News Release

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November 16, 2000

Ontario Tories Seek Drug Testing For Welfare Recipients

        Toronto, Ontario:  Welfare recipients in Ontario, Canada may face mandatory drug tests under a new plan unveiled on Wednesday by the Ontario government.  The new policy, which was part of last year's Tory platform, requires drug tests of welfare recipients to determine who use drugs and to treat those who test positive for drugs.  Welfare recipients who refuse to be tested would not be eligible for financial assistance.
        According to the Tory party platform booklet titled "Blueprint," "It's common sense - you can't get off welfare and hold a job if you're addicted to drugs."
        Critics suggest the Ontario government may not be able to implement the new plan following a Court of Appeal case last July that declared drug testing by companies a violation of the province's human rights code.  In that case, the judges ruled drug tests done on urine samples cannot be justified because, unlike breathalyzers which indicate actual alcohol intoxication, drug tests do not test impairment, just past use.  The Canadian Civil Liberties Union said they would likely challenge the drug testing program if were implemented.
        "I'd be interested to know how the Tories feel about a welfare recipient, who, while not a marijuana user, abuses tobacco, alcohol and pharmaceuticals," said Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director.  "Why should those citizens get to retain government benefits and housing while abusing the peaceable marijuana smoker?"
        In 1996, the United States Congress authorized states to drug test welfare recipients only where there is suspicion of drug use and voluntary programs for substance abuse and mental health problems.  The Michigan legislature was the first and only state legislature to approve a law mandating drug tests for all welfare recipients which began in October 1999.  The Michigan ACLU was able to obtain a temporary restraining order by a U.S. District judge that November and this past September a federal judge in Michigan struck down the law.
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director at (202) 483-8751 or Scott Colvin, NORML Publications Director at (202) 483-5500.

Criminal Defense Lawyers Demand End To Drug War

        Washington, DC:  The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers' (NACDL) board of directors unanimously approved a resolution on November 4th calling for the end of the war on drugs.
        In its resolution, NACDL, the nation's largest specialty bar association representing the interests of criminal defense lawyers, stated that drug use should be considered a health problem, and that the government should "repeal all laws criminalizing the possession, use and delivery of controlled substances."  The resolution also calls for a regulated and taxable system for selling controlled substances with a portion of the revenues going towards drug treatment clinics, drug education and research.
        "As a nation, we've stood by and watched this 'war on drugs' lock up a whole generation of young African-Americans," said Fred Leatherman, the NACDL board member who drafted the resolution.  "All the evidence says it's a sham and a failure.  And everybody else who makes money from it thinks we should escalate the war.  We do not agree."
        "Both of our presidential candidates committed 'youthful indiscretions' in their day," said NACDL president Edward Mallet.  "Would they, or we, be better off if they had been sent to prison like so many blacks and Latinos are these days."
        For more information, please contact Daniel Dodson, NACDL interim public affairs director at (202) 872-8600 ext. 228.

California Governor Belatedly Appoints State 'Drug Czar'

        Sacramento, CA:  After two years, California Governor Gray Davis (D) has appointed Kathryn Jett as his first director of the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs.
        Jett will oversee implementation for the recently voter approved Proposition 36, an initiative that calls for treatment instead of incarceration for first and second time non-violent drug offenders.  She is currently the director of the attorney general's Crime and Violence Prevention Center and chairs the executive committee of the nonpartisan Crime Prevention Coalition of America.  She was previously the head of the Department of Health Services' Office of Women's Health.
        For more information, please contact Dale Gieringer, California NORML State Coordinator at (415) 563-5858.

Catholic Bishops Support Treatment In Lieu Of Prison For Drug Offenders

        Washington, DC:  On Wednesday, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops released a 38-page report demanding sweeping changes in the nation's criminal justice system, in particular the treatment of drug users and the growing prison population.
        "The current trend of more prisons and more executions, with too little education and drug treatment, does not truly reflect Christian values and will not really leave our communities safer," the bishops said.
        The bishops wrote, "At least one third of inmates are jailed for drug-related crimes.  Many of them would likely benefit from alternatives to incarceration.  Drug courts...are one innovation that seems to offer great promise and should be encouraged.  Persons suffering from chemical dependency should have access to the treatment that could free them and their families from the slavery of addiction, and free the rest of us from the crimes they commit to support this addiction"
        "For the past few years Gen. McCaffrey has included in his anti-drug mantra the call for churches and the spiritual community to speak to drug abuse," said Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director.  "It appears that an important constituency has endorsed an ending of the status quo.  Is McCaffrey listening?"
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director at (202) 483-8751 or Scott Colvin NORML Publications Director at (202) 483-5500.  To read the full report please visit

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