Marijuana Policy Reform Organization Begins Three-Day Conference
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws kicks off its annual conference in Washington, D.C., today, coinciding with the "national day of weed worship" that began nearly 30 years ago, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. April 20, also known as 420, represents "a counterculture kind of coffee break" for marijuana users and advocates, even though most of them "remain as clueless as ever" about how the tradition began. However, 420 "may be moving toward the mainstream with NORML's three-day conference," the Inquirer reports. This year, the summit will focus on drug laws, the use of medical marijuana, the treatment of marijuana in the media and international movements to decriminalize the drug. Speakers include New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson (R), Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan and American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Ira Glasser (McGroarty, Philadelphia Inquirer, 4/20). The conference also will feature several "experts" on medical marijuana -- former Harvard University professor Lester Grinspoon and City University of New York Medical School professor Dr. John Morgan (NORML release, 4/17). FOX News' "Hannity & Colmes" last night featured an interview with Johnson on marijuana legislation ("Hannity & Colmes," FOX News, 4/19). To view a Webcast of the NORML conference, go to http://www.norml.org/calendar/conf2001livewebcast.shtml.
New York Law
Also today, the New York Times examines a "largely forgotten" New York law that legalized the dispensation of marijuana for medical purposes. The law, signed in 1980, was "the first of its kind" and did not face opposition when it was introduced, the Times reports. The law allowed a doctor to petition a hospital board for permission to prescribe marijuana to a patient. If the board approved the request, it would have to file a petition with a state review board appointed by the state health commissioner. However, the health commissioner at the time, Dr. David Axelrod, who was a "vocal supporter" of the law, never appointed the review board members, making it "impossible" for doctors to receive permission to prescribe the drug (Perez-Pena, New York Times, 4/20). But a new movement to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes is underway in the New York Legislature, the Times reports. Assembly member Richard Gottfried (D) has crafted a bill that would "effectively legalize marijuana for the sick." Noting that the federal government has approved the use of a pill that contains tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana, Gottfried said, "The idea that the drug laws are focused on whether you take your THC in a pill form from a major drug company or by inhaling makes no sense." He added, "Doctors are allowed to prescribe controlled substances for medical purposes, like morphine, codeine and Valium. Nobody thinks that undermines our antidrug message to young people" (Holland, New York Times, 4/20).