ROCKVILLE, MARYLAND -- Medical marijuana patients, frustrated by the
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's contradictory and sometimes
inaccurate statements regarding medical marijuana, confronted DEA
Administrator Asa Hutchinson during an appearance in Rockville,
Maryland, this evening. Hutchinson left the event early in an apparent
attempt to avoid further questioning.

Hutchinson appeared at the Barnes and Noble bookstore in
Rockville's Montrose Crossing shopping center, in what was advertised
as a "community discussion" with Cindy Mogil, author of "Swallowing a
Bitter Pill: How Prescription and Over-the-Counter Drug Abuse is
Ruining Lives -- My Story".

Lawrence Silberman, who found that marijuana was the only medicine
that allowed him to endure the harsh side effects of high-dose
chemotherapy for non-Hodgkins lymphoma -- a lethal and difficult-to-
treat form of cancer -- asked Hutchinson directly, "Do you think
people like myself should be arrested, sir?"

Hutchinson responded vaguely, saying "the DEA is not in the habit
of going after individual users." He repeatedly failed to answer
directly, despite follow-ups from Bruce Mirken, director of
communications of the Marijuana Policy Project, and Fernando Mosquera,
a freshman at the University of Maryland, College Park. Mosquera
described how marijuana helped him cope with the debilitating symptoms
of Crohn's disease in a poignant column in the March 11 Baltimore Sun.

Hutchinson repeated claims that "science has not yet come to
consensus" on the advantages of marijuana -- similar to claims he made
in justifying February DEA raids on medical marijuana providers in
California. He did not acknowledge the Institute of Medicine's 1999
report, commissioned by the White House drug czar's office, which
stated, "Nausea, appetite loss, pain and anxiety ... all can be
mitigated by marijuana." The report pointed out that "there is no
clear alternative for people suffering from chronic conditions that
might be relieved by smoking marijuana" -- and urged that marijuana be
made legally available to such patients on a case-by-case basis.

Hutchinson then took advantage of the first pause in the
proceedings to leave early, heading for the stairs without good-byes
or acknowledgments of any kind.

"Ms. Mogil eloquently discussed the dangers of drugs that doctors
legally prescribe every day -- drugs that are far more toxic and
addictive than marijuana, which has never produced a fatal overdose,"
said Mirken.

"Mr. Hutchinson rightly praised Ms. Mogil for her courage in
discussing her addiction," Mirken added. "But it also took courage for
these two patients to look the DEA Administrator in the eye and say,
`I am a medical marijuana user. Do I deserve to be arrested?' They
have a right to know why they must risk arrest and jail for using a
medicine that eases their suffering, when much more dangerous
substances remain perfectly legal. They have a right to honest
answers. We will keep pressing Mr. Hutchinson until he gives us a
straight answer."

The Marijuana Policy Project works to minimize the harm associated
with marijuana -- both the consumption of marijuana and the laws that
are intended to prohibit such use.


Medical Marijuana Patients Confront DEA Chief

Cancer Patient Asks, "Should I Be Arrested?" --
Hutchinson Doesn't Answer

CONTACT:
Bruce Mirken, MPP director of communications ....... 202-462-5747 x113