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

October 12, 1995

Alaska Court Rules Roadside Marijuana Search To Be Illegal

        September 27, 1995, Anchorage, AK:  In a ruling that could cast doubt upon the legality of many roadside searches, Alaska District Court Judge William Fuld has dismissed charges against a man who was arrested after a state trooper reportedly smelled marijuana and then demanded that the defendant "hand it over."  In the court's view, the officer's phrase: "hand it over" was not a choice, but a demand to search the defendant's vehicle.  Therefore, the court ruled that the roadside search was improper because no valid consent was ever given by the defendant.
        "The trooper was in uniform and the defendant testified that he felt he had to respond to the officer's command," summarized Fuld in his court opinion.  "The demand to 'hand it over' admitted to by the trooper was an illegal search of the defendant.  While the trooper smelled marijuana, he had no right to search the passenger. ...
        ... The state argues that there was a valid consent to a search.  I don't think so.  No choice was offered [to the defendant.]"
        For more information on this decision, please contact Don Hart of the National Lawyers Guild @ (907) 376-2232 or Len Karpinski of Anchorage NORML @ (907) 248-HEMP.

California Activists File Medical Marijuana Initiative For 1996 State Ballot

        September 29, 1995, Sacramento, CA:  A coalition of AIDS activists, cancer survivors, seniors, nurses, and medical experts have filed a medical marijuana initiative with the California Attorney General's Office.  The initiative was filed in response to Governor Pete Wilson's expected veto of bill AB 1529.  (This legislation would provide for the controlled compassionate use of marijuana for those individuals diagnosed by a physician to be suffering from the diseases of AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, and multiple sclerosis.)  Wilson previously vetoed similar bills in both 1993 and 1994.
The initiative maintains that those patients who possess a valid doctor's recommendation should be allowed to use marijuana as a therapeutic without fear or risk of criminal prosecution.  The initiative also allows citizens to cultivate their own marijuana for personal use and encourages state and federal government to establish a program that will provide for a safe and affordable method of distribution.  This coalition has 150 days to collect 600,000 signatures.
        Marijuana activist and head of Californians for Compassionate Use, Dennis Peron, will be directing the initiative drive.  "If Governor Wilson had not vetoed, two years in a row, two separate medical marijuana bills--one that would have allowed doctors to prescribe, and one to allow patients not be prosecuted for personal use of marijuana--this would not be necessary," he stated.
        For more information on the California medical marijuana initiative, please contact Dennis Peron of Californians for Compassionate Use @ (415) 621-3986.

10th Circuit Appeals Court Rules Warrantless Use Of Heat Sensing Equipment
To Be Unconstitutional

        October 4, 1995, Denver, CO: The following is an excerpt from a Reuters news brief:

It is unconstitutional for police and drug enforcement agents to scan homes with heat-sensing equipment to detect criminal activity without a warrant, the federal appeals court in Denver ruled Wednesday.
         The decision came in a case which law enforcement officers in Wyoming obtained a search warrant, and later a conviction, after using a thermal imager to gather evidence that marijuana was being grown in a home.
         The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which hears cases from a six state region [Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas, and Oklahoma], ruled 3-0 that police must obtain a search warrant before using such equipment.
        "We reject the government's contention that its technical wizardry should free it from the restraints mandated by the Fourth Amendment," the court said.  It noted that the government denies thermal imagers intrude upon privacy.
        The court said four federal appeals courts in other circuits have ruled the opposite way, that warrants are not needed before police use thermal imagers.

        For more information about the use of thermal imaging, please contact Allen St. Pierre @ NORML.

New York Times Editorial Lashes Out At The Drug War

        October 7, 1995, New York, NY: Citing statistics from a recently released Sentencing Project report, The New York Times denounced the "War on Drugs" in a Saturday editorial.
        Noting that current data indicates that one in three black men between the ages of 20 and 29 are involved somewhere in the criminal justice system (either prison, pre-trial detention, on probation or on parole), the Op-ed argues that the "War on Drugs" is rounding up a "disproportionate" number of black Americans.  In support of this notion, the editorial noted that "during the early 1990's, at a time when African-Americans accounted for only 13 percent of monthly drug users, African-Americans were involved in 35 percent of the arrests for drug possession, 55 percent of the convictions and 74 percent of the prison sentences.
        Although the editorial never spoke out in favor of legalization, it did assert that America "need[s] to rethink both drug and punishment policies."  These latest figures, the Times concluded, "should set off alarm bells from the White House to city halls--and help reverse the notion that we can incarcerate our way out of fundamental social problems.
        For more information or to receive a copy of the Sentencing Project's latest report, please contact Mark Mauer of the Sentencing Project @ (202) 628-0871.

County Sheriff, Undercover Agents Threaten Sandusky County NORML
With Indictments

        September 30, 1995, Fremont, OH: A September 22 weekend rally put on by the Sandusky County Chapter of NORML has stirred up more than just controversy following an announcement by Sheriff David Gangwer that he had undercover agents infiltrate the event.
        "I am disappointed with the actions of this sheriff," said Sandusky County NORML Chapter President, Tomas Salazar.  "This is a direct attack on NORML and we are being targeted for our beliefs.  This is a violation of our Constitutional right to assemble."
        Gangwer claims that the information and evidence gathered by his agents will eventually be turned over to the Sandusky County Prosecutor and state officials.  The evidence could warrant the need for a special grand jury to seek criminal indictments against NORML, he added.  Gangwer would not discuss what charges were being considered.
        "At the very least we hope the information we gathered will prevent this from ever happening in this county or in this state again," he said.
        Don't bet on it, claims Salazar, who is already preparing to organize another Harvest Festival next year.  "I can't see anything that they can charge NORML with," he contends.  "NORML has always acted responsibly in all of their events ... and I expect there will be no indictments.  This is harassment."  Salazar added that organizers required all attendees to sign a release affirming that they would not engage in any illegal activities during the course of the festival.  The release also required attendees to indicate that they were not an undercover law enforcement official.
        "We have a right to socialize and that's what we did," Salazar concluded. "We never expected the big brouhaha that was made out of it."
        For more information, please contact Tomas Salazar of Sandusky County NORML @ (419) 334-9310.