News Release

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August 31, 2000

U.S. Supreme Court Halts Marijuana Distribution By Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative

        Washington, DC:  Acting on an emergency request from the Department of Justice, the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday voted 7-1 to prohibit cannabis distribution by the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative to patients who qualify for the federal medical necessity defense while the case is on appeal.  The case was originally brought as a civil suit to force the closure of several northern California patients' cooperatives who had begun distributing cannabis as a medicine to patients who qualify under Proposition 215, the California medical marijuana law.
        "This is a small bump in the road and the important issues in this case will be decided later," said Robert Raich, Esq., lawyer for the OCBC.  "It is a travesty that the Clinton-Gore administration is trying so vigorously to keep the only medicine that works away from patients who so desperately need it."
        On August 11, the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals denied the federal government's request for an emergency order to stop the OCBC from distributing cannabis to patients who qualify as having a medical necessity. Government lawyers then sought the emergency ruling from Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who referred the request to the full Court.
        Writing in dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens said the government "has failed to demonstrate that the denial of necessary medicine to seriously ill and dying patients will advance the public interest or that the failure to enjoin the distribution of such medicine will impair the orderly enforcement of federal criminal statutes."
        "While the issuance of this injunction by the high court was a disappointment, the Court was ruling on a narrow procedural issue," said Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director.  "The far more important question of whether the protection afforded patients under Proposition 215 is valid was not before the Court at this time.  Despite this ruling, Prop. 215 remains in effect in California."
        For more information, please contact Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director at (202) 483-5500 or Robert Raich, Esq., lawyer for the OCBC at (510) 338-0700.

Drug Czar Lied To Congress, Secretly Taped Phone Calls

        Washington, DC:  U.S. drug czar Gen. Barry McCaffrey's operating tactics came into question again this week in two new articles.  Insight published a story that alleges McCaffrey lied to Congress by manipulating data on a drug use study, while Newsweek reported that McCaffrey has been secretly taping phone conversations with journalists.
        The ONDCP manipulated data without reporting changes in it's "Performance Measures of Effectiveness: 2000 Report," a violation of federal law which requires the ONDCP to point out any changes it makes to the reporting system.  One of the goals listed by the ONDCP is to "increase the percentage of youth who perceive drug use as harmful" to 80 percent by 2002.  The ONDCP claimed they were on target, but in 1996-1999 the percentage of 12th-graders who believed that drugs were harmful dropped from 59.9 percent to 57.4 percent.  Insight indicated that this goal should not have been considered "on target."  The ONDCP changed the base year from 1996 to 1998, thus making the downward trend seem less 
severe.  Perhaps more significantly, the ONDCP then changed the target group from seniors in high school to 8th-graders, where 73 percent view drug use as dangerous, thus bringing the ONDCP within seven percentage points to their 80 percent goal.
        Insight reported that ONDCP did point out other changes it made in its reporting system.  A spokesperson for the ONDCP said "We weren't trying to pull anything sneaky here."
        Newsweek learned that the ONDCP head has been secretly taping phone conversations with reporters after over two dozen audiocassettes were turned over in response to a 1997 demand for evidence in a lawsuit.
        One reporter, drug war proponent A.M. Rosenthal, who was discussing with McCaffrey how to attack medical marijuana financier George Soros, said, "I don't recall anybody telling me they were going to record this."  Anita Manning, a USA Today reporter who found out she was caught on tape by McCaffrey said, "This is just creepy."
        Although it is legal in Washington, DC to tape phone conversations without prior consent, ONDCP spokesperson Bob Weiner said the drug office "may have screwed up" in this incident.
        "Maybe they 'screwed up' appears to be the ONDCP's mantra this year," said Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director.  "Let's recall that earlier this year that the ONDCP also 'screwed up' by embedding secret government-approved anti-drug themes into popular network television programming.  Also, the ONDCP admitted that it was 'wrong' to secretly track visitors to the ONDCP's web of internet sites.  Representative John Conyers (D-MI) and the rest of the Congressional black caucus is spot on with their public demand that Gen. McCaffrey should immediately resign."
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director at (202) 483-8751.

Annual Report Shows 2.3 Million Tried Marijuana For First Time In 1998

        Washington, DC:  According to the 1999 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, an estimated 2.3 million people tried marijuana for the first time during 1998, which amounts to about 6,400 new marijuana smokers a day.
        Among youth age 12 to 17, the perceived risk of marijuana use went down from 30.8 percent in 1998 to 29.0 percent in 1999.
        The annual report also indicated that although the statistics were not significant, marijuana use increased for adults ages 18-25 from 13.8 percent in 1998 to 16.4 percent in 1999 and that marijuana decreased for youths aged 12-17 from 8.3 percent in 1998 to 7.0 percent in 1999.
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director at (202) 483-8751.  To view the report visit

Woody Harrelson Acquitted Of Marijuana Possession Charges

        Beatyville, KY:  Woody Harrelson's four-year battle against a Kentucky law that does not differentiate between marijuana and industrial hemp came to an end last Thursday, as a jury acquitted the actor of misdemeanor marijuana possession charges.
        Four years ago, Harrelson planted four hemp seeds in an attempt to challenge a law outlawing the possession of any part of a cannabis plant.  If convicted, Harrelson could have faced 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.
     "I had the opportunity to talk to some of the jurors afterward, and, regardless of what the Supreme Court says and regardless of what the legislators say, those people don't think it's right that someone should go to jail for growing industrial hemp," Harrelson said.  "To me they're sending out a very strong message."
        "Now it's time to start promoting the growth of hemp so we can have a great economic future in Kentucky," said Former Kentucky Governor Louie Nunn, a member of the actor's defense team.  "We need to educate people about the distinction between marijuana and hemp."
        The Kentucky House of Representatives approved House Bill 855 to allow for the commercial production of industrial hemp as an agricultural product this winter.  The legislation was in the Senate Rules Committee when the legislature recessed in April.
        For more information, please contact Scott Colvin, NORML Publications Director at (202) 483-5500.

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