News Release

1001 Connecticut Ave, NW - Ste 710 - Washington, DC 20036
Tel. 202.483.8751 - Fax 202.483.0057 - E-mail - Internet

June 7, 2001

Nevada Defelonizes Pot Possession
State Eliminates Jail, Criminal Record for Minor Offenders;
Legalizes Medical Marijuana for Seriously Ill

        Carson City, NV:  State legislators overwhelmingly approved legislation this week to dramatically reduce Nevada's toughest-in-the-nation marijuana law and authorize pot's medical use.  Nevada's legislature is the first in 24 years to eliminate jail time and criminal records for minor marijuana offenders, and the ninth state since 1996 to legalize the use of medical marijuana under a doctor's supervision.
        "Assembly Bill 453 was crafted to do three things," said sponsor Christina Giunchigliani (D-Las Vegas). "Implement the will of the people; provide compassionate medical aid to the chronically ill, and establish a rational drug policy focused on treatment - not jail."
        Giunchigliani's proposal, which now awaits action by Gov. Kenny Guinn (R), reduces penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana from a felony (punishable by up to four years in jail) to a fine-only misdemeanor for first and second-time offenders.  No criminal record shall be imposed on offenders until their third offense.  Eleven states have similar marijuana decriminalization laws.
        Nevada is the only state that currently defines first-time possession of even one marijuana cigarette as a felony offense.
        Assembly Bill 453 also legalizes the use of medical marijuana by patients who have their physician's approval to use it.  State voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1998 and 2000 mandating the legislature to legalize the use of medicinal marijuana.  Giunchigliani's bill allows qualified patients to grow up to seven marijuana plants for medical purposes and establishes a confidential patient registry.  Additionally, it allows patients who possess amounts greater than those specified by law to raise an affirmative defense of medical necessity before a jury.
        "The State of Nevada, as a sovereign state, has the duty to carry out the will of the people of this state and regulate the health, medical practices and well-being of those people in a manner that respects their personal decisions concerning the relief of suffering through the medical use of marijuana," legislators affirmed in the measure's preamble.
        A separate provision added to the bill requires the Nevada School of Medicine to "aggressively" seek federal approval to implement a medical marijuana distribution program in which both marijuana and marijuana seeds would be made available to patients.
        Governor Guinn has ten days to sign the bill, which will take effect October 1, 2001.
        For more information, please contact Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director, or Paul Armentano at (202) 483-5500.

Medical Marijuana Pioneer Passes Away at 53
Glaucoma Patient Received Government Pot for 25 Years

        Sarasota, FL:  Robert Randall, a glaucoma patient who made history in the mid-1970s by becoming the first person to attain legal access to marijuana for medicinal purposes, passed away at his home Saturday.  He was 53 years old.
        Randall developed glaucoma as a teenager and was told by doctors that he would likely lose his eyesight by his mid-twenties.  Randall began smoking marijuana to combat his illness after learning of studies demonstrating that THC temporarily lowered intraocular pressure.  He was arrested in Washington, DC for marijuana cultivation, but defeated the charges by successfully arguing the defense of medical necessity.  He later petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for access to a legal supply of medical marijuana.  The FDA granted him access in November 1976, and later established the Compassionate Investigational New Drug (IND) program to supply him and others with unfettered access to promising yet unapproved drugs like marijuana.  Randall had been receiving monthly shipments of medical marijuana cigarettes from the federal government for 25 years.
        He never lost his eyesight.
        In 1981, he founded the Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics (ACT), a non-profit organization dedicated to legalizing medical pot.  ACT's efforts were instrumental in persuading legislatures in several states to implement medical marijuana research programs during the 1980s for qualifying cancer and glaucoma patients.  In the early 1990s, Randall established the Marijuana AIDS Research Service (MARS), which helped AIDS patients apply for federal access to marijuana through the IND program.  The federal government closed the program to new applicants in 1992.  Seven patients continue to receive medical marijuana from the federal government.
        NORML extends its sympathies to the friends and family of Robert Randall.

Poll: Americans Strongly Favor Treatment Over Jail for Drug Offenders

        Washington, DC:  Seven out of ten Americans believe that first and second-time drug offenders should receive treatment instead of jail time, according to an ABC telephone poll released yesterday.  The poll reflects the public's noticeable shift away from traditional get-tough approaches frequently espoused by Congress.
        "Americans demand a cease-fire in the war on drugs," said NORML Foundation Executive Director Allen St. Pierre.  "They support legalizing medical marijuana; they oppose sending pot smokers to jail, and they prefer treatment instead of incarceration for other minor drug offenders."
        Last November, California voters overwhelmingly approved a state initiative mandating treatment in lieu of incarceration for non-violent drug offenders.  Arizona voters endorsed a similar proposition in 1996.  Additional drug treatment initiatives will likely appear on the ballot in Florida, Michigan and Ohio, ABC reported.
        The most recent survey was conducted by telephone among a random sample of 1,024 adults.  The poll follows a March 21 survey released by the Pew Research Center that found 74 percent of Americans think the drug war is unwinnable.
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director, at (202) 483-8751.

- End -