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

June 8, 1995

Plight Of Oklahoma Paraplegic Pot Prisoner To Be Topic
At Major London Human Rights Convention

        London: The continued imprisonment of Oklahoma paraplegic Jimmy Montgomery will be addressed at a three day Human Rights Convention to be held in London from June 15 to 17.  The Convention, billed as "A Festival of Rights," is being sponsored by Liberty, the London based human rights organization.  It is expected that more than 5,000 people from around the world will attend the convention.  This will be the first time that the excesses of America's war on marijuana users will be recognized as a violation of human rights comparable to other forms of political persecution.
        NORML National Director, Richard Cowan, will be speaking at one of the convention sessions about the inhumane treatment of Jimmy Montgomery.  Montgomery is a paraplegic who has almost died several times while serving a ten year sentence in Oklahoma prisons for less than two ounces of marijuana.  Despite months of calling the Oklahoma Governor's office by hundreds of concerned Americans, Montgomery is still being held in Oklahoma's severely overcrowded prisons.
        Cowan will also speak about the killings by Wisconsin police of two suspected cannabis users.  One victim was a 15 year-old boy allegedly shot by a drunken narc.  "I hope that the international media and human rights community will focus on the rising tide of violence and hatred being inflicted on American cannabis users, which is being ignored by the American media," said Cowan.  He added, "having the persecution of cannabis users recognized at this convention is a historic breakthrough in our efforts to get the world to count the cost of cannabis prohibition."
        There will be more than 100 speakers at the convention, including Pierre Sane, the Secretary General of Amnesty International; Kader Asmal, a Minister in the South African government; and Lord Lester, QC.
        Back in America, Jimmy Montgomery's parole hearing has been delayed to July 12, supposedly because the June 21 schedule is full.  NORML urges that concerned citizens continue calling Oklahoma Governor Keating and other state opinion leaders to urge that Montgomery's case be dealt with immediately.  It is unfortunate that Oklahoma is to be subjected to international opprobrium because it cannot find a way to free a man who did not belong in prison in the first place.

        [To reach Governor Frank Keating, call (405) 521-2342 or fax (405) 521-3353.  To reach the editors of the two major newspapers in Oklahoma call 1.) The Daily Oklahoman, (405) 473-3311 or 2.) The Tulsa World (918) 581-8499.]

Oregon House Votes To Re-criminalize Marijuana Possession

        June 6, Salem, Oregon:  In a surprise move under new rules that allow for only one hour's notice to be given before legislative hearings, the Oregon House of Representatives voted 47 to 13 to re-criminalize the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana.  The bill would raise the maximum fine for possession from $1,000 to $5,000 and the minimum fine from $100 to $500 per gram.  This would mean a minimum fine of $2,800 per ounce.  Although there is no direct jail penalty, persons unable to pay the higher fines could be jailed.  The bill also makes it a crime to be "under the influence" of marijuana without defining just what that means.
        In 1973, Oregon was the first state to decriminalize marijuana, but it does not have a higher rate of marijuana use than other states.  The sponsor of the bill cited the usual reasons, the supposed "increase" in potency of marijuana, the claim that it is the "gateway" to hard drugs (in 1973 it was the "stepping stone"), and the claim that 9 and 10 year-olds are smoking -- so adults mast be arrested.
        Critics point out that the bill would cost the state at least one million dollars per year by requiring the appointment of public defenders for indigent defendants, plus the cost of imprisoning those who cannot afford the much higher fines.

        This bill demonstrates that Oregon is not immune to the massive hate campaign against cannabis users being waged by the prohibitionist establishment and the mass media.  This week, Gannett News Service carried a three-part series claiming that teenagers who use marijuana just once in a year are ten times more likely to be involved in violent crimes than non-users.  Of course, no comparable numbers were given for alcohol use.  This is the sort of "reporting" that leads to the shooting of a 15 year-old by a drunken narc, which -- of course -- was not mentioned in the Gannett articles.  So much for their concern for teenage violence.

        Update:  The U.S. Sentencing Commission is considering an amendment that impacts cannabis consumers.  The following is from the Drug Reform Coordination Network (DRCNet):

        Earlier this spring, the U.S. Sentencing Commission passed some amendments to the federal sentencing guidelines that would reform the penalty structure for certain drug offenses.
        One amendment, passed 7-0, would change the plant-weight ratio use for marijuana to 1 plant = 100 grams.  (Currently 1 plant is considered 100 grams for 49 plants or fewer, but becomes 1 kilo [1000 grams] for 50 plants or more, with the effect that defendants convicted for 50 plants spend almost 3 times as long in prison as those convicted for 49 plants.)
        A second amendment, would provide a two point reduction in offense level for certain non-violent, first time offenders who qualify for the "safety-valve" exemption included in last year's Crime Bill.  This Amendment essentially matches the exemption the law now grants from the mandatory minimum statutes.
        The amendments will become law if Congress doesn't act by November 1 to overturn them.  Clarification:  What the Sentencing Commission has not decided yet is whether the amendments will apply retroactively to current inmates.
        Please write the commission and ask them to make the following amendments retroactive:

Amendment # 8
Amendment # 7

Use standard weight of 100 grams for each marijuana plant
Provide additional two-point reduction for defendants who qualified for the safety-valve

        The commission only accepts public comment by mail.  Please send your letters to:

Public Comment -- Retroactivity
U.S. Sentencing Commission
South Lobby, Suite 2-500
One Columbus Circle, NE
Washington, D.C. 20002-8002


        [For more information on the proposed guideline changes, please contact Julie Stewart, Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), (202) 457-5790.  For information on DRCNet, contact David Borden, Foundation for Drug Policy Awareness, (617) 648-2655.]

        Counting Down: The 10 millionth marijuana arrest will take place in July.  Will it be in Oregon?  Will it be you, if you are not shot first by a drunken narc?