News Release

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July 12, 2001

U.K. Police to No Longer Target Marijuana Offenders
Law Enforcement, Customs to Shift Focus From Pot to Hard Drugs

        London, United Kingdom:  Government officials have instructed law enforcement and custom officials to stop targeting marijuana violators, including smugglers and dealers, in a move hailed as the most radical shift in British drug policy in a generation.
        Representatives from Britain's top government and law enforcement agencies -- including the Home Office, Foreign Office, Ministry of Defense, National Crime Squad and the Association of Chief of Police Officers -- backed the change in interdiction policy, according to a Guardian Unlimited special report published Sunday.
        "It's not that we plan to stop seizing cannabis when we come across it," a senior Customs spokesman told the newspaper.  "However, the need to focus on Class A [hard] drugs means cannabis seizures will now take place as a by-product, not an end in themselves."
        Last year, approximately 96,000 Britons were arrested on marijuana violations, the paper reported.
        This week's announcement is the latest in a series of sweeping drug policy changes taking place in England. Recently, Scotland Yard announced that they would issue a verbal warning in lieu of arrest to marijuana offenders in southern London.  Since then, several high ranking government officials, including Home Office Secretary David Blunkett, former Tory deputy leader Peter Lilley, outgoing chief inspector of prisons Sir David Ramsbotham, and former drug policy cabinet minister Marjorie Mowlam have spoken in favor of decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana.  Outgoing Drug Tsar Keith Hellawell recently called for a national debate on marijuana policy and announced that he no longer believed pot is a gateway to other illegal drugs.
        "The United Kingdom, like much of Europe, is realizing that a rational marijuana policy is based upon decriminalizing responsible adult use," said Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of The NORML Foundation.  "American policy makers would be well served to heed this same lesson."
        According to a poll commissioned last week by the Independent on Sunday newspaper, approximately half of all Britons support legalizing marijuana, including a majority of 16-to-34 year olds.  The percentage is a marked contrast to a 1996 survey commissioned by the paper, which reported only 26 percent support for legalization.
        For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

Congressional Committee Nixes Amendment Backing Medical Pot Laws

        Washington, DC:  Members of the House Appropriations Committee defeated an amendment Tuesday that sought to prohibit Justice Department officials from interfering in states that have endorsed the medical use of marijuana.  The amendment, introduced by Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), was part of a $15.2 billion dollar foreign aid package that provides $676 million dollars of additional funding for U.S. military-backed drug interdiction in Columbia.
        Hinchey's amendment, which the Republican-led committee defeated by a voice vote, said, "None of the funds made available to the Department of Justice in this act shall be used to prevent a state from implementing a law, referendum, or constitutional amendment authorizing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes."
        Separate medical marijuana legislation, Rep. Barney Frank's (D-MA) "States' Rights to Medical Marijuana Act," is currently pending before the House Commerce Committee.  The measure would reschedule marijuana under federal law to allow physicians in states that have approved its use to prescribe the drug without federal interference.  Seventeen members of Congress have co-sponsored the bill.
        Additional information on Frank's bill, H.R. 1344, is available on NORML's website at:
        For more information, please contact Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director at (202) 483-5500.

HMO Says Docs Free to Recommend Marijuana

        Denver, CO:  Colorado physicians are free to recommend the medical use of marijuana to their patients in accordance with state law, lawyers for Kaiser Permanente have determined. Attorneys for the HMO were asked by doctors to review the issue after the governor and attorney general warned that physicians who endorse marijuana therapy to a patient face the risk of federal prosecution.
        Under Colorado's new medical pot law, patients may legally possess and grow marijuana if their physician provides written documentation that they "might benefit from the medical use of marijuana."
        "Using their own judgment, doctors can sign or not, depending on what they think is the right thing to do," said Steve Krizman, a Kaiser spokesman in Colorado. Kaiser Permanente is America's largest not-for-profit health maintenance organization.
        NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup praised Kaiser's stance.  "In essence, the HMO is telling doctors that they should treat marijuana no differently than they do any other legitimate medicine," he said.
        To date, approximately 50 patients have been approved to use medical marijuana under the law, which took effect on June 1.  Similar laws are in effect in eight other states.
        In California, doctors and patients in 1997 filed a class action suit in federal court (Conant v McCaffrey) arguing that they have a constitutional right to recommend the use of marijuana to a patient.  The court agreed, ruling last year that federal authorities could not sanction doctors for exercising their rights to free speech.
        For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

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