July 13, 2000
Portuguese Parliament Decriminalizes Marijuana
Portugal: The Portuguese Parliament voted last Thursday to
decriminalize the possession of marijuana. Marijuana use and the
consumption of other previously illegal drugs will now be considered a medical
condition as opposed to a criminal justice problem and users will receive
treatment instead of jail time.
"The idea is to get away from punishment towards treatment," said Carlos Borges, a spokesperson for the Presidency Ministry which is responsible for Portuguese drug policy.
The Portuguese conservative party, the Social Democrats, called for a voter referendum on the new drug law, but the prime minister, Antonio Guterres, rejected the idea saying it did not merit a national vote.
Portugal now becomes the third member of the European Union, after Spain and Italy, to decriminalize possession of small quantities of marijuana.
"In the last few years, Italy, Switzerland, Scotland, Spain, the Netherlands and now Portugal, have proven to be enlightened and pragmatic countries in crafting workable marijuana policies," said Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director. "In contrast, the United States continues to embrace the failed policy of prohibition."
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director at (202) 483-8751.
Drug Czar Seeks Deal With Hollywood To Include Anti-Drug Messages In Films
DC: Drug czar Barry McCaffrey plans to intensify the Office of
National Drug Control Policy's anti-drug media campaign to include government
anti-drug messages in popular movies. At a House subcommittee hearing this
week, McCaffrey announced that he intends to "leverage popular movies"
and to work with studios to promote films that "responsibly communicate
anti-drug campaign messages."
McCaffrey testified Tuesday before the House Government Reform Committee, Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources, in support of his office's National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign. McCaffrey said the ONDCP would not offer government financed incentives for incorporating anti-drug messages in their scripts, but would offer tax dollars for "promotional activities and special events that capitalize on the visibility" of films that feature such messages.
McCaffrey has previously offered payment to television networks and print publications that include anti-drug messages embedded in the content. The NORML Foundation filed a complaint in February with the Federal Communications Commission alleging the ONDCP program violates federal anti-payola laws.
"McCaffrey is shamelessly continuing his efforts to have the federal government control the content of television and movies, by offering financial rewards to those who incorporate government approved anti-drug messages into their programming," said Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director. "This really is sounding more and more like something we would have expected from the former Soviet Union. It's apparently the price we pay for having a military officer in charge of our nation's drug policy."
For more information, please contact Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director at (202) 483-5500.
DC City Council Toughens Marijuana Distribution Law
DC: The District of Columbia City Council voted on Tuesday to raise
the sentence for marijuana distribution (or possession with the intent to
distribute marijuana) from a one-year misdemeanor to a five-year felony.
Distributing less than eight ounces of of marijuana will continue as a
misdemeanor punishable by up to six months imprisonment, for a first offense.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Report indicates that African Americans account for 96 percent of marijuana sale arrests in the District. NORML Litigation Director Tom Dean, Esq., stated that making marijuana distribution a felony is "clearly racist in impact and runs contrary to the will of the people."
While DC lawmakers said they intended this bill to be a response to open-air drug markets in the District, they rejected an amendment that would have exempted medical users from the felony charges. In 1998, District voters approved a medical marijuana initiative which was subsequently blocked by Congress.
"I guess my biggest fear is that patients who may be using medical marijuana may now be turned into felons," said Wayne Turner, of DC Act Up, the group that lead the 1998 DC medical marijuana initiative. "I just wish the council members were more interested in doing the bidding of the voters of Washington, D.C., rather than the U.S. Attorney's office."
For more information, please contact Tom Dean, Esq., NORML Foundation Litigation Director at (202) 483-8751 or Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director at (202) 483-5500.
Colleges Given OK to Contact Parents Of Students Caught With Marijuana
DC: Contacting the parents of college students, under 21 years old,
who are caught smoking or possessing marijuana is now up to the discretion of
the school under new regulations issued by the the United States Department of
The new regulations comply with changes made by Congress in 1998 to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act during its review of the Higher Education Act. The privacy law previously prohibited releasing student records without the student's consent, but Congress exempted drug use from the student privacy protections in an ongoing attempt to curb illegal drug use and underage drinking.
Under the new rules, colleges do not have to hold disciplinary hearings before contacting parents, nor do they have to contact the student involved. The decision to contact a student's parent is up to the discretion of the college, but if a parent is contacted, the school must keep a record of the disclosure and provide it to the student upon request.
"Congress continues to perpetuate a 'nanny state' in allowing colleges to violate the privacy of their own students," said Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director. "If a college student is 18 years or older, and presumably an adult, what business does the government have communicating with a students parents? What's next, will Congress authorize colleges to inform the parents whether or not 'Junior' is getting enough sleep, or if he's not eating his vegetables."
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director at (202) 483-8751. To view the new regulations visit: www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/fedreg/a000706c.html.
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