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

April 11, 1996

Missouri Hemp Bill Heard Before Senate Agriculture Committee

        April 3, 1996, Jefferson City, MO:  A bill (SB 972) to allow for the legal cultivation of industrial hemp in Missouri was heard before the Senate Agriculture Committee.  Introduced by Sen. Jerry Howard (D-Dexter), the legislation permits licensed growers to cultivate industrial hemp for a variety of commercial uses.
        Although no vote was taken by the committee, those attending report that the hearing was positive and signified a step in the right direction.  In all, four witnesses testified in favor of the bill and no witnesses opposed it.
        Because the legislation was introduced late in this year's legislative session, there is little hope of it being approved in 1996.  Nevertheless, hemp proponents are encouraged that this hearing will provide a "running start" for the introduction of a similar bill in 1997.
        We are "laying the groundwork for next year," said Missouri NORML President Dan Viets, Esq., whose office provided Sen. Howard with background materials regarding the uses of industrial hemp.  Viets added that Howard has been "encouraged" by the favorable response his bill has received.
        According to the Colorado Hemp Initiative Project (CO-HIP), one Missouri farmer has already applied for a DEA permit to grow hemp and is hopeful that the legislature will at least pass a resolution supporting industrial hemp research before the completion of this year's session.
        For more information on the Industrial Hemp Production Act of 1996, please contact either Dan Viets @ (573) 443-6866 or the Oxford Hemp Council @ (573) 785-8711.

Vermont Hemp Bill Meets Unexpected Opposition In Senate

        April 10, 1996, Montpelier, VT:  Legislation that had been previously approved overwhelmingly by the House to permit development of a domestic hemp industry in Vermont has been temporarily derailed by the Senate.
        Following hearings in the Senate Agriculture Committee, the bill (H.783) was passed by a 4-2 vote.  However, the bill was passed with an "adverse report" and is now "ordered to lie" in Senate.  According to a spokesman for the Vermont Legislative Council, bills "ordered to lie" are in limbo, but may be called back to the floor for further debate at any time if the bill receives a majority vote from the full Senate to do so.
        Approving legislation with an adverse report is "hardly ever done," said Rep. Fred Maslack (R-Poultney), one of the initial proponents of the hemp cultivation bill.  Maslack further added that law enforcement officials, the bill's chief opponents, recently testified at informal hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee against the legislation.
        Law enforcement "has no business being there," he argued.  "[They] have no objections [that are] germane to the issue.  What bearing does [their] testimony have on licensed activity?"
        Vermont's legislature is scheduled to recess later this month.
        For the latest information on the status of H.783, please contact the Vermont Legislative Council @ (802) 828-2231.  For a first hand account of the Senate Agriculture Committee hearings, please e-mail Joel Williams @: or contact the Colorado Hemp Initiative Project (CO-HIP) @ (303) 784-5632 for details.  CO-HIP is located on the Internet @:

Tax Stamp Legislation Under Fire In Arizona

        April, 1996, Phoenix, AZ:  A 1983 law allowing individuals to attain licenses from the state to deal in and pay taxes on cannabis is under fire from state officials who argue that the legislation is tantamount to legalizing marijuana.  Recently, a bill introduced by Rep. Scott Bungaard (R-Glendale) calling for the repeal of Arizona's tax stamp legislation was approved in the Senate Government Reform Committee by a 6-1 vote.  The bill (H2367) now moves to the full Senate.
        According to Committee Chairman Stan Barnes, 55 people signed up to testify in opposition to Bungaard's amendment, including Arizona NORML President Peter Wilson.  Wilson ignited the stamp tax controversy this past November when Northwest Phoenix Justice Court Judge John Barclay dismissed marijuana possession charges against him because of evidence that he is licensed by the state to sell cannabis.  Basing his decision on constitutional prohibitions against double jeopardy, Judge Barclay concluded that Wilson could not be prosecuted because of (punitive) taxes he had previously paid to the Arizona department of revenue to sell and possess cannabis.
        "I think by possessing a license and paying the tax, you show an attitude that is different than a criminal attitude," said Wilson's attorney and NORML Legal Committee member, Michael Walz, speaking in favor of maintaining the current legislation.  "What you have is a county attorney saying on the record he is 100 percent confident [Mr. Wilson's case] will be reversed on appeal.  If that is really true, then there is no reason for this legislation.  And in fact, what it does is deprive the state of Arizona of potentially, millions of dollars in revenue."
        "The license and tax requirements were never intended to decriminalize the sale of marijuana," countered Rep. Bungaard.  "I want to send a clear message that drug use of any kind in this state is illegal and unacceptable."
        Despite the recent momentum to repeal the tax stamp legislation, AZ4NORML member Bill Green doubts Bungaard's measure will pass this year.  "If by some chance it gets passed without us noticing, we plan to file a referendum with the Secretary of State.  We will bill it as a protest vote for legal marijuana.
        For more information, please contact AZ4NORML @ (602) 395-0353.  The organization can also be accessed on the Internet @:

Teacher To Sue After Losing His Job Over 20 Year Old Pot Charge

        April 10, 1996, Chicago IL:  A substitute teacher who was recently dismissed from work after a background check revealed a misdemeanor for marijuana possession in 1974 is suing school officials to get his job back, according to an Associated Press report.
        High school substitute Michael Maynard, 42, argues that the school's policy of firing teachers guilty of crimes including drug misdemeanors -- but not murder -- is arbitrary and does not give teachers a chance to defend themselves.  Maynard pleaded no contest in 1974 when a traffic stop revealed a small amount of marijuana.
        "If they're not going to disqualify Bill Clinton from being president, it's hard to see how they can disqualify this man from being a teacher," said employment lawyer Lynne Bernabel to the AP.

Health Committee's Recommendations To Decriminalize Marijuana Scrapped After Political Backlash

        April 10, 1996, Denver, CO:  Controversial proposals made by a state health-planning group to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana and create needle-exchange programs as ways to "reduce costs associated with criminality and transmittable diseases associated with illicit drug use" have been abandoned because of the threat of political fallout.
        The two recommendations were included in a report released by the Denver Human Services Planning Committee, a 32-member organization formed by the 1994 legislature to help improve the delivery of health services in Colorado.
        The proposals came under fire in recent weeks after a news feature in the Rocky Mountain Times outlining the proposals incited a wave of controversy.  Consequently, the committee voted to abrogate the recommendations late last month.
        "We decided ... that this is not worth the controversy," said committee member Phil Hernandez.