Portland NORML News - Thursday, December 11, 1997

NORML Weekly News Release (AMA Okays Doctor's Right To Discuss
Medical Marijuana With Patients, Urges Federal Government To Undertake
Research; Key West Medical Marijuana Club Founder Freed After Judge Okays
First Ever 'Medical Necessity Distribution Defense'; Marijuana Users Report
Few Health, Social, Or Legal Problems, Study Shows; French Health Minister
Favors Legalizing Medical Marijuana)


The NORML Foundation
T 202-483-8751  F 202-483-0057  E-MAIL NORMLFNDTN@AOL.COM
Internet http://www.norml.org/

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

December 11, 1997

AMA Okays Doctor's Right To Discuss Medical Marijuana With
Patients, Urges Federal Government To Undertake Research

December 11, 1997, Dallas, TX: The American Medical Association
(AMA) backed a doctor's right to discuss marijuana therapy with a patient,
and urged the federal government to facilitate medical marijuana research
studies, at a Tuesday policy-making meeting in Dallas.

"The AMA believes that effective patient care requires the free and
unfettered exchange of information on treatment alternatives and that
discussion of these alternatives between physicians and patients should not
subject either party to criminal sanctions," the House of Delegates
resolved. Earlier this year, federal officials threatened to arrest
physicians who recommended the use of marijuana to seriously ill patients
under state law.

The AMA delegates also urged the federal government to provide
"sufficient funding" for clinical research on medical marijuana, and
"access for qualified investigators to adequate supplies of marijuana" for
the studies. This recommendation parallels a conclusion reached by a
National Institute of Health (NIH) working group in August.

Throughout the mid 1990's, many medical marijuana proponents have
criticized the federal government for blocking research to better determine
marijuana's medical value. A 1992 proposal comparing the effectiveness of
inhaled marijuana with that of synthetic THC as a treatment for the weight
loss associated with the AIDS wasting syndrome was rejected on three
separate occasions by federal officials. NIH finally approved a revised
version of the protocol in 1997, but only after researchers agreed to focus
on determining the potential short-term harmful effects of marijuana on
HIV-positive patients. Similarly, two recent state proposals submitted by
the Massachusetts and Washington state boards of health regarding
medical marijuana research have been delayed indefinitely while awaiting
federal approval. Earlier this year, NIH officials rejected a scientific proposal
submitted by a team of researchers from the Western Montana Clinic in
Missoula to examine the use of marijuana in acute migraine treatment.

"Hopefully, the AMA's call for medical marijuana research will not
go unheard by those in Washington currently impeding such studies from
taking place," NORML Foundation Executive Director Allen St. Pierre said.

The AMA Council on Scientific Affairs also released a report on
Tuesday acknowledging that scientific clinical data exists demonstrating
marijuana's medical utility in the treatment of serious diseases like AIDS
wasting syndrome and spasticity disorders. However, a member of the
AMA's board of trustees, John Nelson, said that the organization does not
expect to advocate the legalization of medical marijuana until additional
clinical research is conducted.

"If [marijuana's medical value] was ever proven [conclusively], we
would be vocal in trying to change the law," Nelson said.

Besides the AMA, national and international medical groups such as
the British Medical Association, the American Cancer Society, the American
Public Health Association, the Federation of American Scientists, and the
California Medical Association have recently called for substantive
scientific studies on marijuana's medical properties.

For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or
Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751. A listing of
organizations favoring medical marijuana research and/or access is
available from The NORML Foundation upon request.


Key West Medical Marijuana Club Founder Freed After Judge Okays First Ever
"Medical Necessity Distribution Defense"

December 11, 1997, Key West, FL: Local prosecutors dropped felony
marijuana charges against the founder of a club that distributed medical
marijuana to seriously ill patients after a judge agreed to allow testimony
that the defendant's marijuana sales were motivated by the "medical
necessity" of his customers.

Zvi Baranoff, who ran the medical marijuana club for over one year,
called the outcome a major victory. "We have set something of a
precedent," he said, referring to Judge Richard Payne's unique ruling last
September allowing Baranoff's attorney -- NORML Legal Committee Member Norm
Kent -- to argue a defense of "medical necessity distribution." Payne
also agreed that Baranoff did not have "criminal intent" in distributing
marijuana to seriously ill patients.

Last week, the State Attorney's Office decided to settle Baranoff's
case out of court. Baranoff agreed to serve 18 months probation.

"It has been clearly recognized that marijuana is a medicine, and
that people who need it should have it," Baranoff said. "[My case] is on
the public record so that others can use it."

Legal analysts claim that Judge Payne's decision was the first time
a court acknowledged that marijuana sales could be a "medical necessity"
for the ill.

For more information, please contact either the Medical Cannabis
Advocates @ (305) 293-0190 or Attorney Norm Kent @ (954) 763-1900.


Marijuana Users Report Few Health, Social, Or Legal Problems, Study Shows

December 11, 1997, Paris, France: The overwhelming majority of
marijuana users lead healthy and responsible lives, according to the
results of a nationwide French survey. The findings appeared on Friday in
the French daily Le Monde.

Users of marijuana "demand little health care, are [seldom]
stigmatized, and have few encounters with the police," concluded the study
by the Paris-based Institute for Research into the Epidemiology of

Researchers also reported that users carefully manage their
consumption of marijuana. "The subjects generally do not smoke anywhere
[or at] anytime, and ... seem to know their limit and adjust their
consumption if necessary," researchers concluded. It was also noted that
most marijuana
smokers avoid driving if they have recently consumed marijuana.

The full study will be released later this month.

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


French Health Minister Favors Legalizing Medical Marijuana

December 11, 1997, Paris, France: French Minister of Health,
Bernard Koucher, endorsed efforts to legalize marijuana for medicinal
purposes, according to a recent article in the English newspaper
Independent on Sunday.

The London news weekly reported the official stating, "Obviously,
it should be possible to prescribe [cannabis.] For a doctor, that could be
a real benefit." Koucher is the third member of the present French
government in recent months to express a favorable opinion toward
marijuana-law reform.

Medical marijuana will be one of several drug-related topics
debated at a national health conference in Paris next Friday and Saturday.

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


Solving South Carolina's Welfare Problem (State Trains Welfare Recipients
To Be Prison Guards)

Date: Thu, 11 Dec 1997 14:35:38 EST
From: Carmen Yarrusso USG (yarrusso@zk3.dec.com)
To: Multiple recipients of list (drctalk@drcnet.org)
Subject: Art. WSJ, Solving SC's welfare problem

Since the prison population has gone up 30% in the last few years, SC is
training welfare recipients to be jail guards. Killing two birds with one
stone? What irony! Now the women who must go on welfare because their
husband's in jail for drugs can look forward to a well-paying job. Always
nice when the government comes up with a cheaper way to jail people, but
this one takes the cake.


Drug Testing An Invasion of Privacy (Letter To Editor Of 'Baton Rouge
Morning Advocate' Criticizes Louisiana Officials' Plans To Test Anyone
'Receiving Anything Of Value From The State')

Subj: PUB Baton Rouge Morning Advocate
From: Mark Greer MGreer@mapinc.org
From: "david brown" dbkey@hotmail.com

Baton Rouge Morning Advocate
525 Lafayette Street
Baton Rouge, LA 70802

Dear Editor:

On November 3, Governor Mike Foster's office released a report
outlining plans to test certain citizens for illegal drug use. This
comes after last spring's decision by the legislature to test anyone
"receiving anything of value from the state." Persons cited as being
possible targets of this latest government intrusion include college
students, welfare recipients, elected officials, some state workers, and
other recipients of state contracts. What to some may sound like the
big strong men are getting tough on drugs is considerably more
troubling. Drug testing in all but the rarest of circumstances is an
invasion of privacy.

Anyone who thinks that a winning war on drugs would not have to involve
severe restrictions on the Bill of Rights, is not paying his/her fair
share of attention. Anyone who believes that we are somehow winning or
even making discernible progress in the "war on drugs" is flat stupid.

I hesitate to use abashing words like stupid, but no alternative
vocabulary fits quite right. It seems almost ironic that despite how
excruciatingly obvious it continues to be that we are flushing over $14
billion of taxpayer's money down a hungry drain, it is still a widely
popular position for an elected official to "get tough on drugs." Was
nothing instructive learned from alcohol prohibition?

Since we're all paying dearly for this, we ought to examine some
questions with a degree of local urgency. What is the compelling need
for our governor to create and empower a drug testing task force? Why
do the task force members and presumably the governor himself favor
tests on recipients of state aid? Why do some students have to submit
to tests while others do not? How could such laws possibly bypass
federal tests for a rational relationship between the intent of the law
and its compromise of equal protection guarantees? Please reread the
fourth, fifth, ninth, and fourteenth amendments. It is certain that the
wording of any proposed legislation will have to be impeccably crafty to
outmaneuver U.S. Constitutional scrutiny.

Let's assume for now that our state officials are trying to help
taxpayers get more bang for their bucks. We'll then have to assume that
there are some studies to indicate that people who use currently illegal
drugs do poor work, get high in school or at work, and tend to have less
money than everyone else. If any of these assumptions can be proven
true, then we can expect that this proposal will result in future monies
being spent on higher caliber citizens. Otherwise, we absolutely cannot
justify such an extreme intrusion and exorbitant cost.

The latest laws and proposals are overly broad and illogical. Testing
will likely cost Louisianians $5 million that we do not currently have.
Furthermore, there is absolutely no proof that it will work to properly
target and reduce use. Also, false positives do occur and are so
damaging particularly because of their rarity. Finally, in giving
advance notice(presumably to reduce the intrusion) we practically ensure
ineffectiveness due to the availability of a multitude of newer
cleansing and cover-up techniques. I implore everyone to seek
accessible information at websites like the Media Awareness Project and
do whatever you can to be involved in the upcoming debate of this
critical issue.


R. David Brown




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/121197.html