Press Release  | 09/22/2003

Dozens of Patients From Across the Country to Gather and Lobby for States Rights to Medical Marijuana

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Multiple Events to Take Place September 22 & 23 on the Capitol Calling for Safe and Legal Access to Medicine
Rep. Barney Frank and Medical Marijuana Patients to Hold Press Conference

Washington, D.C. -- Seriously ill patients and their caregivers will converge in Washington, D.C. this week to lobby for safe, legal access to medical marijuana. Multiple sclerosis patients who use marijuana as medicine will gather to memorialize and continue the fight of Cheryl Miller, a fellow multiple sclerosis and medical marijuana advocate who passed away on June 7, 2003.

Over twenty medical marijuana patients from around the country will join together to urge their representatives to support medical marijuana legislation, H.R. 2233: 'The States Rights to Medical Marijuana Act,' which calls for the rescheduling of marijuana and prevents the federal government's interference of medical marijuana use and distribution in those states with medical marijuana provisions.

A press conference will be held on Tuesday, September 23, at which bill sponsor Representative Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) and others will discuss the imperative need for medical marijuana reform legislation. Other member of Congress, multiple sclerosis patients, and health care professionals will provide testimony about the importance of legislation such as H.R. 2233.

The weekend is scheduled with a number of other events, including a candlelight vigil in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in honor of Cheryl Miller, several visits to congressional offices and a trip to the Washington Office of the Multiple Sclerosis Society. Please see next page for full details and locations.

"Throughout much of her life, Cheryl risked arrest and jail to use the only medication that alleviated her suffering," remembers Jim Miller, Cheryl's husband/care provider who is organizing the project. "I hope that by bringing attention to the plight of my late wife Cheryl, I can hasten the day when marijuana will be made available so that others are no longer needlessly forced to suffer with pain or risk arrest."

Like thousands of other multiple sclerosis patients, Cheryl Miller used marijuana to ameliorate pain, spasticity, bladder dysfunction, tremors and appetite loss. A recent survey, as reported by Reuters News Service, showed that 43% of multiple sclerosis patients use marijuana therapeutically. While more than 80 prominent health organizations have endorsed immediate legal patient access to medical marijuana, the Multiple Sclerosis Society has yet to acknowledge that marijuana has a legitimate role as a therapeutic agent.

Jeanelle Bluhm, a multiple sclerosis patient and medical marijuana user from Portland, Oregon will be among those in attendance. When pharmaceuticals failed to work or cripple her with side effects, she turned to cannabis therapy. Bluhm was the first person in Oregon to be issued a legal medical marijuana cultivation permit by the State to grow medical marijuana. Prior to that, she was forced to purchase her medicine illegally off the street.

"This is an issue of choice for the sick and disabled," she says. "People should be able to choose, with the help of their doctor, which medicines makes a difference in the quality of their lives. If marijuana helps, they need to have safe, legal access."

Supporting Actions Around the Nation

Other actions will take place across the country in a display of solidarity for medical marijuana legislation. On Monday, September 22, the San Antonio branch of NORML will host a candlelight vigil in remembrance of Miller and the thousands of medical marijuana patients who have been denied access to their medicine. In New York, the Hudson Valley chapter of NORML will host three days of medical marijuana awareness events, including a teach-in and a rally. National polls indicate that eight of out ten Americans support the legal use of medicinal marijuana by patients under a doctor's supervision. N Other actions will b taking place in Oregon, California, New Jersey, Florida, and Wisconsin.

NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), the main coordinator of these actions and events, is a non-profit public-interest advocacy group that opposes marijuana prohibition and continues to lead the fight to reform state and federal marijuana laws (www.norml.org). Other organizations supporting and planning these events include the Cheryl Heart Project, Drug Policy Alliance, Americans for Safe Access, Is My Medicine Legal Yet? (IMMLY), Patients Out of Time, Marijuana Policy Project.

List of Events:

Press Conference:

Where: Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C.
When: Tuesday, September 23, 2003 11:00AM


Candlelight Vigil

Where: Steps of the Supreme Court
When: Monday, September 22, 2003 6:45PM

Visit to Multiple Sclerosis Society National Office

Where: Multiple Sclerosis Society, 2021 K Street NW
When: Monday, September 22, 2003 2:00PM

Tony Newman at 212-613-8026 or Christopher Mulligan at 202-253-3359

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