News Release ~ 03/27/2001 A

NACDL, NORML join in amicus effort Federal-state balance, will of people implicated in medical marijuana case

Washington, DC (March 27, 2001) -- Nine states with more than one-fifth of the U.S. population have passed laws approving the use of medical marijuana, eight of them by initiative petition. On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear argument on whether federal law trumps California''s law, passed in 1996.

"It''s a fundamental issue of individual liberty and quality of life, " said John Wesley Hall, a board member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers who co-wrote an amicus curiae brief in support of the California law on behalf of NACDL and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. "Marijuana has been shown to be effective in relieving symptoms of patients suffering from cancer and AIDS, for whom other drugs don''t work. The voters and the general public are overwhelmingly sympathetic. Without a compelling reason to do so, the federal government has no business telling patients they can''t get relief."

Polls listed in an appendix to the NACDL/NORML brief, taken from 1995 to 2000 by Gallup, CBS, ABC, and CNN, among others, show public support for medical marijuana ranging from 58 percent to more than 95 percent.

Hall, a criminal defense lawyer in Little Rock, compares use of medical marijuana to the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana for personal use in its effect on the federal government''s drug law enforcement. "The government''s ability to prosecute those who import, grow and deal marijuana has been unimpeded by Proposition 215 [the California medical marijuana law]," Hall argues in the NACDL/NORML brief. "Marijuana arrests have risen in California since Proposition 215 and the decriminalization of possession of small amounts, while bona fide patients have gained security from the publicly regulated access to the medicine they need." 

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's approximately 10,000 direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.

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