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...a weekly service for the media on news items related to Marijuana Prohibition.

December 9, 1994

Vermont's Largest City Supports Medical Marijuana

        October 24, The City of Burlington, like numerous other municipalities and states [Note: 36 states, including Vermont, have passed resolutions in support of medical marijuana], passed a resolution stating, in part:

        The resolution resolved, "the Burlington City Council memorializes the President and the United States Congress to end federal prohibition against marijuana's legitimate medical use by creating a rational system of prescriptive medical access to marijuana."

Senator Bob Kerry Supports Medical Marijuana --
on the Advice of Willie Nelson

        Oct. 12, The Wayne Stater, student newspaper at Wayne State College, reports that Sen. Kerry (D-NE) spoke to a group of students from the Wayne State College NORML chapter and indicated, "I have no problem with legalizing marijuana for medical purposes.  There has only been one other individual who has brought this topic to my attention.  That was [entertainer] Willie Nelson, and it seems to work for him."
        [Note: Sen. Kerry easily won re-election despite his opponent trying to link his statements concerning medical marijuana to drag use in general.  Kerry's opponent, republican Jan Storey even went so far as to say that Kerry's support for medical marijuana was an "implicit endorsement" of drug use.  For more information on the encounter with Sen. Kerry at Wayne State College, contact Chris Parachini of Wayne State College NORML at 402-375-6811.]

Traverse City (MI) Seeks Resolution From State
in Its Ability to Decriminalize Marijuana

        December 6, The Record Eagle reported:

City Commissioners will ask the state Legislature to make it legal for cities to decriminalize the use of small amounts
of marijuana.

Commissioners passed a resolution... addressing the issue of William Bustance, president of the Traverse City chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

In the summer, Bustance and other members of NORML had circulated petitions asking the commission to put the question of decriminalizing the use of less than an ounce of marijuana to a public vote.

On advice of city attorney W. Peter Doren, commissioners took no action on the petitions, even though enough signatures had been collected to place the issue on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Doren advised commissioners that it would be illegal for them to enact a law contrary to state law. State law prohibits cities from decriminalizing controlled substances, including marijuana.

        This legal quandary led the Traverse City to pass a resolution stating in part:

A Resolution Memorializing The Governor And The Legislature Of The State Of Michigan To Remedy State Policies In which Inhibit And Prevent Local Governments In Creating Ordinances That Make Small Amounts Of Marijuana A Civil Infraction

[The bill which prohibits cities from invoking Home Rule privileges regarding controlled substances] ... has created a inequity in the Home Rule Act by allowing the City of Ann Arbor to keep in their charter a civil infraction law for small amounts of marijuana and by not permitting the citizens of Traverse City the opportunity to place a similar ordinance on the ballot before the voters [emphasis added].

[Ibid.] ... has created the threat and expense of litigation to the City of Traverse City ...

The National Drug Control Strategy calls for the empowerment of communities however, the very spirit of the community is threatened by the [prohibiting state law], that denied ballot access to a Certified Initiatory Petition in Traverse City [emphasis added].

        The Commission resolved to "memorialize the State of Michigan and it's officials ... to investigate and hold public hearings into state policies which prohibits placing a [certified petition] on the ballot that would make a civil infraction for small amounts of marijuana ..."
        [For more information on the Traverse City initiative to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, contact William Bustance of Traverse City NORML, 616-264-9565.]

California's Progressive Marijuana Decrim Law Undone;
"Smoke A Joint, Lose Your License" Takes Effect

        December 1, California's 18-year-old marijuana decriminalization era ended today, as Gov. Wilson's new "Smoke a Joint, Lose Your License" law took effect.  Under the old law, possession of marijuana was punishable by a maximum $100 fine, which was often paid like a traffic ticket.  The new law requires a mandatory six-month license suspension for any drug offense, regardless of whether the offense has any relation to driving.
        California NORML denounced the new law as a costly attack on California's marijuana decriminalization law, which has saved the state an estimated $1 billion in court and enforcement costs.  State officials admit that they made no attempt to figure the costs of the new law, which is expected to send thousands of minor marijuana offenders back into court to defend their privilege to drive.
        Apologists have tried to pretend that the new law was needed to comply with federal law, under which the state would lose $54 million in highway aid if it failed to enact "Smoke a Joint, Lose Your License."  In fact, the law specifically allows states to opt-out of the license suspension requirement and still receive full highway funding by a joint resolution of the Governor and legislature.  Every state west of Texas has passed an "opt-out" resolution.  However, Gov. Wilson vetoed an opt-out that was passed unanimously by the legislature two years ago.
        The new law comes in the face of two new driving safety studies by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, both of which found that marijuana is markedly less hazardous than alcohol.
        Under the new law, drivers face a longer license suspension for having pot in their home than for speeding with an open liquor bottle in their car.
        [For more details on the "gutting" of California's marijuana decriminalization law, contact California NORML Director Dale Gierenger, Ph.D., 415-563-5858.]

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