News Release
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May 2, 2002

Willie Nelson, Bill Maher, Robert Altman and Others Join New NORML Advisory Board

Washington, DC: Top celebrities from the entertainment and music world, along with leading academics and drug policy experts, have joined together to help end marijuana prohibition by signing on to NORML's new advisory board, NORML Director Keith Stroup announced today.  Among those who have agreed to participate on the board are country music star and longtime NORML supporter Willie Nelson, film director Robert Altman, and Bill Maher - host of ABC's hit show, "Politically Incorrect."

"The willingness of these prominent Americans to join with us to call for a cease-fire in the war on marijuana smokers is reflective of the progress we are making politically," Stroup said.  "By lending their names and expertise to NORML, these principled individuals provide added credibility and create new opportunities for our organization to promote our message to both the media and our elected officials."

Other advisory board members include American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) President Nadine Strossen; Nobel Laureate Dr. Kary Mullis; actor Daniel Stern; publisher Bill Regardie; Dr. Louis Lasagna, Dean of Scientific Affairs for Tufts University School of Medicine; and Telluride, Colorado Sheriff Bill Masters - author of the book Drug War Addiction: Notes From the Front Lines of America's #1 Policy Disaster.

Additional advisory board members will be added in the coming months, Stroup said.

For more information, please contact NORML Communications Director Nicholas Thimmesch at (202) 483-5500.

NORML Meets With Wisconsin Gubernatorial Candidate Ed Thompson

Libertarian Nominee Reaffirms Support For Medical Marijuana, Decriminalization

Washington, DC:  NORML and other drug policy experts met this week in Washington, DC with Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Ed Thompson, younger brother of Health and Human Services Secretary (HHS) Tommy Thompson.  Thompson, who is running for office as a Libertarian, has made marijuana-law reform - specifically legalizing the use of medical marijuana - one of the staples of his political campaign.

"When it comes to medical decisions, only [a patient] and [his or her] health care provider should be involved in deciding what's best to restore your health," Thompson said.  "[I] believe that allowing sick and suffering patients to use medical marijuana in consultation with their own physician is right."

In February, a Wisconsin state poll reported that 80 percent of voters favored legalizing medicinal marijuana to qualified patients.  Thompson's brother, Tommy Thompson, is opposed to even the limited use of marijuana as a medicine.
Ed Thompson, who has admitted to having smoked marijuana in the past, also says he supports decriminalizing the personal possession and use of marijuana by responsible adults.

NORML Executive Director Keith Stroup called Thompson's willingness to meet with NORML and other drug reformers heartening. "It is encouraging to see major candidates for high office in this country begin to challenge current marijuana policy as a part of their campaign," he said. "It's a clear indication of the increasing public and political support for our position."

Current polls place Thompson third in the gubernatorial race, behind Republican incumbent Gov. Scott McCallum and Democratic challenger Jim Doyle.

For more information, please contact NORML Executive Director Keith Stroup or NORML Communications Director Nicholas Thimmesch at (202) 483-5500.

Hawaii Legislature Passes Sentencing Reform Bill Barring Jail For First Time Drug Offenders

Honolulu, HI:  The Hawaii Legislature this week passed a comprehensive sentencing reform bill mandating probation and drug treatment in lieu of incarceration for first-time, non-violent drug offenders.  The soon-to-be law, which was originally proposed by Gov. Ben Cayetano (D) in 2001, is similar to voter initiatives recently passed in Arizona and California.

Under the new legislation (Senate Bill 1188), first-time drug possession offenders will be ordered to participate in community-based supervision and treatment instead of jail.  Upon completion of the diversion program, defendants will have their arrest and criminal records expunged.

The act also states that probation and parole violators shall be sentenced to treatment instead of incarceration.

Pam Lichty of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii (DPFH) suggested that the success of the bill was due in large part to a recent DPFH television campaign to educate the public about the need for treatment over incarceration for non-violent drug offenders.

Lichty also noted that minor marijuana offenders would not be forced to undergo treatment under the bill because possession of up to one ounce of pot is already a non-jailable petty misdemeanor under state law.

According to statistics released today by the California Department of Corrections, that state's law has diverted nearly 4,000 drug possession offenders from jail in the past year.

For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup of NORML at (202) 483-5500 or the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii at (808) 988-4386.  Text of the legislation is available online from the Hawaii Legislature's website at:

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