May 31, 2001
Decriminalization Gains Momentum Worldwide
Canada, New Zealand, Jamaica Ponder Policy Change;
Portuguese Decrim-Law to Take Effect in July
DC: Marijuana decriminalization is becoming the worldwide drug policy
of choice as more and more nations are amending or re-evaluating their pot
laws. Government commissions in Canada, New Zealand and Jamaica are
currently pondering whether to remove criminal penalties for the possession and
use of the drug - a position already adopted by the majority of countries in the
"The current global trend is to move away from the American 'do drugs-do time' drug policy model, especially as it pertains to marijuana," said Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of The NORML Foundation. He noted that the United States was recently voted off the International Narcotics Control Board -- a United Nations drug monitoring body -- and replaced by the Netherlands, a country known for its lenient marijuana policies.
A New Zealand parliamentary select committee began hearing testimony this week on whether to decriminalize the drug. Already, the inquiry has generated over 500 submissions. A 1998 government commission on the mental health effects of marijuana concluded, "Occasional cannabis use presents few risks to the mental health of most adult users," and acknowledged that "prohibition enforced by traditional crime control methods has not been successful in reducing the apparent number of cannabis users."
Interim findings from Jamaica's National Commission on Ganja also appear strongly in favor of decriminalization. Commission chair Barry Chevannes told The Jamaica Gleaner last week, "It may be deduced so far that most persons and organizations would support the decriminalization of the use of ganja for private purposes and in private spaces." The commission is scheduled to complete its inquiry by August.
In Canada, strong public and political support now favors removing criminal penalties for pot possession. Nearly 50 percent of the public favor legalizing it -- up from 24 percent in 1990 -- and the House of Commons recently voted to commence an 18-month inquiry to study the issue.
It is likely that all three nations may eventually go the route of Portugal, which will stop prosecuting marijuana and other drug users next month when newly approved legislation goes into effect. Portugal is the second EU nation this year to decriminalize marijuana, following the Belgian government, which lifted its pot ban earlier this year.
According to the Spanish newspaper El Pais, only four EU countries maintain criminal penalties on the personal consumption of marijuana, while seven no longer criminally punish the use of any drug.
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of The NORML Foundation, at (202) 483-8751. To read a copy of NORML's report on European drug policy, visit: http://www.norml.org/legal/european_policy.shtml.
Drug Czar Candidate Waffling on Medical Marijuana?
DC: Bush's nominee for Drug Czar, John P. Walters, may be trying to
soften his hard-line image when it comes to the issue of medical marijuana,
according to an article published today in Time.com. Nevertheless,
Walter's past record makes it clear he is no "compassionate
conservative" as it pertains to the use of marijuana as a medicine.
According to Time.com, Walters favors "loosening federal rules so that doctors can prescribe or recommend marijuana for certain seriously ill patients." The authors speculate that the Czar-to-be will testify in favor of allowing its medical use at his upcoming Senate confirmation hearings.
If so, it would be a dramatic departure for Walters, who argued in a December 1996 Weekly Standard article, entitled "Medical Reefer Madness," that federal law enforcement authorities should sanction doctors who recommend marijuana to their patients in states where it is legal to do so. He wrote: "Nothing ... prevents [the DEA] from moving unilaterally against the small number of pro-pot physicians who are likely to recommend marijuana for their patients. ... Under a 'public interest' provision of the Controlled Substances Act, the DEA can revoke the 'registration' license every physician needs in order to store, dispense, or prescribe controlled substances."
Walters further wrote that marijuana is "not medicine" and alleged that it "has never been scientifically demonstrated to provide 'relief' for any medical condition." He claimed that voters in states that have passed medical marijuana laws were duped by "potheads [with] money."
For more information on Walters, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation at (202) 483-8751.
Marijuana Law To Take Effect Friday
Supreme Court Decision Does Not Bar Implementation, A.G. Says
The Colorado legislature will become the eighth state to implement legislation
protecting medical marijuana users from state criminal penalties. The new
law, which takes effect tomorrow, allows state-registered patients to possess up
to two ounces of marijuana and/or six plants. Seventy patients have
already applied for the state exemption.
The legislature is the first to implement such a law since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in March that parties who grow or distribute marijuana may not raise the defense of medical necessity under federal law.
However, after reviewing the Court's decision, state Attorney General Ken Salazar concluded, "The Supreme Court's ruling does not invalidate Colorado's state law ... [nor] ... does [it] prevent the state from moving forward to meet the requirements of Colorado's constitutional amendment concerning the medical use of marijuana."
Fifty-four percent of voters approved the amendment last November.
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of The NORML Foundation, at (202) 483-8751.
- End -