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October 11, 2001

Senate Democrats Voice Opposition to Bush's Drug Czar Pick

"I'm Not Yet Convinced That He Is The Right Person," Judiciary Chairman Says

Washington, DC: Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats expressed concern over the nomination of John Walters as Drug Czar at yesterday's US Senate confirmation hearing.

Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE), who presided over the hearing, sparred with Walters over the nominee's controversial stance regarding drug treatment and addiction. Biden called Walters' past writings describing treatment as "not very effective" and "the latest manifestation of liberals' commitment to a therapeutic state" as troubling, and characterized Walters' opinions as "certainly not in line with my drug policy views." Biden's criticism was joined by John Schwarzlose, President of the Betty Ford Drug Rehabilitation Center in California, who wrote in an October 9 letter to the Judiciary Committee that, "Mrs. Ford and I are convinced that Mr. Walters may not have the confidence in the treatment and prevention strategies that we believe are necessary for the creation and implementation of a balanced and thoughtful approach to US drug policy."

Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) also voiced strong opposition against Walters. "My fear is that for Mr. Walters, there is no question about drugs to which a hard-line law enforcement response is not the answer, even to complicated issues on which there is diverse opinion," he said. Specifically, Leahy criticized Walters' support for mandatory minimum sentencing and federal efforts to punish physicians who recommend marijuana therapy to patients in states where such treatment is legal. Leahy also challenged Walters' assertion that America's prison population is not disproportionately comprised of young, black males, many of whom have been convicted of drug crimes. "In short, I am not yet convinced that he is the right person to head the Office of National Drug Control Policy," he said.

Senators Kennedy (D-MA), Kohl (D-WI) and Durbin (D-IL) expressed similar concerns, including Walters' refusal to acknowledge the role of race in drug war enforcement and sentencing. An October 5 letter opposing John Walters, from John Conyers (D-MI), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, and 20 other House members offered additional criticism, calling the nominee "woefully ill informed on the facts of the day and insensitive to the needs of the African-American community."

The Senate committee is expected to vote on Walters' nomination by late next week.

For more information, please contact Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of NORML at (202) 483-5500.

New DEA Ban Targets Hemp Foods

Washington, DC: Regulations announced this week by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) criminalize the possession and manufacture of any edible hemp seed or oil products - including snack bars, veggie burgers and salad oils - that test positive for trace levels of THC. Under the new law, which takes effect immediately, "No person may manufacture or distribute any such product for human consumption within the United States." Any person or proprietor who possesses these products will have 120 days to dispose of them or face criminal prosecution.

"The DEA's planned new rules will cause substantial harm to hemp businesses and consumers alike and are not based on any real threat or abuse potential," asserted Eric Steenstra, National Coordinator of VoteHemp Inc., who said that the hemp industry will pursue legal action contesting the ban. "Hemp seeds and oil have absolutely no psychoactive effect and are about as likely to be abused as [are] poppy seed bagels for their trace opiate content, or fruit juices because of their trace alcohol content."

Hemp-based health and food products are sold commercially throughout the world and have been touted for their high concentrations of amino and fatty acids. Though some of these products occasionally contain trace amounts of residual THC depending on how thoroughly the manufacturer has cleaned the seed's outer hull, they do not present a health or safety hazard to consumers. Several nations, including Canada, allow ingestible hemp products as long as they test below ten micrograms per gram. In addition, many companies and their suppliers already adhere to industry wide standards guaranteeing their products will not test positive on a work-place drug test, Steenstra said.

For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of The NORML Foundation, at (202) 483-8751 or visit the VoteHemp website at:

NORML to Hold West Coast Benefit Party Saturday

Tiburon, CA: NORML's third annual Tiburon benefit party will take place Saturday. Marsha Rosenbaum, executive director of the west coast office of the Lindesmith Center - Drug Policy Foundation and Richard Louis Miller will co-host the event, which will feature a "who's who" of the California marijuana-law reform community, including spiritualist Ram Dass, state Senator John Vasconcellos and San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan. A portion of the proceeds raised from the event will go toward expanding NORML's legislative and educational efforts in California.

NORML Executive Director Keith Stroup calls the benefit an opportunity for citizen activists to spend an evening in a relaxed setting with friends and colleagues while raising money to advance marijuana-law reform efforts in California and across the country.

This year's party will feature food, light entertainment and a silent auction of marijuana-related art.

For more information on registering for NORML's benefit party, please contact Kris Krane at (202) 483-5500 or visit NORML's website at:

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