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April 18, 1996

DEAth In Colorado
Hemp Cultivation Killed By House Agriculture Committee

        April 11,1996, Denver CO:  Legislation (SB 67) that would have allowed Colorado to become the first state to legally grow industrial hemp since World War II was killed by the House Agriculture Committee by a stunning 8-5 vote.  The vote came as a surprise to many who had watched support for domestic hemp legislation grow in recent weeks, including gaining approval from the full Senate.
        Many witnesses attribute the outcome to a collective show of force from law and drug enforcement officials.  During the four hour hearing, twelve law enforcement officials testified against the bill, including regional DEA representative Greg Williams and Colorado Bureau of Investigation Director Carl Whiteside.  Among their arguments, law enforcement testified that there is no difference between industrial hemp and marijuana and that passing the Hemp Industrial Production Act would send the wrong message to young people.  "In the minds of many, ... [support for] this will be perceived as a weakening of our anti-marijuana message in our society," stated Special Agent Williams.
        "Fear and intimidation" scared off support for this bill in the Committee, said the bill's sponsor, Senator Lloyd Casey (D-Northglenn).  Hemp activist Laura Kriho of the Colorado Hemp Initiative Project (CO-HIP) agrees.  The emotional pressure and scare tactics used by these law enforcement agencies effectively strong-armed the state legislature, forcing them to vote for the police and against the farmers of Colorado."
        One legislator who voted against the measure, Rep. Russell George (R-Rifle), explained in an interview immediately after the hearing how the testimony of law enforcement influenced his decision.  "The key factor in making up my vote was when the ... DEA ... testified and said that under no circumstances would [they] issue any kind of registration or permit," he said.  "That meant anything else we did with this bill was a waste of time and was moot because the bill itself said that ... farmer[s] couldn't go forward without a DEA registration."
        The presence of the DEA at the hearing was especially troubling to both Casey and hemp proponents who noted that, prior to the April 11 hearing, representatives from the agency had been cooperative with the bill's backers.  In the past, the DEA in Colorado had "appeared helpful," noted Kriho.  "We had even been told that ... the DEA in Washington, D.C. [was] in the process of reviewing policies related to industrial hemp production.  ... [However,] after the DEA testimony at the hearing, I believe it is safe to say that the DEA is not working with hemp proponents."
        Despite this setback, activists remain positive that domestic hemp cultivation in Colorado remains a tangible goal.  "We [still] have a lot of momentum and a lot of support," Kriho stated.  "We are now in the process of evaluating our strategies and determining our courses of action.  We have several interesting options and are excited to be able to pursue them."  Unfortunately, though, any future efforts to legalize industrial hemp in Colorado will be without the efforts of either Lloyd Casey or Reps. Steve Acquafresca (R-Cedaredge) and Bill Jerke (R- Lasalle), all of whom are stepping down after this year's session.  When asked by NORML if Casey foresees any legislators in Colorado willing to carry the torch after he leaves, the Senator's only response was: "I hope so."
        For more information on industrial hemp in Colorado, please contact CO-HIP @ (303) 784-5632.  For more information about the industrial uses for hemp, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

Medical Marijuana Initiative Enters Final Week
Activists Expect To Have Necessary Number Of Signatures

        April 18, 1996, Santa Monica, CA:  An initiative to legalize the medical use of marijuana appears to have the necessary number of signatures to place it on the November 1996 California ballot, reports Californians for Compassionate Use.
        "When organizers across the state turned in their respective estimates ... of signatures gathered for the Compassionate Use Initiative of 1996, the [total] came to over 500,000," reported the CCU on April 12, one week before the deadline.  The number needed to qualify the initiative for the 1996 ballot is 433,269.
        Activists note that an additional 120,000 to 140,000 signatures were anticipated to have been gathered during the drive's final week.  Such a figure would be well over the amount needed to compensate for any errors or invalid signatures.
        California's medical marijuana initiative came about in response to Governor Pete Wilson's decision to veto legislation passed by the California Legislature in 1995 that would have allowed for the medical use of marijuana.  If the initiative is passed by California voters this fall, the bill will become law immediately and cannot be vetoed.
        The 1996 initiative has been endorsed by the cities of San Francisco, Oakland, and West Hollywood; the Santa Cruz and Marin Boards of Supervisors; the California Nurses Association; the Los Angeles AIDS Commission; the California Multiple Sclerosis Society; the Orange County Register, and many other health and community leaders and organizations.
        For more information, please contact Dennis Peron of Californians for Compassionate Use @ (415) 621-3986.

Supreme Court Hears Arguments On Civil Forfeiture

        April 17, 1996, Washington, D.C.:  Oral arguments were heard before the Supreme Court in a case that may determine whether seizing property from criminally prosecuted drug dealers constitutes double jeopardy under the United States Constitution.
        "Civil forfeiture has never been deemed so punitive ... as to constitute a prosecution or punishment under the [Constitution's] double jeopardy clause," contended Justice Department lawyer Michael Dreeben on behalf of the Clinton administration.  The attorney urged the Court to overturn two double-jeopardy decisions in which federal appeals courts in Michigan and California found civil forfeiture following a criminal prosecution to be unconstitutional.
        "[This] is, in my mind, the single most important case involving the government's forfeiture authority in the area of narcotics, and possibly other areas," said Attorney Lawrence Robbins of Washington, D.C., one of two attorneys arguing against the government's controversial, double-barreled anti-drug strategy.
        "If this looks like a punishment ... what then is the reason for not treating it like punishment," asked Justice William H. Rehnquist during the procedures.
        Under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, no one may be "subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb."  The Supreme Court has interpreted this provision to prohibit multiple punishments for the same crime.
        The Court is expected to rule on this issue sometime in June.
        For more information forfeiture, please contact F.E.A.R. (Forfeiture Endangers American Rights) @ (415) 388-8128.  The organization can also be contacted on the Internet @

Cincinnati Buyers Club Founder To Face Grand Jury

        April 17, 1996, Covington, KY:  Richard Evans, founder of the Greater Cincinnati Cannabis Buyers Club -- one of an estimated 30 underground clubs located across the country that supplies marijuana as a therapeutic agent to seriously ill patients who possess a physician's recommendation -- has been subpoenaed to testify before the Grand Jury of Kenton, Kentucky on April 19 in connection with a February raid by law enforcement officers on the club's headquarters.  Although Evans admits to having had two marijuana seedlings growing at the headquarters at the time of the bust, officials failed to seize the plants or issue a warrant for his arrest.
        Evans anticipates that the state's latest action is an attempt to interrogate him about details of the club's activity, such as membership and suppliers.  Evans informs NORML that he has been advised and intends "to take the Fifth" at tomorrow's hearing.  Evans further insists that he will begin a hunger strike if the State decides to incarcerate him following tomorrow's proceedings.
        "I am sick of living in a country where I can't be free," Evans adamantly summarized at a press conference last February.  "Give me liberty or give me death.  We are going to have a cannabis buyer's club.
        For more information on the Cincinnati Cannabis Buyer's Club please contact Richard Evans of Americans for Compassionate Use @ (606) 431-8719 or Attorney Gatewood Galbraith @ (606) 281-6909.

California Assembly Committee Votes For Tougher Pot Penalties

        April 16, 1996, Sacramento, CA:  The California Assembly Public Safety Committee slammed the door on drug reformers by soundly defeating a bill to lessen penalties for medical marijuana and approving another measure to increase marijuana prison sentences.
        The committee, whose complexion has shifted sharply to the right with the Republican takeover of the Assembly this year, turned a deaf ear to the pleas of medical marijuana patients, physicians and AIDS support groups by rejecting a medical marijuana bill sponsored by Rep. John Burton (D-San Francisco).  The Burton bill (AB 2120) was a heavily watered-down version of legislation introduced last year by Assemblyman John Vasconcellos to allow for the prescribed use of marijuana for the sick and terminally ill.
        Despite the bill's concessions, Burton's proposed legislation was defeated handily by a vote of 7-1, signifying a major reversal in the committee's attitude regarding medical marijuana.  In the past, the committee had been receptive toward the medical marijuana issue and had approved legislation allowing for it's use three years in a row.  This year, Burton's measure was actively opposed by the California Narcotics Officers Association, the Governor's Department of Health, and Attorney General Lungren, who argued that the legislation undercut the established system of drug regulation.
        Meanwhile, the committee eagerly approved a measure introduced by Assemblyman Charles Poochigan (R-Fresno) to enhance prison sentences by three years and up for marijuana convictions involving a kilogram or more. Two Democrats joined Republicans in approving the bill, which was strongly backed by the Narcotics Officers and District Attorney's associations.  "The committee appeared indifferent to the costs of imprisoning more offenders for non-violent crime," stated California NORML State Coordinator Dale Gieringer, who had opposed the measure.  "Throughout the day, it routinely approved all other penalty enhancement bills with no regard as to whether the offenses were violent, serious, or victimless.
        Drug-law reformers hope to derail AB 2764 in the Democratic-controlled State Senate, Gieringer noted.
        For more information, please contact Dale Gieringer of California NORML @ (415) 563-5858.

Assemblyman Vasconcellos Introduces Medical Marijuana Bill
For Second Year In A Row

        April, 1996, Sacramento, CA:  California Assemblyman John Vasconcellos, who last year introduced a medical marijuana bill that made it all the way to the Governor's desk before being vetoed, has once again introduced a measure that would spell some relief for users of medical marijuana.  This year's measure would allow a person suffering from AIDS, cancer, multiple sclerosis, or glaucoma to offer their medical condition as a defense in a California courtroom if charged with cultivation or possession of marijuana.  The bill will be considered by the California Assembly Public Safety Committee on April 23.