October 25, 2001
Britain Announces Plan to Abolish Arrests For Marijuana Possession
Pot to Be Reclassified by Spring, Declares Top Government Official
London, England: Possession of marijuana will no longer be an arrestable offense, Britain's Home Secretary David Blunkett announced Tuesday, in a move marking the first major relaxation of England's pot laws in 30 years. Under the new national policy, marijuana will be reclassified as a "Class C" or "soft" drug, putting it in the same category as anti-depressants and steroids.
"In spite of our focus on hard drugs, the majority of police time is currently spent handling cannabis offenses," Blunkett said, noting that nearly 7 out every 10 British drug arrests are pot-related. "It is time for an honest and common sense approach focusing effectively on drugs that cause the most harm. Given this background, and the very clear difference between cannabis and 'Class A' drugs [such as heroin and cocaine,] I want to ... reclassify cannabis from 'Class B' to 'Class C.'"
Although possession of "Class C" drugs technically carries a two-year maximum prison term, only offenses punishable by at least five years imprisonment are arrestable in England. Therefore, pot smokers will unlikely face any serious legal consequences other than a verbal warning or a court summons if they are caught will small amounts of pot. "[Police] will still have plenty of powers to stop people but possession of cannabis won't be one of them," a Home Office spokesman told The Guardian newspaper.
NORML Executive Director Keith Stroup praised Blunkett's decision, calling the UK's impending policy de-facto decriminalization. "By eliminating the threat of arrest and jail for responsible adult marijuana smokers, police and criminal justice resources can be focused on more serious and violent crimes," Stroup said.
England's pot-law change will not be enacted legislatively, but instead by an executive order, the BBC reported. The new law will likely take effect early next year.
This week's announcement by the Home Office is the latest in a series of drug policy reforms occurring throughout Europe. Earlier this year, governments in Belgium, Luxembourg and Portugal decriminalized the use and possession of marijuana. In contrast, the US FBI revealed Monday that a record 734,498 Americans were arrested for marijuana violations last year.
"The United States is quickly becoming isolated regarding the way in which we choose to target and vilify marijuana smokers," said Stroup. "American elected officials would be well advised to heed the lessons learned by their European counterparts, and recognize that a rational and just marijuana policy is one based upon decriminalizing responsible adult use."
For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of NORML at (202) 483-5500.
Seized California Medi-Pot Patients' Files Won't Be Returned, Federal Judge Rules
Sacramento, CA: Nearly 5,000 patient and legal records seized by federal drug agents in an early-October raid on the offices of the California Medical Research Center (CMRC) in El Dorado County will remain in police hands, a federal judge ruled Tuesday. US Magistrate Gregory G. Hollows rejected a motion filed by J. David Nick, an attorney for the defendants - club proprietors Dr. Marion Fry and her husband, attorney Dale Schafer - arguing that the files were protected by attorney/client privilege and should be returned.
"[Schafer] affirmatively told his purported clients from the inception of their meeting that he was not their attorney," Judge Hollows concluded. Hollows did stipulate that the individual patients' medical records must remained sealed, but that government officials could access other files for the purpose of establishing evidence that a crime has been committed.
This month's raid of the CMRC marked the first time federal agents have targeted a state medical marijuana facility since voters legalized the possession and cultivation of the drug in 1996, and came only weeks after newly-appointed DEA Director Asa Hutchinson announced that no use of medical marijuana would be tolerated by federal officials.
"By all indications, this bust appears to be the first wave of an impending federal crackdown on medical marijuana support groups," said NORML Executive Director Keith Stroup.
For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup of NORML at (202) 483-5500 or California NORML Coordinator Dale Gieringer at (415) 563-5858.
NORML Takes to the Airwaves
Washington, DC: The NORML Foundation debuted its new radio talk-show, the National NORMLcast, this week on WTAN AM 1340 in Tampa, Florida. The half-hour broadcast, which will air weekly on Wednesday afternoons from 1:05 PM to 1:35 PM Eastern Standard Time, may be heard live locally on WTAN and worldwide on the Web at http://www.norml.org.
The NORMLcast features marijuana-related news and interviews with the movement's "movers and shakers," including NORML and NORML Foundation board members and staff, and is hosted by Tampa radio personality Glenn Klein, host of WTAN's "Glenn Klein Show." Listeners who wish to participate live on the show may call the NORMLcast toll-free at: 1-800-263-8559.
"The National NORMLcast represents a new and exciting way for supporters of marijuana-law reform to better educate themselves, friends and family about the marijuana-related news and events often overlooked by the mainstream media," explained the show's inaugural guest Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of The NORML Foundation.
NORML encourages everyone interested in marijuana-law reform to listen next week and take part in the show. For more information, please visit NORML's website.
- End -