News Release

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March 16, 2000

Federal Marijuana Sentences Decline

        Washington, DC:  According to a recent report by Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), the average prison sentence for a federal marijuana conviction has declined significantly since 1992.
        In 1998, there were more federal arrests for marijuana than any other drug, and marijuana cases accounted for a third of all federal drug convictions.
        TRAC analyzed data provided by the U.S. Justice Department, the Administrative Office of the Courts and the U.S. Sentencing Commission for the study.
        Further, the report found that two-thirds of all U.S. Customs cases involve marijuana.  Customs cases accounted for 21 percent of all federal drug cases.
        Federal drug arrests and convictions were shown to be increasing while the length of prison sentences were declining.  Between 1992 and 1998 the average prison sentence for a federal drug offense fell 22 percent, from 86 months to 67 months.
        Marc Mauer, assistant director of the Sentencing Project, credits the decline of prison sentences to changes in sentencing laws in 1994 that allow judges to give first-time, non-violent drug convicts a reduction in mandatory minimum prison sentences -- a so-called "safety valve."
        "It took a couple years for the effect to become apparent, but what's been demonstrated there, which is what many people had suspected, is that there are considerable numbers of low-level drug offenders in the federal system, and judges have taken advantage of the safety valve to give them less time," Mauer said.
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director at (202) 483-8751 or Marc Mauer of the Sentencing Project at (202) 628-0871.

Industrial Hemp Study Approved By Kentucky House

        Frankfort, KY:  The Kentucky House of Representatives passed a bill this Wednesday allowing universities with agricultural programs to study the growth and market potential of industrial hemp.  The universities will still have to gain approval from the Drug Enforcement Administration in order to plant a crop.
        House Bill 855, which would have permitted farmers to grow hemp with tetrahydrocannabinol levels of less than one percent, was amended to allow only for the university study for now.  If the results of the study are favorable, farmers would be able to grow hemp after July 15, 2002.
        "I'm disappointed that we are postponing an opportunity that could help farmers and agriculture in this state for two years or longer, mostly out of fear and misunderstanding," said Rep. Steve Nunn (R-Glasgow).
        The bill has been sent to the Senate for consideration.
        For more information, please contact Tom Dean, Esq., NORML Foundation Litigation Director at (202) 483-8751.

NORML Builds Case Against ONDCP For Violating Anti-Payola Laws

        Washington, DC:  NORML Foundation Litigation Director Tom Dean, Esq., filed a formal complaint with the Federal Communications Commission, on NORML's behalf on February 17, against the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and television networks for their participation in a program where the ONDCP would offer additional advertising dollars if network programs had anti-drug messages embedded in their programming.
        The complaint asks the FCC to sanction the ONDCP and the networks involved for their continued violations of the anti-payola law set forth in the Federal Communications Act.
        This week, the ONDCP responded to a January Freedom of Information Act request, seeking all pertinent information about the program, by sending hundreds of documents pertaining to the program and its intent.
        A booklet titled, "The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign - Communication Strategy Statement" published by the ONDCP stated, "The communication objectives of the campaign should focus on altering those mediating variables (including knowledge, beliefs, and behaviors) that are known to have significant impact on adolescent drug use."
        "The stated purpose of this propaganda campaign is to control the very things that make society free," Dean said.  "The fact that this program is carried out secretly, by tampering with the content of popular television programs, underscores the federal governments complete lack of respect for the law and citizens' right to self-determination."
        For more information, please contact Tom Dean, NORML Foundation Litigation Director at (202) 483-8751.  To view NORML's complaint to the FCC, along with informative supplemental information regarding the ONDCP program, please visit

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