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OCTOBER 1, 2003
 11:27 AM
CONTACT: Marijuana Policy Project 
Bruce Mirken 415-668-6403
Health Experts Question Drug Czar's New England Governor's Summit
BOSTON, MA - October 1 - Medical experts, along with health care and drug policy reform advocates, are sounding alarm bells about the New England Governor's Summit sponsored by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and scheduled for October 8 in Boston's Faneuil Hall.

Medical marijuana, one of three subjects on the summit agenda, is a source of particular concern. Maine has had a medical marijuana law in effect since 2000, and last year a study committee set up by the Vermont Legislature supported efforts to make medical marijuana available to seriously ill patients. ONDCP chief John Walters has been scornful of medical marijuana, comparing it to "medicinal crack."

"The New England governors can save the cost of attending the ONDCP's summit," said Dr. Joseph McSherry -- a neurologist at the Fletcher Allen Medical Center in Burlington, Vermont -- who served on the study committee. "Rather, the governors should read the balanced report of the Vermont Legislative Committee on Medical Marijuana. This report is balanced because it contains the consensus of enforcement, legal, judicial, and medical professionals, as well as patients. The committee was unanimous in concluding that marijuana is a medicine for some people, and it is misclassified at the federal level." See for the committee report.

"Despite the drug czar's history of hysterical opposition to medical marijuana, we contacted his office in good faith, asking if we could suggest panelists for a balanced discussion," said Neal Levine, director of state policies for the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project. "On September 22, we were told by ONDCP staffer Brian Ferguson that `the panels are pretty much set.' We've made four follow-up calls to try to find out who is speaking, and none of those calls have been returned Just what are they trying to hide? Given John Walters' record, we can only assume they're planning a Disinformation Summit."

MPP is working with the Drug Policy Forum of Massachusetts and a coalition of local health experts and activists to coordinate a response to the ONDCP summit.

With more than 13,000 members nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. MPP works to minimize the harm associated with marijuana -- both the consumption of marijuana and the laws that are intended to prohibit such use. MPP believes that the greatest harm associated with marijuana is imprisonment. To this end, MPP focuses on removing criminal penalties for marijuana use, with a particular emphasis on making marijuana medically available to seriously ill people who have the approval of their doctors. For more information, please visit .


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