians worldwide.

For more information, please contact either Paul Armentano or Allen St.
Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.


New Hampshire Legislator Prepares To Introduce Bills Allowing For Medical
Marijuana, Domestic Hemp Cultivation In 1998

December 2, 1997, Keene, NH: State legislator Timothy Robertson (D -
Cheshire) intends to introduce legislation legalizing the use of marijuana
for medical and industrial purposes in 1998, the Associated Press reported
on Monday. Robertson previously backed a marijuana decriminalization bill
this spring.

"I just think prohibition doesn't work," Robertson told the AP. He said
that he believed the use of alcohol and tobacco cause greater societal harm
than marijuana.

Presently, New Hampshire is one of a handful of states that allow doctors to
prescribe marijuana for serious illnesses. However, because the law is in
direct conflict with federal restrictions prohibiting the use of marijuana
as a medicine, state-licensed physicians who prescribe the drug may face
federal penalties. In addition, the federal government does not presently
allow pharmacies to issue the drug. As a result, many legislators are now
examining ways to protect patients who may be using marijuana medicinally
from state criminal charges.

Robertson said that he hopes his legislation encourages politicians to
examine the medical marijuana issue. "When they hear the testimony, some of
it will stick in their head and what they think one year will change the
next year," he said.

Robertson said that he will also introduce legislation allowing
state-licensed farmers to cultivate hemp for industrial purposes. This
year, at least Legislatures discussed measures pertaining to the cultivation
of industrial hemp, the largest number since the federal government first
outlawed the plant in 1937. Often described as marijuana's misunderstood
cousin, industrial hemp is from the same plant species (Cannabis sativa)
that produces marijuana. Unlike marijuana, however, industrial hemp has
only minute amounts of THC, the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana
much of its euphoric and medicinal properties. Currently most of Europe and
Asia grow hemp for industrial purposes. Both Australia and Canada engage in
hemp cultivation for research purposes.

Robertson said that he anticipates the House's Environmental and Agriculture
Committee to approve the bill shortly after the Legislature begins on
January 1, 1998.

For more information, please contact Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.



Plea To Legalize Marijuana (Canadian AIDS Sufferer Plans Lawsuit
Against Ottawa For Medical Marijuana)

Date: Wed, 3 Dec 1997 12:57:35 -0500 (EST)
From: Roddy Heading 
To: Chris Donald 
cc: Carey Ker , matt list ,
Subject: Re: G&M story:? Finally Mention Ottawa RCMP vs Sick People debacle?

Globe and Mail (Toronto)

Plea To Legalize Marijuana

Health Canada's promise to consider marijuana as a medicine offers little
hope to people dying of aids says a man who intends to sue Ottawa over the
issue. Jim Wakefield appealed to Health Minister Allan Rock
yesterday asking him to help decriminalize the drug for medicinal use.


Medical Marijuana In Arizona And California ('Liberty' Online Magazine
Features NORML's Paul Armentano Discussing Feds' Attack On Voter Initiatives)

Date: Tue, 02 Dec 1997 09:23:28 -0800
From: Liberty Unbound 
Newsgroups: talk.politics.drugs
Subject: Medical Marijuana in Arizona and California

The January issue of Liberty magazine just hit a newsstand near
you...but Liberty Unbound is just a hyperlink away, and you can get a
glimpse of this issue's exciting articles.

A year after successful initiatives for medical marijuana in Arizona and
California, growers and patients are still not secure in their rights
from federal interference. Paul Armentano of the National Organization
for Reform of Marijuana Laws chronicles the government's campaign to
overturn legal medicinal marijuana.

Liberty Unbound can be found at http://www.libertysoft.com/liberty.


Jon Kalb
Webmaster, Liberty Unbound

Undercover Buy Busts 'Medical' Pot Club ('Honolulu Star-Bulletin' Reports
Hawaii Narcotics Enforcement Division Popped Unnamed 35-Year-Old Man
After Seeing Classified Ad In Unnamed Newspaper)

Date: Thu, 4 Dec 1997 12:57:15 EST
Subject: DND: US HI: Undercover Buy Busts 'Medical' Pot Club (fwd)
Subj: US HI: Undercover Buy Busts 'Medical' Pot Club
From: Don Topping
Date: Wed, 03 Dec 1997 07:23:07 -0500
Source: The Honolulu Star-Bulletin
Pubdate: December 2, 1997
Contact: editor@StarBulletin.com


About 10 grams of marijuana delivered to a state Narcotics Enforcement
Division undercover agent for $300 spelled the death knell for the Honolulu
Medical Marijuana Buyers Club.

State investigators arrested a 35-year-old man yesterday following a
three-week investigation, which involved responding to a classified
newspaper ad for a non-profit Medical Marijuana Buyers Club.

An undercover investigator also met with the suspect to discuss a purchase
Nov. 15. The investigator purchased five grams for $100, and the suspect
required the undercover investigator to disclose what his medical condition
was. The suspect advised the investigator his distribution of marijuana was
illegal and also said he has numerous clients belonging to his marijuana
buyers club.

The suspect was booked at the District Court cellblock yesterday, with bail
set at a total of $2,000 for two counts of promoting a dangerous drug.

Herbs To Kick Heroin (Britain's 'Financial Times' Reports Johns Hopkins
University in Baltimore Will Test Heantos, Made Up Of 13 Natural Products
Grown In Vietnam, Invented By Tran Khoung Dan - Advocates Claim
It Ends Dependency Within Five Days)

Subject: MN: Herbs to Kick Heroin
Sender: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org
Newshawk: Marcus-Mermelstein Family 
Article from "Financial Times" (London)
Dec. 2, 1997
Author: Khozem Merchant

Republished in World Press Review, February, 1998, p. 41


A Vietnamese herbal-based treatment for heroin addiction is about to be
tested in the U.S. Its advocates claim that it ends dependency on the drug
within five days. Heantos, made up of 13 natural products grown in Vietnam,
was invented by a Hanoi construction worker who says he was determined to
find a cure for an addiction that has brought great hardship to his family.

Since 1991,the Vietnamese government says, 4,000 heroin, opium, and cocaine
addicts have been successfully treated with Heantos, from the Greek meaning
"plant." The discovery has excited the government in Vietnam and the United
Nations Development Program (UNDP), which is investing $400,000 as seed
capital to fund tests of the treatment, The Vietnamese government is
contributing $100,000.

Heantos's advocates say it is a detoxification treatment to end dependency,
unlike Western drug substitutes such as methadone. Roy Morey, director of
the UNDP in Washington and a former UNDP head of mission in Hanoi, told a
congressional committee that "initial tests had demonstrated that Heantos
is effective against recidivism." He said the cost per patient was $70,
cheap compared with Western treatment.

The UNDP describes Heantos as an "interesting idea that deserves
encouragement." That may now come from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore,
which has agreed to conduct experiments on Heantos and establish a protocol
designed to meet international standards.

Johns Hopkins's participation is seen as a coup for the Hanoi government,
which seeks to win global recognition for Heantos as a prelude to
commercial exploitation. Scientists from Vietnam have presented their
research to the U.S. Congress and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA),
whose approval remains the ultimate target. Few Asian herbal-based
treatments for drug addiction have been exposed to the scrutiny of the FDA.
This is the first time U.S. and Vietnamese scientists have cooperated on
such a venture. The main operational tests will soon begin in the U.S. and
Vietnam and could cost between $3 million and $4 million over three years.

Hua Toan, director of Hanoi's Institute of Chemistry, which has been
leading the tests, says: "Heantos is a triumph for traditional medicine. It
is a good medication, and we are hopeful [for its use] in Vietnam--and

Yet there are serious doubts within the international scientific community.
Scientists are skeptical of the claims but agree that any drug that offers
some hope of curing heroin addiction should be investigated. The UNDP
mission in Hanoi admits that much of the evidence supporting the Vietnamese
government's claims is anecdotal and that without internationally
recognized clinical testing, commercial exploitation of Heantos may prove

An internal paper from the United Nations' World Health Organization
reflects these concerns. It states that "no controlled clinical trials
[were] ever conducted; no control human studies were conducted; no animal
safety data is available; and efficacy [was] based on clinical experience
and anecdotal reports of individual cases."

Edouard Wattez, head of the UNDP mission in Hanoi, says risks must be taken
in the battle against drugs, which in the U.S. alone gives rise to indirect
and direct costs of $70 billion to $80 billion annually. "If the UNDP does
not take the risk," he asks, "who will?"

Heantos's exact ingredients remain a secret known only to a select few led
by its inventor, Tran Khoung Dan. Dan sold his home and spent a decade
traveling to Thanh Hoa province in the Vietnamese uplands, where opium is
grown and where he became an addict. He says many opium growers are addicts
and have developed substitutes for use during poor harvests.

"ln Asia we have a philosophy of traditional medicines," says Dan. He
developed Heantos initially as a syrup; it is now available in capsule
form. Heantos is applied in two stages: first, to help abandon drug intake
within a week and second, after a month, to prevent a resumption of drug use.

Patients are treated at a clinic in Hanoi.Typical is Nguyen Van Son, 37, an
addict for two years, who took Heantos and is now recovered. He says three
powerful forces--the clinic, his mother, and his own
determination-coalesced around the new drug and ensured his successful
treatment. "My family and I were surprised. We thought it would just lead
to a reduction in dosage [of heroin consumption]," says Son, who has
resumed work at the family's scrap-iron business. "I tried other
treatments, but I suffered side effects. I tried Heantos a year ago and
have not suffered a relapse."




Comments, questions and suggestions.E-mail

Reporters and researchers are welcome at the world's largest online library of drug-policy information, sponsored by the Drug Reform Coordination Network at: http://www.druglibrary.org/

Back to the 1997 News page.

This URL: http://www.pdxnorml.org/120297.html