July 27, 2000
Committee Removes Constitutionally Questionable Provisions of 'Anti-Meth' Bill
Washington, DC: The House Judiciary Committee passed H.R. 2987 on Tuesday sans numerous controversial provisions that sought to greatly limit information relating to drug use or manufacture from being posted to the internet.
The bill, now named the 'Methamphetamine and Club Drug Anti-Proliferation Act of 2000', won committee approval after the following provisions were removed because of the strong concerns voiced by civil liberties groups, drug law reform organizations and privacy and health advocates: provisions allowing federal agencies to order internet service providers to take down websites that the government believes disseminates offensive drug-related information; provisions making it illegal to teach or distribute information on the manufacture of a controlled substance; and making advertising of 'drug' paraphernalia illegal.
Also, the committee adopted two other important amendments. The first allows federal judges to divert nonviolent drug offenders charged solely with possession of an illegal drug into drug treatment or other alternative forms of sentencing. The other amendment instructs the attorney general to prepare a report within the year to address a potential disparity in the criminal justice system concerning "the racial impact of mandatory sentences for controlled substances, their effectiveness in reducing drug-related crime by non-violent offenders in contrast with other approaches such as drug treatment programs."
NORML's Executive Director Keith Stroup said, "The Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee, led by ranking member John Conyers (D-MI), are to be commended for leading the efforts to eliminate the most offensive provisions of this bill."
The bill will be scheduled for a vote by the full House after the August recess.
For more information, please contact Keith Stroup, Executive Director of NORML at (202) 483-5500.
New Zealand Moving Towards A Legal Hemp Industry
Auckland, New Zealand: In a statement to the media, New Zealand Custom Minister Phillida Bunkle has given her officials the go ahead to start negotiating with industry representatives to develop trial plots of industrial hemp. Minister Bunkle said that industrial hemp offered a unique opportunity for regional development in New Zealand.
"Industrial hemp trials can be conducted under existing legislation, but it would still need government approval for the product to be grown commercially. If the trials are successful, we envisage removing hemp from the Misuse of Drugs Act and regulating it under the Customs and Excise Act. I am personally convinced that hemp is a wonderful natural product and it presents us with an excellent opportunity for economic development in many regions currently experiencing difficulties," she said. Ms. Bunkle said that the trials could begin as soon as summer.
An inter-government agency has already given approval to industrial hemp and a meeting between hemp advocates and Customs officials will occur on August 21, 2000. Currently, New Zealand imports more than $1 million in hemp products annually.
For more information, please contact NORML of New Zealand, (64) 9-302-5255 or www.norml.nz.nl.
New Mexico Legislators Urged To Update Medical Marijuana Law
Santa Fe, New Mexico: Health Secretary Alex Valdez said Monday that he thinks New Mexico should repeal its medical marijuana law and replace it with one modeled on Hawaii's new program. "It's an ineffective piece of legislation for all intents and purposes, which should be repealed. However, something should be put in its place to reduce the pain and suffering that many people in this state are going through," Valdez said.
In 1978, New Mexico was one of the first states to pass a state medical marijuana bill and more than 150 patients were accepted into a state run program that distributed marijuana to cancer and glaucoma patients. The legislature in 1986 stopped appropriating the $50,000 needed to run the program.
Department of Public Safety Secretary Nick Bakas commented in an interview with the Alburquque Journal, " The last thing [a citizen] needs to worry about in his cancer state is that a police officer is going to take him to jail for marijuana. We have a full plate dealing with people who injure ... and prey on other human beings. That's who we (police) need to concentrate on."
For more information please contact Ed McWilliams of New Mexico NORML at (505) 275-6886 or Keith Stroup, Executive Director of NORML at (202) 483-5500.
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