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December 14, 1995

Missouri Senator Pre-files Medical Marijuana Necessity Defense Bill

        December 14, 1995, Jefferson City, MO:  State Senator John Moseley has pre-filed a bill (Senate Bill 573) for the 1996 session of the Missouri General Assembly that would provide certain marijuana users with a medical necessity defense.  Sen. Moseley is the former President of the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.
        The bill states that "no criminal or civil penalty shall apply to any person for the act of possessing marijuana provided that ... a [physician] certifies in writing that the person is under professional care ... [and] ... needs marijuana as part of a therapeutic regimen."
        Attorney Dan Viets, President of Missiouri NORML, views Moseley's bill as a step in right direction and does not forsee significant political opposition.  "Given the fact our legislature overwhelmingly supported a resolution to end the federal prohibition of marijuana as a medicine in 1994, we feel that Moseley's bill has an excellent chance of passing in the Missouri General Assembly," he said.
        "It is appalling that in some states, juries are forbidden to hear testimony regarding the medical uses of marijuana," says NORML Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre.  "It is even more appalling that individuals who consume marijuana for its therapeutic effects are prosecuted under our nation's policy of 'zero tolerance.'  Senator Moseley's legislation would allow for some needed compassion in America's war on marijuana consumers."
        For more information, please contact Attorney Dan Viets of Missouri NORML @ (314) 443-6866.

Anti-Drug Group's Attack On Hempilation, WBCN, Draws Fire From National Writers Union, Boston Coalition For Freedom Of Expression

        December 13, 1995, Boston, MA:  In response to a December 1 rally held outside the offices of Boston radio station WBCN to protest the airplay of the NORML benefit CD Hempilation, the National Writers Union and the Boston Coalition for Freedom of Expression have issued statements condemning the actions of rally organizers, the Governor's Alliance Against Drugs.
        Both groups are highly critical of the overall nature of the protest and specifically of the alleged use of state power and finances to help institute the rally.  Reports from the December 1 gathering note that protesters arrived in state vehicles, attendees were encouraged to "bring their squad cars," and an individual identified as a Boston liaison to the DEA accompanied Georgette Wilson, Executive Director of the G.A.A.D., as she entered the station.  "These sort of actions, when performed [and sponsored] by government agents, are specifically [prohibited] by law," charges Bill Downing, president of NORML's Massachusetts chapter.
        In a letter to Governor William Weld from the National Writers Union, Political Issues Chairman Robert B. Chatelle urges the governor to demand Ms. Watson issue a formal apology for her actions.  The letter further urges Watson to "pledge in the future to abide by the laws [and] the U.S. Constitution."  If the executive director is unwilling to do this, the National Writers Union suggests that Gov. Weld request her resignation.
        "We are concerned ... that you have not yet spoken out against this abuse of power committed in your name," Chatelle writes.  "The voters of the Commonwealth have the right to hear from you about this disturbing event.  I'm sure you have no wish to advance your political career by trampling on the inalienable rights of the people."
        A press release issued by the Boston Coalition for Freedom of Expression also criticizes the event and calls the protest an "astonishing example of the power of the state riding roughshod over the Bill of Rights."
        "The news blackout on this matter, which should at the very least result in the resignation of Ms. Watson and the disciplining of the DEA agent who accompanied her into WBCN, is almost as scandalous as the incident itself," concludes James D'Entremont, Director of the Boston coalition.
        For more information, please contact either Bill Downing of Mass/Cann NORML @ (617) 944-2266 or Jeremy Much of Capricorn Records @ (615) 320-8470.  The East Coast office of the National Writers Union can be contacted @ (212) 254-0279 and the Boston Coalition for Freedom of Expression can be contacted @ (617) 497-7193.  For further information on the Hempilation CD, please contact Allen St. Pierre of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

State Supreme Court Rules Warrentless Searches Of Bus Passengers To Be Illegal

        December 7, 1995, Chicago, IL:  Civil liberties proponents are claiming victory following an Illinois Supreme Court decision to uphold a Champaign County Judge's ruling that the police acted illegally by searching the bag of a Greyhound Bus passenger.
        Judge Harold Jensen granted a motion to suppress in the case of Greyhound passenger Tim Besser.  Besser was faced with drug charges after a police search of bus passengers and their luggage revealed Besser's suitcase to contain marijuana. 
        At the hearing, officers testified that they boarded the bus as it pulled into the Urbana Station at 2:50 a.m.  One officer and his dog searched the luggage compartment and two other officers questioned the bus passengers, ordering each to identify their luggage.  During the course of the trial, police conceded that there was nothing suspicious about the bus or any of its passengers.  One officer further testified that he knew the bus schedule by heart and added that such suspicionless searches of busses were routine police procedure.
        Consequently, by boarding the bus and detaining the passengers without probable cause, the court ruled that Besser had been unlawfully seized and searched.  "That kind of random police work is a little offensive to me," Judge Jensen remarked.
        Besser was represented by NORML Legal Committee member, Peter J. Vilkelis.
        For more information, please contact Attorney Peter J. Vilkelis @ (312) 408-0258.

NORML Chapter Is Approved At Columbia University: Marijuana Reform Organization Achieves Ivy League Foothold

        December 5, 1995, New York, NY:  The Student Governing Board (SGB) of Columbia University's Earl Hall Center approved the constitution of CUNORML, the Columbia University Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.  Earl Hall's approval of the group makes Columbia the first Ivy League campus to recognize a NORML chapter.
        CUNORML was founded as an unofficial student organization in the Spring semester of 1995 by Wayne Jebian and Aaron Wilson, a graduate student at Columbia University Teacher's College.  Prior to enrolling at Columbia, Wilson helped to found the Cannabis Reform Coalition (CRC) at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, the largest student marijuana-reform group in the United States.
        For more information on CUNORML, please contact Ari Blank @ (212) 853-1466 or Aaron Wilson @ (212) 781-5383.

NORML Chapter Seeking To Reduce Local Pot Penalties Faces Opposition, Resolution From City Officials

        December 1995, Traverse City, MI:  A NORML chapter hoping to reduce marijuana penalties in Traverse City was recently met with heavy opposition by local officials.  Following the announcement that the group plans to collect the 330 signatures necessary to put a new pot ordinance on the ballot, city commission officials unanimously passed a resolution asking residents not to sign the petition.  The Traverse City NORML petition sends the wrong message to teenagers, Commissioner Shelly Kester said.
        Regardless of the resolution, area NORML President Bill Bustance says he will have no problem gathering the necessary number of signatures to bring the new marijuana ordinance to a public vote.  Last year, Bustance reportedly amassed more than twice the needed amount of signatures on a similar petition.  However, the prior petition was rejected by the commission because it allegedly conflicted with state law.
        Bustance says that his current petition avoids last years legal problems.  His revised ordinance would make marijuana possession in Traverse City punishable by a fine of $100 and 10 hours of community service for the first offense.
        For more information, please contact Bill Bustance of Traverse City NORML @ (616) 667-2507.

Supreme Court Reverses Drug Convictions Involving Firearms: Justices Rule Possessing A Weapon Not Enough To Warrant Longer Sentences

        December 7, 1995, Washington, D.C.:  In a unanimous decision that may open the door for the appeals of hundreds of firearm convictions, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a federal law mandating drug traffickers to receive an additional five years in prison for using a firearm can only be invoked when the defendant actively employs the weapon.
        The decision struck down the convictions in two District cases in which firearms were present but locked away during drug dealing.  In one incident, police discovered a pistol inside a bag in a car trunk following a traffic stop that revealed 27 bags of cocaine.  In the second case, an unloaded derringer was discovered locked in a trunk of the defendant's bedroom closet.  The defendant had earlier sold crack cocaine to an undercover officer in her apartment.
        Prior to the Court's ruling, many circuits courts had been divided on how much "use" of a firearm is necessary to invoke the additional mandatory minimum.  A prior D.C. Circuit of Appeals ruling stated that as long as the weapon is in close proximity to the drugs or drug proceeds and is accessible, the stiffer punishment could apply.
        However, after reviewing the law's language, the Supreme court concluded that prosecutors must show active employment of the firearm. 
        The definition of "use" said Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor "is of such breadth that no role remains for 'carry," which is also included in the statute.  "Use" does not include the mere placement of a gun nearby for protection, she concluded.

Drug Czar Leaves Post

        December 12, 1995, Washington D.C.:  President Clinton accepted "with regret" the resignation of Dr. Lee Brown as head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.  A spokesman for the administration says that a search for a successor is underway and maintained that the President is as committed as ever to the battle against drug abuse.  "[The war on drugs] will never be over until every child in America knows that drug use is dangerous, illegal and wrong," the President said.
        Brown is leaving his post as Drug Czar to take a teaching job at Rice University in Houston.

(Meanwhile) Gallup Poll Indicates That Americans Are Very Concerned About Illegal Drug Use

        December 12, 1995, Miami, FL:  Americans rate the use of illegal drugs as one of the nation's greatest crises, second only to violent crime, indicates a Gallup poll released this past Tuesday.
        According to results from the 1995 poll, 88 percent of the nation's adults view illegal drugs as a serious problem -- ranking it ahead of such issues as the federal budget deficit and health care costs.  The survey also indicated that 93 percent of respondents favored more anti-drug education in public schools and 85 percent opposed the idea of legalizing drugs.
        White House Drug Czar Lee Brown, speaking at a conference in Miami, commented that the results of the poll further re-emphasize the need for a high-profile, well-funded national drug control strategy.