SUITE 1010
TEL 202-483-5500 * FAX 202-483-0057

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

March 16, 1995

NORML Testifies Before U.S. Sentencing Guideline Commission

        March 15, Washington, D.C., NORML National Legal Committee member Marvin Miller, Esq., of Alexandria, VA led a group of NORML witnesses who testified before the U.S. Sentencing Commission and urged the adoption of proposed guideline changes that would benefit marijuana-related defendants in federal court.
        Miller, a former member of the NORML Board of Directors and a nationally prominent criminal defense attorney, urged the commission to adopt two proposed guideline changes.  The first, proposed amendment #37, would correct an inequity in the current guidelines regarding the weight assigned to marijuana plants, for purposes of sentencing.  Currenfly, if the offense involves less than 50 marijuana plants, each plant is presumed to weigh 100 grams.  However, if the offense, involves 50 plants or more, each plant (including the first 49) is presumed to weigh one kilo (1000 grams).  This formula has created a "sentencing cliff"-- causing an individual convicted of possessing 50 plants to receive a significantly longer sentence than an individual convicted of possessing 49 or fewer plants; and an individual convicted of possessing 100 plants (even if they are seedlings) is sentenced the same as someone convicted of distributing 100 kilos of bulk marijuana (although the 100 seedlings would not possibly produce anywhere near that amount of usable marijuana).
        Miller testified that the 100 gram per plant formula reflects more accurately the actual potential yield from a single marijuana plant, and urged the Commission to amend the guidelines accordingly.
        Miller also testified in favor of proposed guideline amendment #42, regarding the treatment of wet marijuana (fleshly harvested marijuana) for sentencing purposes.  Currently the wet marijuana is weighed as is, with the defendant receiving a longer sentence under the current weight-driven guidelines.  Under the proposed amendment, when marijuana has a moisture content sufficient to render it unusable without drying it, an approximation of the weight without such excess moisture content is to be used.  Miller told the Commission they should be looking at the usable amount of marijuana, rather than the bulk amount -- for sentencing purposes generally -- and urged them to scale back the penalties overall.
        In addition, NORML Board member David Boaz, Executive Vice President of the Cato Institute, testified on behalf of the Institute regarding marijuana.  Boaz pointed out to the Commission that there were approximately 784 marijuana offenders convicted in 1992 for whom the minimum guideline range was greater than the applicable minimum mandatory sentence.  "The cost of keeping those 784 people in prison for one year is $16,310,000.  If we estimate that they would average four additional years in prison based on current guidelines, the taxpayers would be paying more than $65 million in additional costs for those prisoners...  We would be better served by keeping violent criminals in prison longer by freeing up beds now used by marijuana offenders."
        Other NORML witnesses included former Board member and cultivation expert Ed Rosenthal of California, and NORML/BACH activist Lennice Werth of Virginia (who uses marijuana as a medicine).  Rosenthal focused on the issue of the presumed weight of a marijuana plant, and Werth urged the Commission to find a way in the guidelines to accommodate those who cultivate marijuana for medical use.  These standout activists were joined by FAMM Director Julie Stewart and the Drug Policy Foundation Legislative Director Cheryl Epps.  Also present, but not testifying, was NORML Board member Keith Stroup.
        [The U.S. Sentencing Commission's recommendations will become law in 180 days unless the Congress enacts laws otherwise.  For more information on the U.S. Sentencing Commission hearings and the time frame in which the Commission can act on NORML's recommendations, contact the U.S. Sentencing Commission's office of Public Relations at 202-275-4500.]

U.S. Congressman Seeks To Halt Free-Speech On Information Superhighway
(Or George Orwell Call Home)

        October 6, Washington, D.C., prohibition fanatic U.S. Representative Gerald B.H. Solomon (R-NY) extended his opposition to any criticism of prohibition to include the Intemet.  The following are excerpts from an October 6 speech Rep. Solomon delivered on the House floor:
        "Mr. Speaker, it was recently brought to my attention that drug legalization advocates are using the electronic information superhighway to organize the legalization movement and share information on drug use.  The information superhighway was certalnly not created to propagate such misinformation and the criminal activity associated with it.  This use was brought to my attention by drug legalization opponents who use the information superhighway everyday in their vocations.  [Anti-prohibitionists don't use computers in their vocations? -ed.]
        Apparently the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) recently entered remarks which I personally made in opposition to drug legalization on this House floor as an example of 'rabid, right-wing prohibitionist propaganda.'  Because I believe, along with 95 percent of America [myth of consensus -ed.], that the use of illicit drugs is wrong, I was singled out as an enemy of drug users.  Well, Mr. Speaker, I am honored.  The use of illegal drugs is an anathema to the social and moral fabric of our Nation."
        "Pro-drug use and legalization messages on the information superhighway through Internet are wrong...  As more and more Americans jump onto this latest technological advancement, more and more citizens will have access to this ill-advised information."
        "Drug legalization advocates from all over the country are using this universal technology to further their movement and deceive Americans.  As Congress reviews this very important technology during the 104th Congress, the use of this service by pro-drug organizations and individuals for the propagation of this ilk must be addressed.  As a nation founded on the freedoms of speech and press, the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness must not be trampled by the disease of illegal drugs."  [Emphasis added -ed.]
        NORML National Director Richard Cowan comments: "Representative Solomon continues to demonstrate his fear of free and open discussion.  This is typical of the statist mind-set.  NORML believes that freedom has nothing to fear from the truth--so it is appropriate that Solomon is running scared."

'Drug Peace' In the Middle East?

        March 14, The Hayward Daily Review reports that "a panel of experts Monday recommended that Israel's parliament ease laws agalnst the use of marijuana and hashish."

Marijuana "Kingpin" Qualifies For First Federal Execution In 32 Years

        March 13, Reuters reports that U.S. authorities have notified David Chandler, 42, that his death sentence will be carried out March 30 in the first federal execution in 32 years.
        According to Reuters, Chandler was convicted in 1991 in Alabama of hiring another individual to kill a member of his marijuana smuggling ring who had become an informant.  Chandler is the first federal inmate to receive a death sentence under the 1988 Omnibus Crime Bill.  The federal Bureau of Prisons sald five other inmates are awaiting execution under the same drug kingpin law.
        Reuters reports that prison officials acknowledged that Chandler's execution, which would be carried out by lethal injection, could be delayed by his filing of a new appeal.

        [NORML strongly protests the potential execution of David Chandler.  Mr. Chandler should not be exposed to an ill-conceived death penalty statute solely because of his alleged role in a marijuana trafficking operation.  Executing this man, in the name of the 'Drug War', will not deter or hinder a single nanogram's worth of "drugs" from being cultivated, sold or consumed in the U.S.  So why do it?  For more information on Mr. Chandler's dreadful plight, contact the Alabama ACLU, Olivia Turner, 205-262-0304.]