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

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

November 2, 1995

U.S. Sentencing Commission's Recommendations Regarding Marijuana Weight Disparity Enacted Into Law: New Legislation Could Affect Approximately 950 Imprisoned Marijuana Growers

        November 1, 1995, Washington, DC:  Recommendations made by the U.S. Sentencing Commission this past spring mandating a universal plant-weight ratio for marijuana was enacted into law on November 1.  The recommendation will be retroactive and will affect an estimated 950 cases across the nation dating back to 1989.  Many of these prisoners will be eligible for early release due to the amended guidelines; however, Families Against Mandatory Minimum's (FAMM) spokesman Jeff Stewart cautions that the decision to release an inmate early still remains up to the discretion of each individual judge.  While it's true that nearly 1000 inmates will be affected by the change, it does not necessarily follow that all of those inmates will be immediately released, FAMM warns.
        Under the newly amended guidelines, each marijuana plant cultivated will now be given a weight equivalent to 100 grams regardless of the number of plants involved.  In the past, the 100 grams per plant measure was only mandated when a defendant was convicted of possessing 49 plants or fewer. For those convicted of harboring 50 plants or more, the weight equivalent for each plant jumped to 1000 grams.  Consequently, defendants convicted for possessing 50 plants or more faced sentences almost 3 times as long as those convicted for 49 plants.
        "To enhance fairness and consistency, this amendment adopts the equivalency of 100 grams per marijuana plant for all guidelines determinations," the commission stated.  The commission voted 7-0 in favor of the change.
        A bill blocking the commission's recommendations was introduced by U.S. Representative Jim Bunn (R-OR) in October, but Congress failed to act on it.
        For more information on the newly amended sentencing guidelines, please contact Julie Stewart of FAMM @ (202) 457-5790.

Buchanan Flip-Flop-Flips On Medical Marijuana Issue

        October 4, 1995, Storm Lake, IA:  When it comes to the issue of medical marijuana, presidential hopeful Pat Buchanan just can't seem to make up his mind.
        While fund-raising in Charlotte, NC this past summer, Buchanan responded to a question posed by MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) President Rick Doblin about whether he would "support the use of medical marijuana."  At that time, Buchanan stated that: "If a doctor indicated to his patient that this was the only way to alleviate certain painful symptoms ... I would defer to the doctor's judgment."
        However, when confronted with a similar question at a recent gathering in Storm Lake, Iowa, Buchanan began singing a different tune.  When approached by a citizen and publicly asked about his views on the medicinal use of marijuana, Buchanan said that he felt that doctors should not be permitted to prescribe smoking marijuana because of its destructive effect.  Buchanan then asked the man if he was with NORML.  When the citizen responded that he wasn't, but rather that he was "terminally ill patient ... [with] no hope and no treatment,"  Buchanan suddenly flipped yet again on the issue.
        "If everything you say is true, and I choose to believe you," Buchanan said, "[then] I would support [your decision to use marijuana as a medicine] in a second."
        For more information on the medical use of marijuana, please contact Allen St. Pierre of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

Idaho Supreme Court Rules That Employee Let Go For Failing Drug Test
Should Be Awarded Unemployment Benefits

        September 27, 1995, Idaho:  In a surprising 3-2 decision, the Idaho Supreme Court has ruled that an employee who was fired after having tested positive for THC should be eligible for unemployment benefits.  In it's written opinion, the Court concluded that: "The record presents substantial and competent evidence to support the Commission's conclusion that Shearer [Lumber Products] failed to communicate its expectations to [its employee, Steven] Merriott.  Shearer therefore could not require Merriott to comply with uncommunicated expectations."
        The "uncommunicated expectations" in this case had to do with whether or not it was clear that Merriott's conduct while off-duty could be construed as appropriate grounds for dismissal.  After testing positive for THC on a February 9, 1993, drug test, Merriott admitted that he had smoked marijuana during his day off two days earlier.  Merriott maintained that he had not been intoxicated while on the job.  He was later fired on February 16, 1993, for violating Shearer Lumber Products' substance abuse policy.
        Upon analysis, the Court decided that although the company's substance abuse policy prohibited employees "from being under the influence of any chemical substance or alcohol during working hours," it did not make reference to what employees may or may not do during non-working hours.  "The Commission noted that Shearer presented no evidence that Merriott was impaired while at work, nor was Merriott informed that use of controlled substances during non-working hours would violate Shearer's policy.  Because there was no evidence that Merriott did not comply with Shearer's communicated substance abuse policy, the Commission concluded that Merriott was not discharged for employment-related misconduct.  ... [Therefore,] the Commission's conclusion that Merriott is eligible for unemployment benefits is affirmed."
        Activists wishing to acquire a copy of the decision should refer to: Steven R. Merriott v Shearer Lumber Products and State of Idaho, Department of Employment, Docket No. 21002, Filed: September 27, 1995.

Northcoast NORML Launches Campaign
To Kill Proposed Ohio Bill That Allows Police To Sell Drugs

        October 30, 1995, Cleveland, OH:  Northcoast NORML has launched an educational campaign to inform citizens about a proposed House Bill that would change Ohio's long standing policy prohibiting law enforcement personnel from selling less than the bulk amount of an illegal drug in reverse sting operations.  The bill (H.B. 125) is titled "Violations of the Drug Laws" and is being sponsored by State representative Jeff Jacobson (R-Dayton) by the request of Montgomery County law enforcement officials.
        Northcoast NORML is concerned about this proposed legislation for various reasons.  Most of all, NORML is worried that this bill, if enacted into law, would shift the focus of Ohio's drug war away from traffickers and onto small time users.  "If the Senate passes House Bill 125, it will be open season in Ohio for drug users," stated Northcoast NORML President John Hartman.  "With the State prison system [already operating] at over 170 percent capacity and many county jails bursting at the seams, ... [it's clear that] we just don't need more drug users in prison."
        Northcoast NORML also notes that a change in the law could cause law enforcement personnel to unintentionally add to the drug problem in Ohio. Hartman notes that an October 25, 1994, Orange County Register article (Defense Wants Crack Cases Killed, Peter M. Gollner) reported that 42 percent of the people who bought drugs from undercover officers got away with the police manufactured drugs.
        For more information on House Bill 125, please contact John Hartman of Northcoast NORML @ (216) 521-WEED.