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March 21, 2002

Nixon Commission Report Advising Decriminalization of Marijuana Celebrates 30th Anniversary

More Than 13.2 Million Americans Have Been Arrested on Pot Charges Since Congress Rejected 1972 Policy Recommendations

Washington, DC: Friday marks the 30-year-anniversary of a 1972 federal commission report advising Congress to remove criminal penalties on the possession and nonprofit distribution of marijuana. The National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse (a.k.a. "the Shafer Commission"), appointed by then-President Richard Nixon, formally made its recommendation on March 22, 1972.

"Neither the marihuana user nor the drug itself can be said to constitute a danger to public safety," concluded the report's authors, led by then-Gov. Raymond Shafer of Pennsylvania. "Therefore, the Commission recommends ... [the] possession of marijuana for personal use no longer be an offense, [and that the] casual distribution of small amounts of marihuana for no remuneration, or insignificant remuneration no longer be an offense."

Despite the commission's recommendations, Nixon and Congress ignored the report. Since then, more than 13.2 million Americans have been arrested on marijuana charges, including some 735,000 in 2000 - the last year for which federal data is available.

"Decriminalizing the personal possession and use of marijuana by responsible adults was the right thing to do then and it is the right thing to do now," said NORML Executive Director Keith Stroup. According to a December 2001 Zogby poll, 61 percent of voters agree with the Shafer Commission's conclusion that responsible marijuana smokers should not be arrested or jailed.

Recently released transcripts of Nixon's conversations with Gov. Shafer, who chaired the 1972 pot commission, indicate that the President tried to pressure him to reject his committee's findings. "You're enough of a pro to know that for you to come out with something that would run counter to what Congress feels ... and what we're planning to do would make your commission just look bad as hell," Nixon warned in a May 26, 1971 conversation. In other conversations, Nixon linked marijuana to the downfall of civilized societies.

For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of NORML at (202) 483-5500. A hard copy of the March 22, 1972 letter from commission chairman Raymond Shafer to then-President Nixon is available from NORML. A full report regarding Nixon's declassified statements on marijuana is available online at:

High Court Mulls Dramatic Expansion of Student Drug Testing

Washington, DC: A majority of Supreme Court justices appear sympathetic to an Oklahoma school district's policy mandating drug testing for all students wishing to participate in extracurricular activities. Lawyers for the school district and the Bush administration are appealing a decision from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals striking down the policy as unconstitutional. Oral arguments in the case were heard Tuesday.

"If the justices rule this excessively broad policy to be okay, what's to prevent the government from drug testing all students as a condition of attending school?" asked Donna Shea, Legal Director of the NORML Foundation, which filed a friend of the court brief in the case.

In a related 1995 case (Veronia School District 47J v. Acton), the Court ruled that warrantless student drug testing was constitutionally permissible, but only for student athletes.

"The primary goal of schools should be educating students, not policing them," Shea said. "Voluntary participation in extracurricular activities alone should not reduce a student's expectation of privacy nor forfeit his or her Fourth Amendment guarantee to be free from unreasonable searches."

The 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals previously found the Oklahoma program to be unreasonable because the district failed to show there was a specific student drug problem for which drug testing was a solution. Since authorities in Tecumseh, OK adopted the policy in 1998, less than five students have tested positive for drugs.

The Court is expected to render its decision by June.

For more information, please contact either Donna Shea or Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation at (202) 483-8751. NORML's friend of the court brief is available online at:

Administrative Petition Challenging Pot's Prohibitive Status Goes Before U.S. Court of Appeals

Washington, DC: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia refused to hear arguments Tuesday regarding whether Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials improperly rejected a 1995 rescheduling petition to reclassify marijuana under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

"The court declined to hear discussion [regarding] the merits of our case and instead raised the procedural obstacle of whether petitioners had sufficient standing to bring their dispute with the DEA to the federal courts," said former NORML Director Jon Gettman, who filed the 1995 petition. "The three-judge panel was skeptical that petitioners were sufficiently injured by the DEA's denial of their rescheduling petition. ... Petitioners await the court's formal decision and are considering various options to address the merits of their case that marijuana lacks the high potential for abuse required for prohibited schedule I status."

Gettman filed an administrative petition with the DEA to reschedule pot in 1995 arguing that marijuana does not have a high potential for abuse comparable to other schedule I substances. The DEA issued a final denial of Gettman's petition on March 20, 2001.

For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director, at (202) 483-8751 or the law offices of Michael Kennedy at (212) 935-4500.

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