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February 8, 1996

Actor Woody Harrelson Endorses Industrial Hemp;
Hemp Bill Passes Colorado Senate Agriculture Committee!

February 9, 1996, Denver, CO: Hearings were held yesterday before the Colorado State Senate Agriculture Committee to determine the fate of a bill that would allow Colorado to become the first state to grow industrial hemp in almost 40 years. The bill passed by a 4-3 margin. The bill (SB 67) now goes to the Appropriations Committee for a cost review.

The bill passed despite the fact that on Wednesday local law enforcement officers seized a bale of hemp that was to be used in yesterday's committee hearings. Law enforcement officials claimed that the hemp fiber in the bale contained psychoactive properties and seized it for further analysis. No criminal charges are expected to be brought.

The bill, sponsored by Senator Lloyd Casey (D-Northglenn), permits the planting of no more than 40 acres of industrial hemp in Colorado in 1996 for agricultural, commercial, and scientific research. The legislation allows for full scale commercial production of hemp to begin in 1998.

Appearing before the Committee today are a wide assortment of hemp activists, businessmen, farmers, and lobbyists. However, Casey speculates that the bill's most influential endorsement may come from Hollywood actor and businessman, Woody Harrelson. In a fax to the Agriculture Committee, Harrelson stated that he "will personally guarantee that all hemp produced in Colorado will be purchased at fair market prices." Harrelson is a hemp proponent who has commercial interests in both the clothing and paper industry.

"That [endorsement] might do the best for us," notes Casey. In the past, a major concern for the committee was whether there is a legitimate market for industrial hemp. Harrelson's announcement demonstrates that there are buyers willing and waiting, the senator states.

For more information on this bill, please contact either Colorado State Senator Lloyd Casey at (303) 866-4865 or the Colorado Hemp Initiative Project at (303) 784-5632. For more information on industrial hemp please contact Allen St. Pierre at NORML.

Circuit Court Ruling Allows For Religious Defense In Marijuana Cases

February 2, 1995, San Francisco, CA: Rastafarians can defend themselves against charges of marijuana possession on religious grounds, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled.

Citing the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the three judge appeals panel overturned the lower court convictions of three individuals charged with possessing marijuana. The Circuit Court ruled that a Montana District Court Judge had violated the act by failing to allow the Rastafarian defendants to present evidence demonstrating marijuana's sacred role in their religion. However, the Court upheld additional drug convictions against the defendants.

"The court's decision to negate the marijuana possession charges against these defendants is a significant ruling," stated NORML Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre. "To the best of NORML's knowledge, this decision is the first time that a marijuana conviction has been overturned on the basis of freedom of religion."

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 strengthened protections for religious groups and was intended to curb criminal prosecutions that interfere with religious beliefs. The act requires the government to show a compelling interest for any prosecution that significantly hinders the exercise of religious freedom.

"Under RFRA, ... the government had the obligation, first, to show that the application of the marijuana laws to the defendants was in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest and, second, to show that the application of these laws to these defendants was the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest," Judge John Noonan wrote for the court.

In addition, the court maintained that the government could challenge the defendant's claims that they were, in fact, Rastafarians.

"The government should be free to cross-examine [the defendants] on whether they ... are Rastafarians and to introduce evidence negating their asserted claims," added Judge Noonan. "It is not enough in order to enjoy the protections of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to claim the name of religion as a protective cloak."

For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of NORML at (202) 483-5500. A copy of the decision is currently available on The Internet at the following address:

Iowa Supreme Court 'Just Says No' To Controversial License Suspension Law

February 1996, Des Moines, IA: Iowa's federally mandated "smoke a joint, lose your license law" has been ruled unconstitutional by the State Supreme Court. As a result, hundreds of convicted drug offenders, many found guilty of simple marijuana possession, will have their driving privileges restored.

In addition, the state stands to lose more than $16 million annually in federal highway aid.

With its recent decision, the court nullified a 1993 state law that imposes an automatic six-month driver's license suspension upon conviction of any drug offense, regardless of whether the offense is driving related.

According to the court, the license suspension constituted "double jeopardy" because it was a second punishment for a single criminal action. "There [is] no direct connection between possession of controlled substances, driving, and public safety," wrote the court. "The amended statute authorizing this license revocation was aimed essentially at enhancing punishment for controlled substance possession."

The Iowa Department of Transportation estimates that nearly 8,500 people had been subject to license suspension since the law took effect two years ago.

"It's the first step in the right direction of common sense," said Attorney Jeff Crispin of Des Moines. "There's no logical connection between these drug offenses and driving privileges. It doesn't make sense to have these penalties."

Despite the recent decision, transportation officials have decided against expunging drug-related suspensions from the driving records of those who have already completed them.

For more information, please contact Attorney Jeff Crispin at (515) 288-7400.

Medical Marijuana Patients To Rally On State Capitol Steps

February 7, 1995, San Francisco, CA: Persons who are living with AIDS and cancer from the Sacramento County area and beyond will be rallying on the West Steps of the California State Capitol Building Saturday, February 17 at 2:00 to show their support for medical marijuana. Sacramento County Director of Californians for Compassionate Use, Ryan Landers, will present state lawmakers with signatures gathered in Sacramento during the first half of the statewide effort to qualify the "Compassionate Use Act of 1996" for inclusion in the 1996 election ballot and demonstrators will be conducting an all day sign-up drive.

Medical marijuana proponents need to gather 600,000 signatures from registered voters by April 20 in order to put the Initiative on the ballot for the 1996 election. To date, the all volunteer drive has amassed approximately 125,000 signatures.

California's Medical Marijuana Initiative came about in response to Governor Pete Wilson's decision to veto legislation that would allow for the medical use of marijuana. If the initiative is passed by California voters this fall, the bill will become law immediately and cannot be vetoed.

"The [Medical Marijuana] Initiative will simply set the record and allow patients and their doctors to use marijuana medicinally in California free of the stigmas and terror they have come to accept," explained Dennis Peron, statewide Director of the Compassionate Use Campaign.

For more information, please contact either Dennis Peron at (415) 621-3986 or Ryan Landers at (916) 736-3598.

Reminder: "Higher Times," the CNN special on marijuana, will air this Sunday, Feb. 11, at 9 p.m. EST [check local listings] and NORML Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre debates former Drug Czar Lee Brown on American On-Line on February 19!!!



Regional and other news

Body Count

Every Thursday
The Oregonian, in its "Portland" zoned edition, delivered to subscribers in the broader central metropolitan area, lists felons sentenced to jail or prison by Multnomah County courts. In this week's tally, seven of 13 felons were sentenced for controlled-substances violations [Feb. 8, 1996, p. 3M-MP-SE 9]. Five of the seven controlled-substance violators received six-month sentences, plus probation. The three burglars sentenced this week received 10 days' community service, three months and six months; plus probation. (Meanwhile, between 25,000 and 75,000 Multnomah County residents bought, sold or consumed illegal drugs without causing any apparent problem.)

The one Multnomah County felon sentenced for illegal possession of a firearm received 30 days in jail and probation. An official editorial in the previous day's Oregonian ("A child and a gun," p. B6) said that "The Oregon Health Division reports that in 1994, the last year for which there are complete figures, eight Oregon children under the age of 18 - six of them under 14 - were accidentally killed by firearms. ... For 1995, preliminary figures through July show six children under age 18 as accidental gunshot victims, more than half the overall total of 11 accidental shooting victims." Even though the government's own statistics show that 95 percent of all illegal-drug consumers are adults (see, drug warriors assert that prohibition helps keep drugs away from kids (though increased usage has correlated with an increasing number of arrests, leading to a record 481,000 U.S. arrests in 1994 just for marijuana). While no Oregon children were killed directly by illegal drugs in 1994 or 1995, if adult prohibition isn't a good policy for firearms, why is it then a good policy for certain drugs, "deadly" or otherwise?

In a similar vein, will bullets, fishing weights, leaded gasoline and old paint become the next controlled substances? The same Feb. 7 issue of The Oregonian included a report titled "Boys' aggression tied to lead in bones" (p. A10), about an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association published the same day. The four-year study of 800 boys in Pittsburgh, conducted by Dr. Herbert L. Needleman, a psychiatrist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, reported that although none of the children "... was suffering from lead poisoning, a direct relationship was found between the amount of lead in their leg bones and reports by parents, teachers and the children themselves of aggressive and delinquent behaviors. ...even after taking into account other predictors of delinquency such as socioeconomic status, those with higher lead levels were more likely to engage in antisocial acts." (Other summaries of this report indicate more clearly that, while none of the children had actually committed serious crimes yet, the correlation between high bone-lead levels and delinquent behavior was stronger than with any other factor, including poverty, a single parent, race or intelligence.) According to Dr. Needleman, "'Lead is a brain poison that interferes with the ability to restrain impulses.'" Since drug warriors maintain (without any valid evidence) that illegal drug use is a significant cause of violence and other crimes, will they now extend the same level of concern to lead?

If It's Important To Oregonians, Don't Look For It In The Oregonian

Much as we appreciate certain information in The Oregonian, the Northwest's biggest daily paper has still failed to report the name or number of the bill passed by the Oregon Legislature last Friday, Feb. 2 (without any opportunity for public input), which will provide mandatory 13- to 19-month sentences for repeat burglars and car thieves.

According to Gov. John Kitzhaber and the Oregon Department of Corrections, the new bill will almost double the state-inmate population, adding 5,000 new prisoners. To date there has been no report on the cost of HB-3488 or where its revenue will come from. Although the bill in question (which everyone seems to assume Gov. Kitzhaber will sign) has been attributed to Rep. Kevin Mannix, D-Salem, the Feb. 7 Willamette Week noted that HB-3488 was actually written and sponsored by Rep. Peter Courtney, D-Salem, and was passed as an alternative to Rep. Mannix's bill ("Preemptive Strike," p. 15). Both Willamette Week and The Oregonian would be doing the public a service if they now examined how on earth the taxpayers will ever fund our current costs and HB-3488 on top of the avowed goal of detecting, apprehending, prosecuting, imprisoning and paroling tens of thousands of Oregonians involved in felony marijuana violations.

Initiative Filed For Compassionate Oregonians Voters' Effort (COVE)

Compassionate Oregonians Voters' Effort (COVE) has officially filed its initiative, though proponents are not quite ready to begin gathering signatures. Compassionate Oregonians will meet 7 pm Thursday, Feb. 15th, at Laughing Horse Books, SE 37th & Division in Portland. The meeting will feature longtime activist Laird Funk discussing past legislative efforts and the wording of the new initiative. For more details e-mail or call Sandee Burbank at or (in Mosier, Oregon) 541-298-1031. (Sponsors of Oregon's other drug-policy initiative, the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act of 1997, reported in December that they had reached the halfway mark of about 40,000 signatures. For more details go to or call 503-235-4606.)

Superbowl Update

Richard Davis, after publicizing his intention to sell marijuana legally at the Super Bowl (for details see the Arizona NORML Web pages at, was arrested the day before the big game. Evidently the only purpose of the bust was to stop Davis from attending, since a virtually identical case led to pot's currently being legal in Arizona. Reportedly Davis was detained until the game started and then let go on his own recognizance. Meanwhile, a "lot" of pot sellers showed up at the game (with Arizona tax stamps) and the Arizona police actually helped with crowd-control for the mob wanting to buy legal marijuana. One seller known as "HIV Bob" had the police lining people up for his cannabis stand and maintaining order. No arrests were made on the day of the game.

Media Waking Up To The Drug War

There has been a remarkable, unprecedented deluge of anti-drug-war editorials and major articles in mass media across the country in the past 10 days. Most of the articles summarized below are posted on the Web or available from the editor.

1) The National Review special issue, "The War on Drugs is Lost," is due at local stands on Thursday, Feb. 15. Endorsing the decriminalization of all drugs, the Feb. 12 issue of William F. Buckley's conservative flagship was summarized in the Jan. 25 weekly NORML press release. The National Review has been cited by most of the ensuing media.

2) Cascadia News Service, the major regional online news magazine featuring former Oregonian columnist Russell Sadler, has come out with an excellent fact-based editorial focusing on the recent Oregon legislative session, titled "Should Drug Use Be Decriminalized?" at The staff editorial concludes, "The idea of decriminalization may not at first consideration appeal to most Oregonians, but nearly everyone admits it would relieve the prison overcrowding."

3) The San Francisco Chronicle has reportedly become the first major U.S. newspaper to call for an end to the War on Some Drugs. The Sunday, Jan. 28 Chronicle ran an editorial titled "New Strategy Needed in Failed Drug War." Some excerpts: "We have certain serious disagreements with the notion of legalizing all illicit drugs, but it is undeniable that laws, policies and politics that have driven the anti-drug war have failed to stem the rising tide of drugs, addiction, AIDS and violent crime. ... Prohibition did not work with alcohol from 1920 to 1933 and it is even less successful with dope. Huge amounts of illegal drug money enrich traffickers and dealers while corrupting cops, judges, politicians and ultimately society. ... With the appointment of Army General Barry McCaffrey as the nation's new drug czar, now is a good time for an open-minded review of the country's failed drug policies and a search for creative new approaches, beyond prohibition and incarceration. ... We are not suggesting that all drugs be summarily legalized, but every option - including decriminalization - should be considered in dealing with this complex problem that combines crime, public health and social disintegration. ... A good first step toward an effective and humane national drug policy would be to allow marijuana to be used for medical purposes and to lift all bans on needle exchanges to help slow the spread of AIDS."

4) While not endorsing outright decriminalization, The Chicago Tribune weighed in the next day with an equally important editorial calling for an open and honest re-examination of United States drug policy. "The war on drugs: Worth the price?" says in part, "Back in 1929, when gangster violence raged over control of illegal hooch, President Herbert Hoover asked a panel of experts to determine what could be done to restore law and order. The Wickersham Commission, named for the prominent New York lawyer who chaired its deliberations, suggested many things. But its most far-reaching advice was this: Destroy the black market in alcohol by replacing Prohibition with a system of regulation and taxation. It worked. ....few doubt the wisdom of the 1933 decision to repeal. ... the suspicion grows that America is not only losing its war on drugs but that the fighting of it is doing more damage to society than the harmful effects of the drugs themselves. ... in the perverse economics of a black market, increased risk of apprehension causes increased prices, and increased prices induce more people to take the risk. And as surely as prohibition puts the enormous profitability into drug trafficking, drug trafficking is putting an even more enormous burden on society. The nation has quadrupled its supply of jail beds since 1970, yet our prisons overflow with drug-related offenders, who will soon become a majority of the [1.5] million Americans behind bars. Drug-financed street gangs, meanwhile, have turned large portions of our cities into prisons-without-walls for law-abiding citizens afraid to walk the streets. The dollar cost of all drug-related crime - including all the muggings and robberies required to satisfy habits at black market prices - has been estimated at $150 billion, or more than the entire U.S. budget for welfare and social services. ... Is it time for selective decriminalization? No, not before there has been a comprehensive study of the likely effects and exhaustive national debate on the tough moral and economic questions involved. At minimum, however, it is time for another Wickersham Commission."

5) The Feb. 5 issue of New York magazine has a superb cover article by Craig Horowitz titled "Drugs Are Bad - The Drug War is Worse," retitled "War By Other Means" in the Table of Contents and "The No-Win War" on its first page. Some excerpts: "As the NYPD gears up to wage total war on drug use in the city, it's worth beginning a rational debate about what will be gained by making criminals of hundreds of thousands of addicts [there are 250,000 heroin addicts in Manhattan alone]. This country's police-and-prisons approach has proved a failure in every conceivable way - legal, social, economic. There is a better way. ... Joseph McNamara, who has spent 35 years as a cop ... believes that even when interdiction appears to work, it doesn't really. 'The DEA officially says they seize 10 to 15 percent of what comes in. Off the record, they say it's more like one percent. At all these press conferences, it's always the biggest seizure ever or the biggest bust ever. But what do the seizures and the busts mean? The media never ask the questions. Seizures get reported just like body counts were reported during the Vietnam War. ... the efforts of law enforcement often actually work to solidify and promote the most efficient distributors of drugs.' ... Before the 1914 passage of the Harrison Act, which is the cornerstone of today's drug laws, there were maybe one million drug addicts in this country out of a population of less than 100 million....Today, with a population two and a half times larger, there are approximately 5 million hard-core addicts among the 20 million or so Americans who use drugs [plus] ... 50 million people addicted to nicotine and 18 million alcoholics. ... To even begin to deal with these problems, public officials must start an honest, open debate about the drug issue."

6) The Feb. 1 edition of the influential New York Review of Books contains a review by Michael Massing of four recent volumes illustrating the growing number of experts who are coming out against the drug war. Massing concludes: "A consensus is building among criminologists, penologists, judges, sociologists, and other students of crime that the policy of mass incarceration has been a disaster; for the criminal justice system, which has let out violent offenders in order to make room for less violent ones, and for states and cities, which have had to devote more and more resources to keeping people locked up. And it has been a disaster as well for the black community, which has seen so many of its fathers, husbands, and sons put away. Politicians of both parties have failed to see this. ... As feckless as anyone else, perhaps, have been some of the people who decide what appears in the press and on television. We are continually being bombarded by violent images on the local TV news, with its insatiable appetite for crime stories; in the tabloid press, with its lurid and inflammatory headlines; on prime-time television, where shows like NYPD Blue and Law and Order suggest that the world is crawling with "perps"; and in the steady stream of action movies from Hollywood, in which the incessant shootings, stabbings, and assaults all magnify the sense that America is teeming with drug hustlers and hoodlums. Whatever impact such images may have on people's behavior, they serve to reinforce the idea that only by building more prisons and hiring more police can we keep the forces of violence and anarchy at bay."

7) The February issue of the Friends Journal, a monthly publication from the Religious Society of Friends, also focuses on the need to end the drug war. Walter Wink authors an article, Getting Off Drugs: The Legalization Option, saying the sorry results of the war on drugs are a predictable result of fighting evil with evil. He also mentions that 95 percent of America is already using drugs, and there isn't that much room for growth.

Other well-written editorials and articles appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times (Anthony Lewis) and elsewhere around the country. Kudos to all media who've shown such responsible and courageous leadership. :-)



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