News Release

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March 15, 2001

Swiss Government Moves to Okay Marijuana Use, Cultivation and Sale

        Bern, Switzerland:  Swiss government officials recently endorsed draft legislation that recommends police stop enforcing laws prohibiting the cultivation and sale of small amounts of marijuana.  The move comes on the heels of a nationwide poll indicating that more than one-quarter of the population has used the drug, and that 54 percent favor liberalizing marijuana laws.
        “Decriminalizing the consumption of cannabis and the acts leading up to this takes account of social reality and unburdens police and the courts,” lawmakers representing the seven-member Federal Council announced Friday.  Council members proposed the law change after consulting with the country’s cantons, political parties, and export commissions, and finding strong support for softening Parliament’s stance on marijuana.
        Officials stated that the proposed policy would also tolerate the creation of private establishments, similar to so-called Dutch coffee-shops, that would sell small amounts of marijuana.  In 1999, the Swiss Federal Commission for Drug Issues recommended Parliament legalize the possession and use of marijuana, and implement a national policy “making it possible for cannabis to be purchased lawfully.”
        The government’s decision to liberalize its marijuana laws ignores pressure from United Nations officials, who last month chastised Swiss drug policies as overly lenient.
        In recent years, several European nations – including Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain – have stopped enforcing criminal laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana.  Last January, Belgium became the latest European country to decriminalize marijuana.  German courts have also ruled that minor marijuana possession should not be a criminal offense, but federal legislators have yet to amend the law to reflect that sentiment.
        “Since the 1970s, most European countries have pursued marijuana policies contrary to those of the United States, which rely almost exclusively on arresting and punishing users,” NORML Foundation Executive Director Allen St. Pierre said.  “Nevertheless, studies reveal that Americans use marijuana and other illicit substances at rates nearly twice as high as our European counterparts.  U.S. political leaders could — and should — learn by example.”
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director, at (202) 483-8751.  To learn more about European marijuana policies, please visit:

New Mexico House Okays Medical Marijuana
House/Senate Bills Scheduled for Conference Committee

        Santa Fe, NM:  House representatives narrowly approved legislation Monday that would permit qualified patients to smoke marijuana medicinally in accordance with state law.  The Senate passed a similar though not identical version of the bill last week.  Both houses must now agree on a final version of the bill to send to Governor Gary Johnson (R) for approval.
        The House’s passage of the bill readies New Mexico to become only the second state government (Hawaii passed a similar law last year.) to approve legislation exempting medical marijuana patients from criminal penalties under state laws.  Eight additional states have passed similar laws via voter initiatives.
        “What kind of message are we sending?  The right message,” said Rep. Dan Foley (R-Roswell), one of ten Republicans who backed the bill.  “The message that we care about people and that we’re not going to turn our back on them because of some scare tactic [by people who say] someone suffering from cancer is going to become a drug pusher because of this.”
        According to results of a recent state-wide poll commissioned by the Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation, nearly four in five New Mexicans favor allowing seriously ill patients to use medicinal marijuana legally.  Sixty-five percent of poll respondents also said that they favored reducing penalties for the possession of small amounts of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor to a civil offense.
        Two additional bills seeking to decriminalize marijuana for recreational purposes remain in committee, but have yet to be voted on by the House or Senate.
        New Mexico’s legislative session ends on March 17.
        For more information, please contact R. Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500.  For more information on these bills, visit:

Spanish Political Parties Back Medical Marijuana

        Catalonia, Spain:  The Spanish Congress is expected to consider the question of legalizing the medical use of marijuana after government officials from the Catalonia territory recently endorsed a plan to allow patients access to the drug.
        All five political parties in the Catalan Parliament recently backed a proposal to permit patients to use the drug therapeutically.  The proposal is anticipated to pass later this year, and then be submitted to the Spanish Congress for national consideration.
        In addition, Catalan Health Department head Eduard Rius recently sent a letter to the Spanish health minister urging her to allow the importation of marijuana-based medicines, and to consider allowing legal access to the drug.  Under prohibition, “only a privileged and well informed minority can take advantage of this therapeutic resource,” he said.
        A spokesman for the health ministry responded that they have recently commissioned studies to better determine marijuana’s medical value, and will render a decision based upon their outcomes.
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director, at (202) 483-8751.

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