News Release

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January 13, 2000

U.S. Drug Czar Commands Customs To Seize All Hemp Seed Imports That Contain Any THC
U.S. Government Protecting Business Interests Of The Drug Testing Industry

        Washington, DC:  The embargo on sterilized hemp seeds entering the United States that was lifted in December has once again been reinstated on order of U.S. drug czar Barry McCaffrey, because it goes against his office's "zero tolerance policy."
        Tom Corwin, of the U.S. Customs Department of Trade Programs, said when the hemp seed embargo was lifted in December, they looked at other country's limits for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and decided that 0.3 percent THC should be the limit.  He said this decision was made without the knowledge of the drug czar's office.  Corwin said McCaffrey was "offended" by this decision because it went against the Office of National Drug Control Policy's (ONDCP) National Drug Control Strategy.
        A Jan. 5 memorandum from Robert McNamara, Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Office of Field Operations, instructed U.S. Customs to "[S]uspend the policy that allows for the legal importation into the United States of sterilized hemp seed or other hemp products which contain an amount not in excess of 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol."
        Corwin said that according to the drug czar's orders, every hemp seed shipment arriving from Canada will be detained, and a sample will be taken to a lab to determine if there is any trace of THC.  This process takes 30 days.  If there is any trace of THC, the shipment will be seized.
        Corwin said another of McCaffrey's concerns is that even trace amounts of THC in hemp seed products could cause a false positive drug test.
        In August, the DEA instructed U.S. Customs to stop the importation of all hemp seed products into the U.S.  The first seizure was a 53,000 pound load of sterilized birdseed imported by Kenex Ltd.  In November, the DEA lifted the embargo and allowed sterilized seeds to enter the country.
        "The hemp industry suffered a huge loss of momentum when Customs illegally cut off our supplies for four months," said Don Wirtshafter of the Ohio Hempery.  "We finally were getting back on our feet when the drug czar did this about-face on us.  Any new regulations should come only after rule making procedures, not on some bureaucrat's whim."
        For more information, please contact Don Wirtshafter of the Ohio Hempery at (740) 662-4367 or Tom Dean, Esq., NORML Foundation Litigation Director at (202) 483-8751.

Hepatitis C Patient Can Now Legally Smoke Marijuana Following Two Day

        Ottawa, Ontario:  After two days and nights of public protest on Parliament Hill, Robert Brown, a 43-year-old infected with hepatitis C who has been trying to get consent from Health Canada for the past 12 months, received word this week that he could legally smoke marijuana to treat his illness.
        A sergeant in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police located Brown huddled under an umbrella in a cold rain and handed him a cellular telephone.  Dr. Robert Peterson, Associate Director-General of the Therapeutic Products Program of Health Canada, Canada's health care bureaucracy, gave Brown the good news.
        Health Canada said Brown's two-day protest did not influence its decision but spokesman Jeff Pender conceded, "Obviously the fact that he was out in the cold and getting sicker probably lent it to gathering the last bit of information (faster)."
        Brown, now becomes Canada's 20th person approved to legally use marijuana medicinally.  In August, Health Canada promised $7.5 million to the Medical Marijuana Research Project over the next five years to evaluate the medical use of marijuana.
        Brown hopes the government's decision will also help him this June when he goes on trial on charges stemming from a December 1998 arrest for marijuana possession, cultivation and intent to traffic.  On Wednesday, the Crown announced that it is reviewing its case against Brown due to his constitutional exemption and his state of health.
        For now, Brown is just happy to be allowed to use marijuana legally.  He said on Monday, "I'm going to go home and hug my wife and then I'm going to smoke.  I'm feeling pretty sick, but I'm feeling pretty good."
        For more information, please contact Scott Colvin, NORML Publications Director at (202) 483-5500.

CA Anti-Marijuana Legislation Killed In Committee

        Sacramento, CA:  The California Senate Public Safety Committee this week unanimously rejected Sen. Pete Knight's anti-marijuana and drug bill, SB 273.
        The Bill would have amended the state's drug-free zone law to include marijuana and would have extended the definition of drug-free zones, which currently include only public property within 1,000 feet of a school, to include private property as well.
        Initially the bill would have raised the maximum penalty for marijuana possession from $100 to $1,000.  The bill was then revised in an attempt to gain support.
        For more information, please contact Dale Gieringer, State Coordinator of California NORML at (415) 563-5858.

NORML 2000 Conference Update

        Please register now for the NORML 2000 conference in Washington, DC on Feb. 3-5, 2000.  To be assured of the special reduced hotel rates for NORML 2000 Conference attendees, please also register with the hotel ASAP.  For more information on the NORML 2000 conference please visit or call (202) 483-5500.  To reserve a hotel room at the Washington Plaza Hotel please call (800) 424-1140 (mention #8385).

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