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November 1996 Cannabis News



Tuesday 5th November


Voters in two American states have passed initiatives allowing patients to use cannabis for medical purposes. In California Proposition 215 was narrowly approved by 56 % to 44 %. While in Arizona Proposition 200 was passed by vote of two to one. But there is confusion among doctors, patients, campaigners and law-enforcers as to how the laws will operate in practice.
Proposition 215 says that patients or caregivers cannot be prosecuted for growing or possessing cannabis, if they have a doctors recommendation. It also says that doctors can not be punished for recommending cannabis as a medicine. However the California Medical Association are still worried that federal or state drug officials might crack down on cannabis-recommending doctors.
The following day State Attorney General Dan Lungren, called a meeting of California's police chiefs, sheriffs and county prosecutors to decide how to deal with the new law. "We have legal anarchy," said Steve Telliano, Lungren's spokesman. "No one knows what this means." Jungren and his staff were bitter opponents of the campaign, and ordered Augustís bust of the San Francisco Buyerís Club.
The measure in Arizona, known as the "Drug Medicalization, Prevention and Control Act," goes even further. As well as allowing doctors to prescribe cannabis, it calls for treatment and probation as an alternative to prison for non-violent drug users and provides expanded drug treatment programs.
The CMA hope that the California vote will convince federal authorities to go forward with clinical research trials of cannabis. Last year researchers from the University of California had their trial of cannabisí effects on AIDS wasting syndrome vetoed by NIDA, even though their plans were praised by other bodies. Harvard professor, Lester Grinspoon, the noted medical cannabis authority also hoped Washington would take the next step. "There are huge grey areas. The sooner the federal government gets to work on these issues the better."
Proposition 215ís backers announced plans to campaign nationwide in the next two years, leading up to the 1988 elections. Californians for Medical Rights will change its name to Americans for Medical Rights, and expect the campaign to be funded by interested philanthropists, much like much as it was in California. The $2 million spent on the campaign came from half a dozen wealthy out-of-state donors, including billionaire currency magnate George Soros.

Wednesday 13th November


A chronically ill couple who smoke cannabis grown in their greenhouse were conditionally discharged. Magistrates in Bristol said Keith and Ruth Fordham only had to pay £ 22 costs, after they admitted cultivation. Police found four plants when they called on the couples house in Stockwood, Bristol.
The defence said that Keith Fordham, 51, and his wife Ruth, 49, smoked the illegal drug to combat pain they suffered from their illnesses. Mr Fordham has a crumbling spine, asthma and emphysema, and was on 10 to 15 pills a day. His illness will leave him in a wheelchair in two years, and he claimed the only way he could get a decent night's sleep was to smoke the drug. His wife has had three heart operations, cancer and has chronic arthritis.
Mr Fordham said afterwards: "There is nothing wrong with cannabis as long as it is not abused. I am in pain from the minute I get up in the morning. This is the only thing that does not have any side effects." His wife said that all the drugs they were given had side effects. "The one thing that helps we cannot have." She also said they were grateful to the court.
Cannabis is becoming more accepted as a medicine by doctors, nurses, patients, scientists and the courts, but not by British politicians. Recently California and Arizona voted in the US elections to legalise medical cannabis. A working party of the British Medical Association is investigating the therapeutic aspects of cannabis, and is expected to report next year. In April a disabled Dutch "Good Samaritan" who imported cannabis to give to the sick for free, also escaped jail.



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