Members of NORML's board of directors and state affiliate will participate Friday in a state-sponsored forum to discuss the therapeutic use of marijuana. Governor Jesse Ventura (I), who Wednesday announced that he "fully supports" marijuana's medical use, will also attend the meeting, which is being jointly sponsored by the Department of Health and the Department of Public Safety.
NORML board-member Dr. John P. Morgan, a physician and professor of Pharmacology at City University of New York Medical School, will speak at the forum in favor of marijuana's therapeutic value. "Marijuana's therapeutic uses are well documented in the modern scientific literature," says Morgan, who recently co-authored the book Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts. "Politics, not medical science, has stood in the way of marijuana's approval as a legal medication." Minnesota NORML Chairman Aaron Neuman, who helped organize the forum, will also be in attendance.
Several bills pertaining to the use and study of medical marijuana are now pending before the Minnesota legislature. Two of these, S.F. 1967 and H.F. 2164, seek to exempt patients who use marijuana under a doctor's supervision from state criminal penalties. House File 1364, sponsored by Rep. Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis), would establish an affirmative defense of medical necessity for patients charged with violating state marijuana laws. In addition, both houses are considering bills that would appropriate $100,000 to conduct research trials on the drug's therapeutic utility.
Organizers of tomorrow's event hope that it will encourage lawmakers to move forward with several of these proposals. "Our hopes for Minnesota is that by encouraging research we can advance the acceptance of marijuana as an important medical tool and ultimately address the legal constraints at a national level," wrote Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm in a March 23 invitation letter. Malcolm noted that under a 1981 state law, "the THC Therapeutic Research Act," Minnesota doctors are permitted to conduct medical research on marijuana's constituents.
Additional backing for medical marijuana reform came from Gov. Ventura earlier this week. Speaking Wednesday at a student question-and-answer forum, Ventura stated: "Medical marijuana? I fully support it, absolutely. Who is the government to tell someone, if they have AIDS or cancer, what they should be taking?" Ventura speculated that his mother, who suffered from respiratory disease and relied on large amounts of narcotics to relieve her suffering, may have benefited from the drug, and said that legalizing it for medical use would not encourage the recreational use of marijuana or other illicit substances.
Tomorrow's forum will take place from 8 a.m. to noon at the Snelling Office Park's Mississippi Room, 1645 Energy Park Dr., St. Paul.
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation, at (202) 483-8751, or Aaron Neuman of Minnesota NORML at (651) 334-8780.