News Release

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January 6, 2000

Infrared Thermal Imaging Deemed Unconstitutional Search By PA State Supreme Court

        Erie County, PA:  The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has upheld an appellate court ruling that the warrantless use of an infrared thermal imagining device, used to detect marijuana growing in a home, violates the constitutional rights of the homeowner under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
        In the 2-1 decision, Judge Stephen A. Zappala, writing for the majority, contrasted the differences between the use of thermal imaging devices and the use of drug-sniffing dogs, which the U.S. Supreme Court has found to be legal without a warrant.
        Zappala wrote, "The thermal imaging device, unlike the trained drug dog, does not have the ability to distinguish between legal and illegal activities occurring within the home based upon the amount of heat detected.  In this respect, [use of the thermal imager] is the very antithesis of a dog sniff because the trained narcotics dog alerts only in the presence of contraband whereas the thermal imager indiscriminately registers all sources of heat. "
        The case began in April 1994 when an informant told the Erie County Mobile Drug Task Force that Gregory Gindlesperger was growing marijuana at his home using artificial heat lamps.  A thermal imaging device was then used to scan Gindlesperger's home, which indicated an unexplained heat source in the basement which was not consistent with a furnace or other home heating sources.  These results were then used to obtain a search warrant for the house and Gindlesperger was subsequently arrested for cultivating 21 plants.  The trial court rejected the defendant's motion to exclude the evidence and found him guilty.  The case was appealed and the appellant court sided with the defendant saying the use of the device was a violation of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
        "We applaud the court's decision," said Tom Dean, Esq., NORML Foundation Litigation Director.  "High-tech surveillance by overzealous police officers is perhaps the greatest threat to personal security that we will face in this new century."
        For more information, please contact Tom Dean, Esq., NORML Foundation Litigation Director, at (202) 483-8751.  To view the decision, visit

Industrial Hemp Given Initial Approval By NH House

        Concord, NH:  The House of Representatives, this Wednesday, gave preliminary approval to a bill to allow farmers to grow industrial hemp.  The bill proceeds to the finance committee to review any cost to the state before it receives a final vote in the House.  The measure has not yet been considered by the New Hampshire Senate.
        Despite opposition from local law enforcement and the state safety commissioner's office, the House passed the measure by a 181-167 vote.  The chief sponsor, Rep. Amy Robb-Theroux (D-Claremont), said in support of the bill, "This is not a drug you can smoke and get high.  This is a bill about money."
        If the legislation is signed into law, New Hampshire would be the fourth state to legalize the cultivation of industrial hemp.  Last December, Hawaii was the first state to legally plant industrial hemp.  Earlier in the year North Dakota and Minnesota also approved legislation to allow for the cultivation of industrial hemp.
        "Industrial hemp has proven to be a valuable cash crop world-wide," said Scott Colvin, NORML Publications Director.  "Hopefully we will see more states follow suit and end the ridiculous prohibition of industrial hemp."
        For more information, please contact Rep. Amy Robb-Theroux at (603) 271-3125, or Scott Colvin, NORML Publications Director, at (202) 483-5500.

OK Governor Calls For Harsher Penalties, Random Student Drug Testing

        Oklahoma City, OK:  Governor Frank Keating last month announced two anti-drug initiatives that include random student drug testing and even stiffer penalties for marijuana cultivation and trafficking.
        Keating said school districts that decide to implement drug screening programs would receive "financial incentives" for the greatest reductions in student substance abuse.  The governor's plan would also call for family involvement in treatment and counseling.
        "We require vision testing for children who might have trouble seeing the blackboard," Keating said.  "I don't think it is unreasonable to test them for substances that can kill them before they reach the age of 18."
        Further, Keating said the state should be given the right to terminate parental rights when children are found living in "drug dens," where drugs are produced or sold.
        The initiative also calls for increased drug courts, a year-long suspended driver's license for all drug convictions and vehicle seizure if offenders fail to complete mandated substance abuse treatment.
        A second conviction for marijuana cultivation would be considered a "deadly sin" crime which requires inmates to serve 85 percent of their sentence.  Cultivation of marijuana in Oklahoma carries a sentence from two years to life in prison and $20,000 in fines.
        "Oklahoma regrettably treats drug offenders more harshly than any other state in the union," said Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director.  "Governor Keating, a former FBI agent, apparently knows no limitations."
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director at (202) 483-8751.

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