News Release
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October 4, 2001

Feds' Pot Eradication Program Seizes Nothing But Ditchweed

Hemp, Not Marijuana Focus of DEA Effort, Report Shows

Washington, DC: Nearly 98 percent of the marijuana seized under the DEA's "Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program" is feral hemp - a non-psychoactive variety of marijuana, according to figures published in latest edition of the US Bureau of Justice Statistics Sourcebook.

The government is literally spending tens of millions of dollars to pull up weeds," said Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of The NORML Foundation. "From a health and safety standpoint, they'd be better off plucking dandelions."

Of the 133.6 million pot plants seized under the program in 1999 - the last year for which data is available - more than 130 million were "ditchweed," defined as "wild, scattered marijuana plants [with] no evidence of planting, fertilizing or tending." Feral hemp, which contains only minute traces of THC, grows plentifully throughout the southern and midwestern United States. Many of the plants are remnants from government-subsidized plots grown during World War II.

Six states - Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota - eliminated more than a million hemp plants each. Of these, Missouri seized the largest volume of hemp, a whopping 73.3 million plants. North and South Dakota anti-drug task forces eradicated virtually nothing but hemp. DEA figures show that DCE/SP efforts netted roughly 37.6 million hemp plants in South Dakota, compared to only 255 cultivated marijuana plants. In North Dakota, 4.2 million wild hemp plants were seized by law enforcement, compared to only 721 marijuana plants. Ironically, a 1999 North Dakota law recognizes industrial hemp as commercial fiber crop and licenses farmers to grow it. However, the state statute offers no protection from federal law prohibiting hemp cultivation.

St. Pierre said the DEA's hemp eradication program was not only wasteful, but also economically counterproductive. "While the DEA is needlessly destroying domestic American hemp, US retailers and manufacturers are annually importing 1.9 million pounds of hemp fiber, 450,000 pounds of hemp seeds and 331 pounds of hempseed oil from Canada and dozens of other nations that license and regulate hemp farming," he said.

The federal "Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program" provides funding, training, equipment, investigative, and aircraft resources to participating states' marijuana eradication efforts.

For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation at (202) 483-8751.

DEA Raids California Medi-Pot Dispensary, Seizes 5,000 Patient Records

Feds Action, Recent Busts Indicate Government Crackdown on Patients

Cool, CA: Federal agents raided the offices of the California Medical Research Center in El Dorado County Friday, seizing 32 marijuana plants and thousands of medical records from club members. Club proprietors Dr. Marion Fry and her husband, attorney Dale Schafer, were not arrested in the raid. The bust marks the first time federal agents have targeted a state medical marijuana facility since voters legalized the possession and cultivation of medicinal cannabis in 1996, and comes only weeks after newly-appointed DEA Director Asa Hutchinson announced that any use of marijuana as a medicine "is a violation of federal law ... [and we're] not going to tolerate a violation of the law."

NORML Foundation Legal Director Donna Shea strongly criticized the raid. "In addition to violating the rights of Californians to set their own public health policy, the DEA has seized records that are protected by attorney/client and doctor/patient privilege," she said.

In a similar event, DEA agents recently seized more than 200 plants from a medicinal pot farm outside of Los Angeles, the L.A. Times reported. No arrests were made. The marijuana was destined for patients at the Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Cooperative, the paper said.

In a separate case, the director of the Salmon Creek Cannabis Cooperative in Humbolt County is facing federal charges after police seized the club's 200 plants. California NORML Coordinator Dale Gieringer called the decision to prosecute the case federally "highly unusual" since the federal government typically involves itself only in pot cases averaging 1,000 or more plants.

"We can only hope these actions do not represent a new federal initiative to override the will of the voters in California," NORML Director Keith Stroup said.

For more information, please contact Donna Shea, NORML Foundation Legal Director, at (202) 483-8751 or California NORML Coordinator Dale Gieringer at (415) 563-5858.

NORML Establishes First Ever Pro-Pot PAC

Washington, DC: In an effort to strengthen NORML's lobbying efforts, the organization this week announced the creation of the NORML PAC, a political action committee established to contribute funds to marijuana-friendly candidates seeking local, state and federal office. The NORML PAC is a voluntary, nonprofit unincorporated association. It is independent of and not affiliated with any political party or candidate.

"This is a reflection of the progress that is being made in the movement to decriminalize or legalize marijuana," said NORML Executive Director Keith Stroup. "We are seeing more and more candidates for elected office who are willing to challenge current marijuana policies, and call for an end to marijuana prohibition and to the practice of arresting responsible marijuana smokers. NORML wants to be in a position to help those candidates who support our position, and the creation of the NORML PAC provides us that option."

NORML members wishing to contribute to the NORML PAC should send their check to NORML PAC, 1001 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 710, Washington, DC 20036. Contributors are required by law to provide their name, address, occupation and employer.

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