Justice Department Rejects Judge's Request!

Justice Department Rejects Judge's Request!
Posted by FoM on January 30, 1999 at 14:11:28 PT

 Philadelphia, PA Justice Department lawyers rejected a federal judge's request to expand a government program that presently provides Medical Marijuana to eight patients.
 U.S. District Judge Marvin Katz asked federal officials to consider re-opening the program to new applicants as a way to settle a class action suit brought by Philadelphia attorney Lawrence Hirsch on behalf of more than 100 patients who find medical relief from marijuana.   NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. said he was not surprised by the government's decision. "The federal government has made it clear they care more about maintaining marijuana prohibition than aiding the sick and dying," he said.   The federal Compassionate Investigational New Drug (IND) program began distributing marijuana cigarettes to select patients in 1978. The program ceased accepting new applicants in 1992, but continues to supply 300 marijuana cigarettes monthly to eight patients suffering from diseases such as glaucoma and epilepsy. Similar statewide programs also distributed medical marijuana to approximately 1,000 patients in the 1980s, but are no longer active.   The brief filed by the Justice Department states that federal officials discontinued the program because "It became clear that the potential widespread use of marijuana for 'medical' purposes under the program ... was bad public policy."   "Is it better public policy to allow patients who could benefit from medical marijuana to suffer under the law?" Stroup asked.   The DOJ brief also alleges that officials decided to close the IND program because new "alternative medicines such as Marinol -- a synthetic form of marijuana's active ingredient -- were becoming available." In fact, however, the FDA approved Marinol in 1985, seven years prior to the program's closure. Many patients who use Marinol state that the drug only provides limited relief, particularly when compared to whole smoked marijuana.   Hirsch's suit asserts that the federal drug laws prohibiting marijuana for medical purposes are legally arbitrary and unconstitutional. Hirsch further argues that citizens have no equal protection of the law when the government supplies medical marijuana to eight patients and not to others who may be eligible.   Hirsch said he will file a motion for summary judgment shortly.   For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup or Litigation Director Tanya Kangas of The NORML Foundation   (202) 483-8751.
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