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

April 20, 1995

Baltimore Sun's Front Page Afflicted By "Reefer Madness"
DEA Admits Shifting Agents From Cocaine To Marijuana Hunt

        April 14, The Baltimore Sun in a lengthy headline story, "Authorities hit the marijuana trail, Police see resurgence of '60s drug" pushed most of the DEA's most successful propaganda lines.  The Sun, once the paper of H.L. Mencken, begins by giving the impression that marijuana law enforcement has flagged during recent years.  Actually, the number of arrests has been increasing and the 10 millionth marijuana arrest since 1965 will soon take place.
        The article by Marcia Myers also parrots the DEA line that marijuana is "3 to 5 times stronger than it was 20 years ago," although even the head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse claims only a 3-fold increase and there is little evidence to support any actual increase.  The head of Maryland's marijuana eradication program is quoted as saying that growers "have been able to cultivate a crop that will literally knock your socks off."
        In addition to citing this purported epidemic in barefootedness, the article says that what it calls "marijuana related" emergency room admissions have tripled in the last four years.  Actually, these numbers represent only emergency room "mentions" of marijuana, and do not indicate that marijuana was the cause of the visit.  Had the reporter bothered to check with the primary source on this data, she would have learned that approximately 80% of such "mentions" involve people who are actually having problems with other drugs, but also "mention" having used marijuana.
        The article did break new ground in two areas:  1.) It actually reported that forfeiture encourages police to work on marijuana cases since the police agencies get to keep the property they seize.  2.) It also revealed that the Baltimore office of the DEA has shifted agents away from cocaine cases to go after marijuana.  They call this a "more balanced approach."  This approach would be more "balanced" only if one thinks that marijuana is somehow as much a problem as cocaine, which this article implies.  Perhaps in the future The Sun will take a "more balanced approach" to journalism and include a few more facts with its ration of DEA propaganda.

Hair Testing For Marijuana Called Unreliable, But Proceeds Anyway

        April 7, In a copyrighted story by C. Eugene Emery, The Providence Journal reported that even though the developer of the new hair test for drugs acknowledges that the test is not a reliable indicator of marijuana use, they are testing for it anyway.
        The test, marketed by Psychemedics of Cambridge, Mass. is designed to detect trace residues of illicit drugs that may have been used over the last several months.  One advantage of hair testing over urine testing is that cocaine and heroin are not detectable in urine after a day or two, while marijuana metabolites can be detected for weeks.  The urine testing has the effect of encouraging the use of cocaine and other hard drugs over marijuana.  Urine testing is also considered relatively easy to beat.
        In the Providence Journal story J. Michael Walsh of the National Institute for Standards and Technology and former executive director of President Reagan's Drug Advisory Council was very critical of the reliability of hair testing in general, but especially when used for detecting marijuana.  Walsh told the Providence Journal (which uses the hair test) that, "It is just inappropriate to deny employment or take adverse action against an employee on the basis of such a test."
        [For more information on hair follicle testing, contact Allen St. Pierre at NORML, (202)483-5500.]

National Review Reports On Jimmy Montgomery; Paraplegic Now Receiving Better Treatment; Hopeful Of Release Soon.

        In an editorial in its May 1 issue, William F. Buckley, Jr.'s National Review commented on the case of Jimmy Montgomery, a paraplegic sentenced to 10 years in Oklahoma prisons for less than 2 ounces of marijuana.  NR noted that former deputy drug czar John P. Walters criticized ABC News for reporting on the Montgomery case.  Walters showed no concern for Montgomery but rather complained, "Apparently ABC couldn't find a grandmother on death row for carrying a roach clip..."  NR observes that "something is seriously wrong with a drug policy that condones such treatment -- a point that the drug warriors tacitly acknowledge by changing the subject."
        In the meantime, Montgomery is now receiving proper medical care and has been moved to another prison facility.  It is hoped that this move is in preparation for his being released to "house arrest."  Michael Pearson of Oklahoma NORML reports that the numerous calls received by the Oklahoma governor's office helped save Jimmy's life.  NORML expresses its gratitude to all who called.  NORML also expresses its sympathy to the citizens of Oklahoma City for the tragic deaths in the Federal Building bombing.  Hunting down these cowardly murderers is the proper use for law enforcement.

Prohibitionists React Hysterically To ABC News Program Critical Of Drug Prohibition And Condemn "Drug Legalization In Europe"

        The complaints of John Walters about ABC's reporting on the Jimmy Montgomery case were in a Washington Times op-ed article published the day before the ABC program actually ran.  Walters also continued the prohibitionist practice of claiming that "drug legalization in Europe" has been a failure.  He was later joined in the chorus by A. M. Rosenthal, former managing editor of The New York Times, who typically cited Zurich's Needle Park as an example of the failure of "drug legalization."  None of them offered any analysis of the Dutch policy of tolerating cannabis sale in "coffee shops."  Instead they tried to paint Holland as a violent crime-ridden country.

Long Island Student Suspended Just For Wanting To Write A Paper On The
Economics Of Hemp

        April 19, A high school student from Long Island (NY) called NORML's national office to report that she was suspended from school briefly for having indicated that she was going to write her term paper on the economics of hemp.  Her principal relented when she mentioned something about the First Amendment ... which was also written on hemp (paper).

Atlantic Monthly Work On Marijuana Prohibition Wins Prestigious
"National Magazine Award."

        The Atlantic Monthly's two part article (August/September, 1994) on marijuana prohibition by Eric Schlosser won the National Magazine Award reporting prize.  Schlosser wrote about the extremely high sentences given to people convicted of marijuana trafficking offenses in contrast to lesser penalties given to people convicted of violent offenses.  NORML congratulates Schlosser and The Atlantic.