News Release

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January 20, 2000

Drug Czar's Media Anti-Drug Campaign Under Fire
Additional Advertising Revenue Offered To Networks Who Promote Anti-Drug Message In Programming

        Washington, DC:  A program initiated by drug czar Barry McCaffrey to increase anti-drug messages on prime time television and in major print publications has been slightly changed after a firestorm of national press accusing the drug czar's office of attempting to buy-off the networks and influence the content of programming.
    The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) advertising program that began in 1997, offers additional advertising dollars to television networks for anti-drug content embedded in programming, in lieu of airing ONDCP public service announcements.  The government received $2 billion worth in anti-drug advertising for $1 billion, by requiring the media to provide $1 of free anti-drug messages for every $1 spent.  If the networks included anti-drug messages or showed drug use in a negative light in its programming, the drug czar's office would give "credits" to the network.  The credits would allow the networks to sell to other companies the advertising time previously allotted to the drug czar's office.
        At a House appropriations subcommittee last October, McCaffrey explained the credit system: "An on-strategy story line that is the main plot of a half-hour show can be valued at three 30-second ads...If there is an end tag with an 800 number or more information at the end of a half-hour show, it is valued at an additional 15-second ad.  A main story-line in an hour-long prime-time show is valued at five 30-second ads, while such a story-line in a one-hour daytime show is valued at four 30-second ads."
        The ONDCP would review the programming, and in some instances, would receive scripts for credit approval, before the show aired, causing some to fear the drug czar's office was approving content.  This week, White House press secretary Joe Lockhart stated, "They've (ONDCP) revised their policy to no longer look at scripts or do changes in programming for credit before a program is finished." ONDCP spokesman Bob Weiner said their office will continue to do consulting work for producers who request their assistance.
        Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-LA), chairman of the House Commerce Committee's telecommunications panel, is planning hearings this spring on the policy and its guidelines.  He said about the program, "We're not going to allow the federal government to become a censor."
        "This is further evidence of the erosion of Constitutional rights resulting from the 'war on drugs,'" said Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director.  "First, the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure was dramatically reduced; now the First Amendment protection of free speech is being undermined."
        For more information, please contact Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director at (202) 483-5500.

Decriminalization Efforts Gain Strength In England
80 Percent Support No Jail Time For Marijuana Possession

        London, England:  The drug war in England is showing signs of exhaustion as the Police Foundation, an independent research group funded by the Home Office, is calling for the decriminalization of marijuana.  Adding to the speculation of marijuana law reform in England, a recent Market and Opinion Research International (MORI) poll shows that 80 percent of the public support the relaxation of cannabis laws.
        The Police Foundation, a quasi-royal commission that is said to have the unspoken approval of the government, is recommending that an arrest for marijuana possession should carry a fine and never include a prison sentence.
        Marijuana possession is currently punishable by up to seven years in jail. In 1997, 500 people were imprisoned for simple marijuana possession.  Over the past 10 years, the number of people jailed for drug offenses have more than doubled from 2,893 in 1988 to 7,089 in 1998 (70 percent were marijuana related).
        "Australia, Switzerland, Canada and now England join the growing chorus of countries laying the groundwork to abandon the feckless and wasteful American-inspired policy of marijuana prohibition," said Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director.
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director at (202) 483-8751.

Northcoast NORML Receives Mayor's Reluctant Approval For Store

        Ravenna, OH:  Ravenna mayor Paul Jones relented last week from his opposition to the issuance of permits to allow Northcoast NORML to open a shop in the city's historic district.
        The mayor did however offer threatening words in a letter to Northcoast NORML President John Hartman.  He said the city, "has no choice but to issue an occupancy permit...let me put you on notice with respect to obeying the law while in Ravenna...I can assure you this city will be vigilant to prosecute any offenders to the highest extent of the law.  In plain words, you have been warned...[Y]ou better be cleaner than the driven snow."
        After receiving the mayor's letter, Northcoast NORML's lawyer William Saks, Esq., responded, "The mayor should be aware that any harassment or unjustified prosecutions will be vigorously resisted."  In December, the mayor, who admitted that "he may be infringing on [NORML's] Constitutional rights," would not issue an occupancy permit to the store.  He forced the group to seek approval from both the zoning and planning commissions even though the building was already zoned for business and there were no structural changes made.  Last week Ravenna city attorney Frank Cimino informed Jones that the NORML store did comply with the commercial zoning requirements.
        The store will be selling hemp clothing, jewelry, NORML logo products and books.
        For more information, please contact John Hartman, Northcoast NORML President at (216) 521-9333 or William Saks, Esq., at (216) 321-7335.

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