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

April 4, 1996

Colorado Senate Gives Green Light To Domestic Hemp Cultivation

        March 30, 1996, Denver CO:  Legislation (SB 67) that would allow Colorado to become the first state to legalize the growing of industrial hemp was approved by the full Senate by a 18-15 vote.
        The move surprised many who felt that the controversial legislation would likely fall three or five votes shy of a majority.  "I feel like I've been through a wringer, but I'm very happy," said the bill's sponsor, Sen. Lloyd Casey (D-Northglenn), in an interview with the Rocky Mountain News.  A similar bill was introduced by Casey in 1995, but only received one vote of support in its first committee.
        The Colorado Industrial Hemp Production Act permits the planting of no more than 40 acres of industrial hemp (defined by the bill as marijuana containing no more than 0.5% THC) in Colorado in 1996 for agricultural, commercial, and scientific research.  The legislation allows for full scale hemp production to begin in 1998 and has been endorsed by the Colorado Farm Bureau, the Colorado State Grange, and the National Federation of Farm Bureaus.  The bill has also received support from Hollywood actor and hemp businessman Woody Harrelson.
        The bill now moves to the more conservative House where Reps. Steve Acquafresca (R-Cedaredge) and Bill Jerke (R-Lasalle) have agreed to help carry the legislation.
        Often described as "marijuana's misunderstood cousin," industrial hemp is from the same species that produces marijuana.  Unlike marijuana, however, industrial hemp has only minute amounts of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient that gives marijuana its medical and euphoric properties.  Industrial hemp is currently grown legally through much of Europe, Asia, and parts of Canada to produce a variety of products such as textiles, paper, composites, paints, cosmetics, and animal feed.
        For more information on this bill, please contact the office of Senator Lloyd Casey @ (303) 866-4865 or the Colorado Hemp Initiative Project @ (303) 784-5632.  For more information on the value of industrial hemp, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

District Attorney To Take No Further Action In Medical Marijuana Distribution Case

        April 3, 1996, New York, NY:  The Manhattan District Attorney has agreed to take no further action in its prosecution of Johann Moore for distributing marijuana for medical purposes and to dismiss all charges against him in six months.
        Judge William Mogulescu explained in open court that this decision by the District Attorney's office constituted an extreme deviation from their internal policies which require that all defendants must plead to the indictment in all cases of marijuana sales.  Judge Mogulescu further added that he believed the District Attorney's action to be tantamount to an acknowledgment by that office of the legitimacy of medicinal marijuana and of the validity of Moore's claim that his distribution of marijuana as medicine constituted a justification for his actions.
        Immediately after the court proceeding where Moore consented to the six month deferred prosecution, he informed reporters that he intends to continue to provide marijuana to those with a legitimate medical need.
        Moore's attorney and President of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), Robert Fogelnest said, "I applaud the District Attorney's office for their ultimately making an intelligent and humane judgment in the disposition of this case."
        "I hope that this will pave the way for a more enlightened policy regarding the distribution of marijuana for medical use," added Moore's other attorney, Ruth Liebesman.  Both Liebesman and Fogelnest are members of the NORML Legal Committee.
        Moore is a longtime New York City drug reform activist and is the founder of the city's underground cannabis buyer's club -- one of an estimated 30 clubs that currently operate and distribute medical marijuana to seriously ill patients who possess a doctor's recommendation.  He was arrested last August for distributing marijuana and was charged with criminal sales in the fourth degree.
        "The statement made by the District Attorney in this case is a strong one," said NORML Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre.  "It appears that they -- like the D.A.'s offices in San Francisco, Oakland, and Santa Cruz have done previously -- wish to make the prosecution of buyer's clubs and those involved in the distribution of marijuana for medicinal use the state's lowest priority."
        For more information on the Johann Moore case, please contact either Attorney Robert Fogelnest or Ruth Liebesman @ (212) 683-8000.  For more information on cannabis buyer's clubs, please contact Allen St. Pierre of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

California Reports Record Numbers Of Marijuana Prisoners

        April 1, 1996, San Francisco, CA:  The number of marijuana offenders in California state prisons has increased to its highest level in history, according to the latest statistics from the Department of Corrections.  As of December 31, 1995, 1,572 prisoners were serving time for marijuana felonies, up 18 percent from one year previously.
        The new figures appear to belie recent claims that the war on marijuana in California has let up.  California now has two and a half times more marijuana prisoners than in the early l970s, before possession was decriminalized from a felony to a misdemeanor, and 15 times as many marijuana prisoners as at the record low in 1980.  An unknown number of additional prisoners are serving time in county jails.  Nonetheless, recent surveys indicate that marijuana usage is rising -- especially among adolescents -- suggesting strongly that harsh penalties are not an effective deterrent in marijuana consumption.
        For more information, please contact Dale Gieringer of California NORML @ (415) 563-5858.

Prosecutors Seek To Seize Frequent-Flier Miles Of Man Convicted Of Marijuana Trafficking

        April 3, 1996, Baltimore, MD:  In an action that appears to be a first for the nation, federal prosecutors are attempting to seize 117,705 frequent-flier miles of a convicted marijuana trafficker.
        "I think it's ingenious," said U.S. Attorney Lynne A. Battaglia, whose office recently filed the forfeiture claim.  Prosecutors maintain that the miles should be converted into plain tickets and given to law enforcement agencies.
        A federal judge will decide whether the miles should be considered as assets and confiscated under forfeiture laws.  Recently, the Supreme Court upheld a Michigan ruling that allows prosecutors to seize property used in a crime even when the owner was not a participant.

USA WEEKEND QuickPoll Indicates Majority Of Americans Favor Marijuana Decriminalization

        March 31, 1996:  Seventy-four percent of the more than 6,200 individuals who responded to a USA WEEKEND poll said they favored decriminalizing marijuana.  The outcome came as a surprise to many who felt that the USA WEEKEND feature: Why more kids are into pot greatly sensationalized the issue.
        "The results of this poll indicates that a clear majority of Americans favor marijuana decriminalization," said NORML Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre.  "The results of the USA WEEKEND QuickPoll mimics the outcomes of similar polls conducted recently by Parade Magazine and America Online.  A significant number of Americans are fed-up with the government's war on marijuana consumers."