News Release

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February 15, 2001

Researchers Find Marijuana Prohibition Plays No Role in Deterring Pot Use

        London, United Kingdom:  Data from the United States and abroad indicates that removing criminal penalties for marijuana possession will not lead to increased drug use, according to findings published this month by the British Journal of Psychiatry.
     The available evidence suggests that removal of criminal prohibitions on cannabis possession (decriminalization) will not increase the prevalence of marijuana or any other illicit drug, authors found.  Their study noted that a far greater percentage of Americans age 12 and older (33 percent) report having tried marijuana as do their Dutch counterparts (16 percent), despite the fact that open sale and possession of pot is permitted in the Netherlands.  Dutch figures also indicated that decriminalization appears to have had some success separating pot from the hard drug market, thereby reducing the number of marijuana users who try other illicit drugs.  The study is one of the first to draw cross-sectional comparisons of drug use among Americans and non-Americans of identical age groups.
     Similar findings were noted in countries with alternate versions of marijuana decriminalization.  Empirical data from Italy and Spain, which decriminalized possession of all psychoactive drugs, indicate that their citizens use marijuana at rates comparable to neighboring countries that maintain strict prohibition.
     The authors concluded: Our judgment, based on review of the research literature, is that at present the primary harms of marijuana use (including those borne by non-users) come from criminalization.  This prohibition inflicts harms directly and is costly.  Unless it can be shown that the removal of penalties will increase use of other more harmful drugs, it is difficult to see what society gains [from prohibition.]
        NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. praised the studys findings, noting that it joins a long list of prestigious commissions and study groups that have reached the same conclusion.  The U.S. National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse (the Shafer Commission), the LeDain Commission in Canada, and the Wooten Report in England all agreed that we should stop arresting responsible marijuana smokers.  The data today, just as it did then, overwhelmingly supports the removal of criminal penalties for the personal possession and use of marijuana.
     The study, which was sponsored by the RAND Drug Policy Research Center, appears in volume 178 of the British Journal of Psychiatry.
     For more information, please contact R. Keith Stroup, NORML Executive
Director, at (202) 483-5500.

Bill Allowing for Medical Use of Marijuana Introduced in Maryland

        Annapolis, MD:  For the second straight year the Maryland Legislature will debate whether to legalize marijuana for medical purposes.
     Maryland House Bill 940, introduced by Del. Donald Murphy (R-Baltimore County), allows qualified patients to possess and cultivate marijuana for medicinal purposes.  The proposed law would also establish a state-run registry for qualified patients, and allow patients and their primary caregivers to raise medical necessity as an affirmative defense to any marijuana prosecution.  Twenty-nine delegates, including nine Republicans, have signed on to the bill, which has a hearing scheduled for March 1.  A companion bill, SB 750, is pending in the Senate and will be heard on February 28.
     Further information on HB 940 and SB 750 is available at: To read about other pending marijuana legislation, visit:

DARE Program Admits Failings

        Washington, DC:  At a press conference today, proponents of the student anti-drug education program DARE admitted that its current approach is ineffective at persuading graduates to resist experimenting with illicit drugs.  The group announced that it will begin controlled studies this fall on a new DARE curriculum targeting older students.
     More than 30 studies have been conducted evaluating DARE, almost all of which have concluded that DARE graduates go on to use drugs at similar or higher rates than those students not exposed to the program.  Recently, both the U.S. Surgeon General and the National Academy of Sciences issued reports concluding DAREs approach is ineffective.  Nevertheless, the program continues to be taught in nearly 80 percent of the nations school districts, and receives over $230 million in federal and corporate funding.
     For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director at (202) 483-8751.

Colorado Health Board Proposes Rules for State Medical Marijuana Program

        Denver, CO:  Draft regulations to establish a state-run, medical marijuana patient registry were released this week by the Colorado Board of Health.  Voters approved legislation last year legalizing the medical use of marijuana for qualified patients.
     The proposed regulations establish a confidential patient registry similar to those in other states, and authorize the health department to issue serially numbered identification cards to qualified patients.  Cards shall include the patients name, address, birth-date and social security number, as well as the name and address of the patients primary caregiver.  Only authorized state employees or local law enforcement agencies shall have access to the registry.  A $140 fee is due upon application for the card.
     A public hearing on the draft rules will be held on March 21. Written comments may be submitted to: Colorado Board of Health C/O Linda Shearman, Program Assistant, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, 4300 Cherry Creek Drive South EDO-A5, Denver, CO 80246-1530.

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