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. . . a weekly service for the media on news items related to Marijuana Prohibition.
January 30, 1997
New England Journal Of
Medicine Argues For Medical Marijuana
Proposed NORML Bill Echoes Medical Journal's Sentiments
January 30, 1997,
Boston, Massachusetts: Federal policy that
prohibits physicians from prescribing marijuana for seriously ill
patients is "misguided, heavy-handed, and inhumane,"
according to the new issue of the New England Journal of
Medicine, the country's most prestigious medical journal.
Calling the administration's position "hypocritical," magazine editor Dr. Jerome P. Kassirer argued that: "Federal authorities should rescind their prohibition of the medicinal use of marijuana for seriously ill patients and allow physicians to decide which patients to treat. The government should change marijuana's status from that of a Schedule 1 drug (considered to be potentially addictive and with no current medical use) to that of a Schedule 2 drug (potentially addictive but with some accepted medical use) and regulate it accordingly."
Kassirer's recommendation echoes the text of a proposed new federal bill by Congressman Barney Frank (D-Mass). Frank, a longtime proponent of medical marijuana, has been working with NORML to craft a streamlined medical marijuana bill that will reschedule marijuana under federal law, thereby making it legal to prescribe. Once states are free of the federal law prohibiting the prescription of marijuana, they can legally implement different systems for growing and distributing medical marijuana to patients on a state-by-state basis. The passage of this legislation would also remove the threat of prosecution in the eight states that already allow doctors to prescribe marijuana. (See chart on page three for a breakdown of current state medical marijuana laws.)
"Both historically and presently, states have been more receptive to the medical marijuana issue than the federal government," explained NORML's Executive Director, R. Keith Stroup, Esq., who noted that 25 states and the District of Columbia currently have laws recognizing marijuana's medical utility. (See chart.) "Therefore, NORML proposes a bill that effectively gets the federal government out of the way of those states that wish to make marijuana legal as a medicine." Stroup said that he expects Rep. Frank to introduce the federal medical marijuana bill as soon as next month and considered today's editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine to be a major blow to the administration's current position.
"A lead editorial in favor of allowing patients legal access to medical marijuana by the editor of one of the most prestigious medical journals in the world gives additional legitimacy to this issue, and conversely, further damages the credibility of the federal government's position," he said.
A commentary written by Harvard Medical Professor and NORML Board Member Lester Grinspoon in the June 21, 1995, edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) stated; "It is time for physicians to acknowledge more openly that the present classification is scientifically, legally, and morally wrong." A lead editorial published later that year in the highly respected British medical journal, The Lancet, added: "The smoking of cannabis, even long term, is not harmful to health."
"Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey is out of his league when he attacks medical marijuana," said Bill Zimmerman, director of Americans for Medical Rights, one of the organizations that spearheaded the successful medical marijuana campaign in California. "He has ridiculed this issue as a 'Cheech and Chong show.' In truth, it is a matter of real concern to medical professionals. McCaffrey has made a bad policy worse, and is now facing the consequences in the form of a rebellion by the medical community."
"Congress can no longer ignore the issue of medical marijuana," summarized Stroup. "The passage of state initiatives supporting its medical use in California and Arizona brought this issue to the political forefront. We expect the introduction of Rep. Barney Frank's legislation and the high-profile hearings that follow to keep it there."
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500. NORML's report summarizing the various state medical marijuana laws is available upon request.
Federal Study Concludes That
Marijuana's Main Active Ingredient
Does Not Cause Cancer
January 30, 1997, Boston
Massachusetts: The main active ingredient in
marijuana (THC) did not cause cancer when fed to laboratory
animals in huge doses over long periods, according to a federal
study recently publicized by The Boston Globe. The
$2 million dollar study had been left on the shelf for over two
"This study's findings undercuts the federal government's contention that marijuana itself is carcinogenic," said NORML's Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre. "It is ridiculous that such a report has failed to see the light of day until now.
According to The Boston Globe, the 126-page draft study has never been published, though a panel of expert reviewers found in June 1994 that its scientific methods and conclusions were sound. "We found absolutely no evidence of cancer," John Butcher, director of the National Toxicology Program, told The Globe in reference to the study. Surprisingly, Butcher said that THC may even have protected against malignancies.
In the study, high doses of THC were delivered directly into the stomachs of mice and rats daily for two years. Since the animals were not exposed to marijuana smoke, the study did not address the carcinogenic potential of inhaled marijuana.
Butcher told The Boston Globe that his agency had not been pressured to bury the report, and said the delay was due to a personnel shortage.
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of NORML @ (202) 483-5500 or Attorney Steve Epstein of Mass/CANN NORML @ (617) 599-3161.
Medical Marijuana Legislation Hot Topic For State Legislators
Washington, D.C.: Following the passage of
Proposition 215 in California and an Arizona provision
recognizing marijuana s medical value, several state legislators
have expressed interest in passing similar medical marijuana
measures in their states. In Wyoming,
legislation to reschedule marijuana to allow for physicians to
prescribe it for medical purposes (S.F. 132) was heard today
before the Labor, House and Social Services Committee.
Similar legislation has also been introduced in Hawaii
(H.B. 604) by Rep. David Tarnas (6th District), and a law
providing for a prima facie defense for patients who are
certified by the state to use marijuana to treat glaucoma,
asthma, or the nausea associated with chemotherapy (H. 2170) took
effect in Massachusetts last week.
Other states that have shown interest in introducing medical marijuana legislation include New
Jersey, Wisconsin, New York, and Maine. NORML is currently sending comprehensive medical marijuana info-packets to legislators in these states and has offered to help identify physicians, medical marijuana experts, and patients who could testify at hearings in support of marijuana's therapeutic value.
"Legal access to medical marijuana is a topic on the minds of many state legislatures this year," said NORML's Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre. "NORML and its local affiliates stand ready and willing to work with interested legislators on the state level in the months ahead."
An unfortunate backlash to the recent national publicity regarding medical marijuana has been the response of some legislators to introduce measures repealing existing state medical marijuana laws. On January 8, Virginia Delegate Robert Marshall (R-Manassas) introduced legislation repealing an 18-year old law allowing physicians to prescribe marijuana to seriously ill patients (H.B. 1621). The bill passed in the House by an 86-13 vote today and is being referred to a Senate committee. Although Virginia's law does not provide legal access to the drug, the state's recognition of marijuana's therapeutic value does help patients defend against marijuana possession charges. Meanwhile, Ohio Sen. Louis Blessing (R-Cincinnati) has introduced legislation to pull the plug on a six-month old law granting medical marijuana users an affirmative defense against marijuana possession charges. Currently, Ohio NORML activists are mobilizing against this legislation.
For more information on pending state medical marijuana legislation, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.
MORE THAN 10 MILLION MARIJUANA ARRESTS SINCE 1965 . . . ANOTHER EVERY 54 SECONDS!
ORGANIZATION FOR THE REFORM OF MARIJUANA LAWS
1001 CONNECTICUT AVENUE NW * WASHINGTON, D.C. 20036 * T 202-483-5500
Marijuana's Medical Value
States that allow for the establishment of therapeutic cannabis research programs:
Alabama; Georgia; Illinois; Massachusetts; Minnesota; New Jersey; New Mexico; New York; Rhode Island; South Carolina; Texas; Washington; West Virginia
States that allow physicians to prescribe manjuana:
Arizona; Connecticut; Illinois; Louisiana; New Hampshire; Vermont; Virginia; Wisconsin
States that have rescheduled marijuana when it is used medicinally:
Iowa; New Mexico; Tennessee; Washington, D.C.
State laws recognizng an "affirmative defense" for medical marluana users:
Arizona; California; Massachusetts; Ohio; Florida*
*Florida's state supreme court recognizes the defense of medical necessity in marijuana cases.
Current state laws as of January 30, 1997.