News Release

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June 8, 2000

Washington Voter Initiative Would Decriminalize Marijuana

        Seattle, WA:  An initiative has been introduced by a group of Washington citizens seeking civil fines instead of criminal prosecution for possession of small amounts of marijuana.
        Initiative 746, launched by The Reasonable People's Campaign, also calls for treatment, rather than jail time, for non-violent possession of other illegal drugs for personal use.
        "The vast body of research and growing number of experts in the public health, medical and law enforcement communities now recognize that a shift of emphasis to treatment solutions is long overdue," said Jeff Haley, Co-Chair of the Washington Addiction Treatment Task Force, the official sponsor of I-746.  "Treating drug addicts is not just cheaper than incarceration, it's also proven to reduce drug-related violent crime, the spread of HIV/AIDS and other health and social problems much better than locking people in overcrowded prisons."
        The Reasonable People's Campaign will attempt to collect the 180,000 signatures by July 7th, via the Internet.  This is the first attempt to qualify an initiative in Washington solely relying on e-mail and visitors downloading the petition from the website ( to collect signatures, as opposed to using paid signature collectors.
        "We think I-746 is a reasonable, responsible approach to reducing the drug problem," said Robert Lunday, campaign manager for the Reasonable People's Campaign.  "We know we've got a formidable challenge to gather more than 180,000 valid signatures in this way by the July 7th deadline, but we think our Internet-based approach offers a variety of significant benefits over paid signature gathering."
        For more information, please contact Robert Lunday, Campaign Manager, at (206) 781-8144.

Canadian Court Upholds Marijuana Law
Dissenting Justice Finds Jail Sentences Violate Canadian Charter Of Rights

        Vancouver, British Columbia:  In a major legal challenge to Canada's marijuana laws, a British Columbia Court of Appeals panel ruled 2-1 last Friday that simple possession of marijuana does not pose a serious or substantial risk, but said legalization should come from Parliament, not the courts.
        In the majority decision, Justice Tom Braidwood wrote that "I agree that the evidence shows that the risk posed by marijuana is not large...I do not feel it is the role of the court to strike down the prohibition on the non-medical use of marijuana possession at this time.  In the end, I have decided that such matters are best left to Parliament."
        The two appellants, David Malmo-Levine and Randy Caine, were both convicted on marijuana charges.  Malmo-Levine was arrested on Dec. 4, 1996 when police found 316 grams of marijuana at his harm reduction club in East Vancouver.  Caine was arrested when he was caught smoking a joint with a friend in a parking lot by Royal Canadian Mounted Police on June 13, 1993.
        Justice Jo-Anne Prowse, in her dissenting opinion, found the provisions of the Narcotic Control Act infringed on the appellants' rights to life, liberty, or security under Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Acknowledging that marijuana may have negative health consequences for the smoker, but does not harm others, the appellants raised a "harm principle" issue which states society can only punish people for activities that harm others.
        "In my view, the evidence does not establish that simple possession of marijuana presents a reasoned risk of serious, substantial or significant harm to either the individual or society or others," Prowse wrote.
        "We may all go to the Supreme Court of Canada to seek leave to appeal at the same time," said NORML Legal Committee member John Conroy, Q.C., who represents Malmo-Levine and Caine.  "The issue for the Supreme Court of Canada is which camp is right.  It's a good judgement because they clearly all say that the possession and use of marijuana doesn't create a serious or substantial risk of harm."
        For more information, please contact John Conroy, Q.C., at (604) 852-5110 or Tom Dean, Esq., NORML Foundation Litigation Director at (202) 483-8751.

Anti-Ecstasy Bill Would Make It Illegal To Distribute Marijuana Information

        Washington, DC:  A bill introduced in the U.S. Senate to combat "ecstasy" (MDMA) trafficking, distribution and use also contains language banning the dissemination of information on marijuana and other controlled substances.
        Much like the pending anti-methamphetamine bill (S.486/HR.2987), this anti-ecstasy legislation, Senate Bill 2612, makes it a felony to "teach or demonstrate the manufacture of controlled substance or to distribute by any means information pertaining to, in whole or in part, the manufacture, acquisition, or use of a controlled substance, with the intent that the teaching, demonstration, or information be used for, or in furtherance of, an activity that constitutes a crime."
        The bill, introduced by Sen. Bill Graham (D-FL) and co-sponsored by Sens. Charles Grassley (R-IA), Craig Thomas (R-WY), Joe Biden (D-DE) and Evan Bayh (D-IN), calls for fines and up to 10 years in prison for violators.
        "This bill, like the anti-meth bill, is a clear infringement of the First Amendment," said Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director.  "It would make it a 10 year felony for someone to help a seriously ill patient cultivate marijuana for medicine, even in those states in which medical marijuana is legal under state law.  This is just the latest example of the excesses of the war on drugs."
        For more information, please contact Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director at (202) 483-5500.

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