April 11, 2002
Pro-Pot Media Blitz!
NORML Foundation Successfully Launches Largest Ever Marijuana-Friendly Ad Campaign New York City Ads Featuring Mayor Bloomberg Demand An End To City's Skyrocketing Marijuana Arrests
Washington, DC: The NORML Foundation successfully unveiled a $500,000 print, broadcast and outdoor advertising campaign this week in New York City urging Mayor Michael Bloomberg to reverse the city's decade-long policy of arresting and jailing minor marijuana offenders. Media coverage of the campaign, which prominently features Mayor Bloomberg's candid admission that he smoked pot and "enjoyed it," has appeared worldwide - including on national news broadcasts in America, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Australia.
While Mayor Bloomberg initially said that he was "not thrilled" by the ad campaign - the largest ever undertaken by NORML or The NORML Foundation - he acknowledged the organization's First Amendment right to run it. Bloomberg later added that he expects city police to continue to enforce marijuana offenses vigorously. Under the previous mayor's administration, New York City's pot possession arrests skyrocketed from fewer than 2,000 per year to more than 50,000 annually.
Marijuana arrests have remained at similar levels under the first few months of Bloomberg's watch.
"While we appreciate Mayor Bloomberg's refreshing candor about his own pot smoking, we cannot have two systems of justice; one for the rich and famous and another for the rest of us," NORML Executive Director Keith Stroup said.
New York state law, adopted in 1975, mandates that marijuana offenders who possess 25 grams of marijuana or less in private be issued a citation in lieu of a criminal arrest. Prior to 1992, those New Yorkers caught smoking or possessing marijuana in public were also issued citations. However, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani reversed that policy and began arresting minor pot offenders, while continuing to issue citations to those caught illegally drinking in public. "It's time to end the double standard by which 'open container' violations are handled with a ticket and a fine, while those adults found to be possessing pot in public are arrested and jailed."
According to the results of a recent Zogby poll commissioned by NORML and released at a press conference Tuesday, 56 percent of New Yorkers oppose arresting marijuana smokers. Only 39 percent of respondents said they favor the city's current pot policies.
The NORML Foundation kicked off the campaign with a full page ad in Tuesday's New York Times featuring a photo of the Mayor beneath the headline: "At last, an honest politician." The ad further declared that arresting low-level pot violators is "a waste of taxpayer money" and a "foolish use of scarce law enforcement resources" in light of the city's heightened concern over terrorism.
"One in three adult Americans say they've smoked pot, ... so why are we arresting people for doing something normal?" the ad asks. It concludes: "It's NORML to smoke pot."
Similar ads are scheduled to run on the back of New York City buses and on phone kiosks. The NORML Foundation has also produced a pair of 60-second radio spots that are now airing regularly on the city's leading radio stations.
"There are millions of citizens in New York City and across the nation who - like Mayor Bloomberg - enjoy marijuana, work hard, pay taxes and contribute positively to society," Stroup concluded. "They are not criminals and they should not be arrested or put in jail. It's time for New York City's pot policies to reflect this reality."
For more information, please contact NORML Foundation Media Director Nicholas Thimmesch at (202) 483-8751. To view The NORML Foundation's New York City poster ads or listen to the radio spots, please visit http://www.norml.org/index.cfm?Group_ID=5229.
West Virginia Legalizes Commercial Cultivation of Industrial Hemp State Becomes Only The Third To Legally Distinguish Between Hemp And Marijuana
Charleston, West Virginia: Governor Bob Wise signed legislation into law redefining low-THC marijuana as an "agricultural crop," and permitting state-licensed farmers to grow it. West Virginia is the third state to legally distinguish between marijuana and industrial hemp, and institute regulations allowing for commercial hemp cultivation.
Under the new law, which took effect on March 28, marijuana consisting of less than one percent THC is now categorized as "industrial hemp." Local farmers wishing to "plant, grow, harvest, possess, process [and] sell" hemp commercially must apply to the state department of agriculture for licensing. However, it is not clear whether the new regulations will allow state-licensed farmers to grow hemp without federal authorization.
Federal law prohibits any cultivation of marijuana, including hemp, without a federal license. In 1999, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) licensed Hawaiian researchers to grow a one-quarter acre test plot of industrial hemp. To date, however, no other federal applications have been approved.
Over 30 nations, including Canada, Japan and the European Union, license farmers to grow hemp for fiber and other industrial purposes.
For more information, please contact either Paul Armentano or Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation at (202) 483-8751. For a summary of all state hemp-related laws, please visit: http://www.norml.org/index.cfm?Group_ID=3395.
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