January 31, 2002
Super Bust! Drug Czar's Office to Spend $3.4 Million For Super Bowl Ads
NORML Head Calls Ads Linking Drug Use to Terrorism "A Colossal Waste of Taxpayers' Dollars"
Washington, DC: The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) will spend approximately $3.4 million to air two 30-second anti-drug spots during Sunday's Super Bowl. The federal anti-drug blitz constitutes the largest single government ad purchase in history.
The ads, which will allege that the illegal drug trade fuels terrorism, will be paid for by the White House's much criticized "National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign" - a five-year, $1.5 billion program funded by Congress in 1997 to allow the Drug Czar's office to purchase advertising on various media outlets.
"These advertisements as well as this entire campaign is a colossal waste of taxpayer's money," charged Keith Stroup, Executive Director of NORML. "Does anyone really believe that Americans' illegal drug use patterns will be affected in the slightest by this sort of government propaganda?"
Stroup said that the majority of America's illicit drug users are solely marijuana smokers, and do not use other drugs such as heroin or illegal opiates. "It is patently absurd to suggest that marijuana smokers are in any way supporting terrorism. The overwhelming majority of marijuana consumed in this country is domestically grown or imported from Mexico, Jamaica or Canada. It does not come from or finance terrorist regimes in Afghanistan or other potentially hostile nations.
"Marijuana smokers are average Americans who work hard, pay taxes, raise families and want safe communities in which to live," Stroup said. "They are just as patriotic and supportive of the war on terrorism as other Americans."
Last year, the Drug Czar's anti-drug media campaign came under fire when it was discovered that federal officials had clandestinely sponsored network programming with anti-drug themes and influenced television scripts. In addition, a 2001 GAO report found financial improprieties between the ONDCP and the advertising firm Oglivy & Mather - who produced many of the anti-drug ads, including those scheduled to air Sunday.
For more information on the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, please contact Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500 or Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of The NORML Foundation, at (202) 483-8751.
Health Canada Announces Further Delays Before Patients Can Have Access To Government Pot
Ottawa, Ontario: Federally licensed medical marijuana patients will have to wait at least several more months before receiving their first supplies of government-approved pot, according to statements made this week by Health Canada. The announcement contradicts a previous declaration made by the agency in December when a Health Canada source told the Montreal Gazette that qualified patients could expect to begin receiving medical marijuana by the first of the year.
"The longer Health Canada delays the distribution of government approved medical marijuana to the seriously ill, the longer patients will be forced to obtain their medicine on the black market and endure all the inherent risks that go with it," said Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of The NORML Foundation. "This sort of federal foot-dragging needlessly aggravates patient suffering."
Under regulations enacted by Health Canada last July, patients who are terminally ill or suffering from symptoms associated with a serious medical condition may apply for a federal license to grow and possess up to a 30-day supply of marijuana for medical purposes. To date, Health Canada has certified 680 patients to legally possess medical pot.
In preparation for the law change, Health Canada officials signed a $5.7 million contract in December 2000 with the Saskatchewan firm Prairie Plant Systems to grow 185 kilograms of medical cannabis. Presently, more than 2,000 marijuana plants have been harvested. Nevertheless, federal officials have yet to agree on a system to distribute marijuana to those patients licensed by the government to use it. Unresolved issues include: how the marijuana will be packaged; whether it will be available in licensed pharmacies or mailed by personal courier; how Health Canada will test the marijuana for quality and safety; and whether international treaties in any way inhibit the government's ability to legally distribute medical pot.
Andrew Swift, a spokesman for Health Canada told the Edmonton Sun on Wednesday that he expects the government-contracted pot to be available in "upcoming months," but refused to give a more specific date. In an interview with NOW Magazine, Swift denied newspaper reports claiming that Health Canada may postpone their medical pot distribution program indefinitely because of concerns that it could run afoul of international anti-drug treaties.
Prairie Plant Systems President Brent Zettl also affirmed that it would likely be another two or three months before his company's pot is ready for public dissemination. "Bearing in mind that nowhere else in the world has this ever been done before, international agreements about controlled substances make this a bit of an onerous task for Health Canada," he said.
St. Pierre noted, however, that the U.S. government has been distributing medical marijuana to a limited number of patients since the mid-1970s.
For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation at (202) 483-8751 or visit Health Canada's Office of Medical Cannabis online at: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hecs-sesc/ocma/.
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