Movement Founder Dies

Press Release June 10, 2001
Media Contact

Tony Newman at 941-922-4381

Sarasota, Florida – Robert Randall, whose landmark court case launched the medical marijuana movement in America, died on June, 2, 2001. He was 53.

Randall made legal and medical history in 1976 when a federal court in Washington, D.C. ruled that his use of marijuana for the treatment of glaucoma was a medical necessity. This marked the first time that the common law concept of necessity was applied to a medical condition.

At the same time, Randall successfully petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for permission to use marijuana legally. In November, 1976, he became the first American to receive legal, medical access to federal supplies of marijuana. His case attracted national attention, launching the medical marijuana movement in America.

In 1978, the federal government abruptly terminated Randall’s access to marijuana, despite overwhelming evidence that such an action would result in blindness for the young college professor. Randall sued for re-instatement of the drug and won. In order to accommodate Randall’s legal access, federal officials established the “Compassionate IND” whereby a single patient could gain medical access to a non-approved drug. The “Compassionate” or “Single-Patient” IND became the basis of the “Treatment IND” which allowed thousands of AIDS patients to access promising, but yet unapproved drugs such as AZT.

Randall continued to receive uninterrupted supplies of marijuana from the federal government for the next twenty-three years.

Randall became an articulate and forceful advocate for others with life- and sense-threatening ailments whose conditions might benefit from prescribed access to marijuana. Between 1978 and 1980, he helped enact more than 30 state laws that recognized marijuana’s medical utility and established state-wide programs of medical research and access. Federal agencies zealously fought against these programs and fewer than half dozen were ever operational.

In 1981, he founded the Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics, a non-profit organization that focused on changing the federal law prohibiting medical access to marijuana. He drafted legislation establishing a federal program of compassionate, controlled access to the drug which was introduced to the 97th Congress. Among the original sponsors was a young Georgia Congressman, Newt Gingrich. The bill attracted 110 co-sponsors yet hearings were never held on the measure.

In the early 1990s, Randall concentrated on the medical use of marijuana by those afflicted with AIDS. He established a project called MARS – the Marijuana AIDS Research Service – which helped AIDS patients apply for access to marijuana under the FDA’s Compassionate IND program. Hundreds of AIDS patients completed and filed the streamlined application that Randall created. The federal government, after initially approving dozens of the requests, abruptly closed the program and cut-off the only means of legal, medical access to marijuana in the country. Randall and seven others continued to receive federal supplies of marijuana but all others were denied. Public outrage at the closure of this program led to state ballot initiatives, such as California’s Proposition 215, which allow individuals with medical needs to grow small amounts of marijuana

Robert Randall authored six books. His most recent book was an autobiography, Marijuana Rx: The Patients’ Fight for Medicinal Pot, which he wrote with his wife, Alice O’Leary.

Randall was diagnosed with AIDS in 1994. He died of AIDS-related complications at his home in Sarasota, Florida.

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