News Release
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February 14, 2002

DEA Continues Terror Attacks on California Medical Marijuana Patients and Providers

"These are not drug busts. The feds are trying to quash a political movement," NORML charges

Washington, DC: Tuesday's DEA raid of a well-respected San Francisco medical marijuana dispensary and several high-profile medical pot providers demonstrates that federal law enforcement authorities are more fixated on busting medical marijuana patients than they are thwarting terrorism, NORML's Executive Director Keith Stroup announced today.

"In any war, you remove the sick and dying from the battlefield; in the 'war on drugs,' this administration appears intent on placing the sick and dying on the front lines," Stroup charged. "The fact that this raid was carried out on the same day our nation's law enforcement personnel were instructed to be on their highest alert to protect Americans against possible terror strikes shows that the federal government's priorities remain fixated on medical marijuana, not combating terrorism."

DEA officials arrested four individuals in the raid, all of whom had ties to the San Francisco Harm Reduction Clinic, which provides medical marijuana to approximately 200 patients daily. Among those arrested were the club's director Richard Watts and internationally renowned marijuana author Ed Rosenthal. The busts came approximately three months after the DEA raided a pair of cannabis patient cooperatives, including the Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center (LACRC) - southern California's largest and most publicly accepted medical marijuana dispensary.

"These arrests are purposely high-profile," Stroup said. "They are not drug busts. The feds are trying to quash a political movement."

Since 1996, nine states - Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington - have approved laws legalizing the use and cultivation of medical marijuana for qualified patients. In November, San Francisco's Board of Supervisors approved legislation declaring the city a "sanctuary" for the use, cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana. As such, no local law enforcement officials had advance knowledge of or participated in Tuesday's raids, which were denounced by San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan and several local politicians.

"California's medical marijuana clubs play a necessary and positive role in their community. They provide medicine in a safe and regulated environment, and present no threat to public safety or health," Stroup said. "They operate with the full knowledge and support of the public as well as with backing from local law enforcement and government. The ultimate result of these raids is that hundreds of seriously ill patients who rely on these support groups must now turn to the streets and black market to obtain their state-sanctioned medicine."

Stroup said that it is time for California's elected officials, particularly those in Congress, to stand up and defend the rights of sick and dying patients. A pre-written letter calling on Congress to denounce the DEA's recent actions in California appears on NORML's website at:

For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500 or California NORML Coordinator Dale Gieringer at (415) 563-5858.

NORML Assails Bush Anti-Drug Plan Calling for the "Compassionate Coercion" of Pot Smokers

Washington, DC: The Bush year 2002 "National Drug Control Strategy," released by the White House Tuesday, inappropriately calls for the "compassionate coercion" of millions of otherwise law-abiding American citizens who smoke marijuana responsibly, NORML's Executive Director Keith Stroup said today.

"The overwhelming majority of our nation's drug users and drug arrestees are pot smokers, most of whom do not need treatment - coerced, compassionate or otherwise," Stroup declared. He added that the administration should abandon its current strategy of criminalizing and demonizing marijuana users, and instead implement policies such as those that have been successful in reducing cigarette smoking and drunk driving.

"As a nation we have significantly reduced the prevalence of tobacco smoking and drunk driving in recent years. We have not achieved this by banning the use of alcohol or tobacco, or by targeting and arresting those who use them responsibly, but through honest educational campaigns. We should apply these same principles to the responsible use of marijuana."

This year's $19 billion federal anti-drug budget is the largest ever approved in U.S. history.

For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500 or NORML Foundation Executive Director Allen St. Pierre at (202) 483-8751.

Jamaica Parliament Ponders Marijuana Decriminalization

Kingston, Jamaica: Jamaica's Parliament will soon debate the recommendation of Jamaica's "National Commission on Ganja" to decriminalize the use and possession of marijuana. The Jamaican Cabinet forwarded the commission's recommendation, initially announced in August of last year, to Parliament on Monday.

Despite the favorable recommendation, legislators still face pressure from U.S. officials not to amend their cannabis laws. Recently, Orna Bloom, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Jamaica, told National Public Radio that the U.S. government opposes any efforts to liberalize the island's pot laws because "it creates the perception ... that marijuana is not harmful."

Under current Jamaican law, possession of even one marijuana cigarette is a criminal offense punishable by up to ten days in jail.

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

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