News Release

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March 30, 2000

Blair Agrees To Allow For Medical Marijuana -- If Human Trials Are Successful
British Police Foundation Recommends 'Depenalizing' Possession of Marijuana

        London, England:  In a trade-off with Mo Mowlam, the Cabinet Minister in charge of drug policy, Prime Minister Tony Blair stated last week that he would allow patients to use marijuana medically once human trials confirm it can alleviate patients' symptoms.
        Although Blair agreed to allow patients to use marijuana medically, he rejected Mowlam's proposal to decriminalize marijuana for recreational use.
        Blair also ignored a report by Prince Charles' Police Foundation, a law enforcement think tank, that released the findings of a two-year study this week, concluding that marijuana should be "depenalized."
        Almost 30 years ago, England enacted the Misuse of Drugs Act, which has become one of Europe's toughest anti-drug statutes.  It has been considered a failure due to the alarming rates of hard drug addictions.  In 1998, 100,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession.
        The commission's report stated, "The present law produces more harm than it prevents," adding that marijuana is less dangerous than tobacco and alcohol.
        The commission that issued the report was comprised of police officers, academics and politicians.
        Charles Clarke, Home Office Minister of State, said regardless of
Mowlam's or the Police Foundation's recommendations, there is no plan to "depenalize" the possession of marijuana.
        "I believe the most likely impact of a relaxation in the law in any of these areas would be to increase consumption of those drugs," insisted Clarke, who has admitted to using marijuana while in college.
        "Prime Minister Blair and other supporters of the status quo need to understand that where marijuana possession has been decriminalized in 11 U.S. states, marijuana use rates have not appreciably risen," said Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director.  "The same can be said for England's Economic Union partner, the Netherlands, where marijuana enjoys a quasi-legal status and marijuana use is quite low."
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director at (202) 483-8751.

Amherst Voters Approve Referendum To "Deprioritize" Marijuana

        Amherst, MA:  Amherst voters approved a nonbinding referendum on March 28th that "deprioritizes" marijuana enforcement and also urges state and federal lawmakers to repeal anti-marijuana laws.
        The vote, which passed with 1,659 in favor and 981 against, is the second time Amherst voters have passed a similar measure.  In 1976, a town meeting approved an article calling for the legalization of marijuana.
        The question voters approved reads: "Shall the following proposal be passed?  In Affirmation and expansion of the Amherst Town Meeting vote of May 12, 1976 (Article 52, Part 2), we urge the members of the Selectboard and the Town Manager to persuade our state representative, state senator, U.S. representative and U.S. senators to repeal the prohibition of marijuana; and, in the interim, before repeal has been effected, we urge the Amherst Police Department to deprioritize the enforcement of laws covering the possession of marijuana against persons over the age of eighteen."
        "I don't know anyone who believes that arresting people for simple possession of marijuana is less harmful for them than marijuana itself, said Richard Evans, Esq., NORML Board member.  "Most people recognize that the worst thing about marijuana is that it can get you arrested."
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director, at (202) 483-8751.

Santa Cruz City Council Strengthens Medical Marijuana Laws

        Santa Cruz, CA:  The Santa Cruz City Council gave preliminary approval to an ordinance this past Tuesday that would protect patients with a medical use identification card from prosecution, without requiring they identify the physician who recommended the use of marijuana.
        The ordinance states the city will permit buyers cooperatives to cultivate and sell marijuana (not for a profit) to patients and caregivers with a doctor's written recommendation, or if the patient or caregiver possesses an identification card issued by their medical marijuana organization.
        The council based the ordinance on a similar law in Oakland.  The council used the Santa Cruz Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM), a medical marijuana collective, as its model.
        Besides protecting patients, their caregivers and the clubs, the city council hopes the ordinance will keep doctors safe from criminal prosecution for recommending marijuana.
        The ordinance still needs final approval by the council, which is expected in April.  The ordinance will take effect 30 days after it is approved.
        "Because of the fear of prosecution, many physicians have refused to recommend marijuana," said Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director.  "Santa Cruz has devised a way to protect the identity of the physicians, which should help alleviate the problem."
        For more information, please contact Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director at (202) 483-5500 or WAMM at (831) 423-5413.

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