Legal Marijuana Smokers Testify at Institute of Medicine's Public Hearing on Medicinal Marijuana 1/23/98

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(Press release from the Marijuana Policy Project, http://www.mpp.org)

January 22, 1998

NEW ORLEANS -- Two of the eight patients in the entire nation who have legal permission to use medicinal marijuana testified at the Institute of Medicine's (IOM's) public hearing on Thursday, January 22, in New Orleans at the Marriott Hotel.

IOM is conducting an 18-month "comprehensive review" of "the health effects and potential health risks of marijuana use." This research and subsequent report was commissioned for $1 million by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy in January 1997.

IOM's first hearing was held in California in December, and another is scheduled for February 23-24 in Washington, D.C. The topic of the New Orleans hearing was "Acute and Chronic Effects of Marijuana," which focused mainly on the potential health risks of marijuana use.

IOM is not allowed to address policy and legal issues. Instead, the study is limited to scientific and clinical issues. Nevertheless, Marijuana Policy Project Director of Communications Chuck Thomas says, "It is important to make the study investigators aware that thousands of marijuana- using patients are living in fear of arrest and prison -- and IOM's recommendations should reflect this emergency."

Barbara Douglass and Irvin Rosenfeld receive legal marijuana from the federal government to treat multiple sclerosis and pain caused by bone tumors, respectively. This program, which now serves eight (8) patients nationwide, has been closed to all new applicants since 1992. Douglass and Rosenfeld testified that their marijuana use has not caused any negative health effects, despite their use of several joints a day for decades.

Greg Scott, an illegal user of medicinal marijuana, explained how marijuana helped treat his AIDS conditions and contrasted the effects of marijuana with the debilitating effects of the many prescription drugs he has taken, including morphine. Scott said, "Every day, I risk arrest, property forfeiture, fines and imprisonment."

Jim Montgomery, who was imprisoned for using medicinal marijuana, will explain how the horrendous health conditions in prison caused him to have his leg amputated -- which is unquestionably more damaging than his medical use of marijuana.

The MPP's Chuck Thomas said, "Patients face one year in prison for a joint, five years for a plant. Marijuana works as a medicine for some people. Research should not detract from the number one goal of getting smokable marijuana approved as a legal medicine."

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