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

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

April 25, 1996

Medical Marijuana Initiative Heads For California Ballot

        April 23, 1996, Santa Monica, CA:  Proponents of a state-wide initiative to legalize marijuana for medical use report that they have collected over 750,000 signatures, well over the number necessary to place it on the November 1996 California ballot.
        Supporters were elated by the success of the signature-gathering drive and noted that a last week blitz of over 140,000 signatures virtually guaranteed that Californians will have an opportunity to vote on the issue this year.  A final validation of the estimated 750,000 signatures is expected in five to eight weeks.  The number of signatures required to qualify the initiative for the 1996 ballot is 433,269.
        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 controlled compassionate use of marijuana for those diagnosed by a physician to be suffering from the diseases of AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, and multiple sclerosis.  The 1996 initiative maintains that any patient who possesses a valid doctor's recommendation should be allowed to use marijuana as a therapeutic agent without fear or risk of prosecution.  If the initiative is passed by California voters this fall, the measure will become law immediately and cannot be vetoed.
        "The issue here is simple; sick people should not be arrested for using medicine that their physicians recommend to them," said California NORML coordinator Dale Gieringer.
        For more information, please contact either Dale Gieringer of California NORML @ (415) 563-5858 or Dennis Peron of Californians for Compassionate Use @ (415) 621-3986.

Vermont Senate Approves Hemp Legislation:
However, State Still A Long Ways Away From Cultivation

        April 18, 1996, Montpelier, VT:  An amended version of legislation that had been previously approved by the House to permit the development of a domestic hemp industry in Vermont was passed by the Senate by a 15-10 vote.  The amended measure reportedly "narrows the focus" of the bill (H.783) and now must be re-approved by the Rouse before being sent to the governor.  Because the measure failed to receive two-thirds majority support in the Senate, it is expected be vetoed by Gov. Howard Dean who remains opposed to any efforts to legalize industrial hemp.  "It is a terrible message to send to children," wrote Dean in an April 8 letter to hemp-activist, Colorado Sen. Lloyd Casey (D- Northglenn).
        Rep. Fred Maslack (R-Poultney), a chief proponent of the legislation, told NORML that the House is going to take its time and "let things develop" before rushing to approve the amended legislation.  Maslack stated that House backers are considering several options at this time, including trying to override Dean's expected veto of the bill and/or tacking the controversial legislation onto an economic development bill considered sacred to the governor.  "It's not over 'til it's over," Maslack told the Associated Press.
        Kathleen Keenan, chairwoman of the House Commerce Committee, told the AP that she sees hemp as an "economic development issue," but noted that "it has enough merit to stand alone."  Keenan further added that she was uncertain how committed Dean was to the economic development bill and cautioned that he may, in fact, veto it with the hemp provision included.
        Keenan's warning has little affect on the bill's proponents, however, who consider the latest round of political one-upmanship a "positive" note.  The approval from the Senate was "one more step in the process," said Maslack.  "[It's] not the first step [and it's certainly] not the last step," but it's definitely a step in the right direction.
        For more information on the latest status of the Vermont hemp bill, please contact the House Clerk's Office @ (802) 828-2247.  Rep. Fred Maslack may be contacted via e-mail at:

$250 Million Appropriation Request From New Drug Czar
Stresses Source Reduction, Interdiction

        April 1996, Washington, DC:  New White House Drug Czar, General Barry McCaffrey, has submitted a request to Congress for an additional $250 million to combat drugs.  Not surprisingly, the majority of the requested funding ($202 million) is to be used to beef up the administration's source-reduction and domestic interdiction programs.  For example, the proposal's largest financial allotment, $98 million, is requested to upgrade surveillance aircrafts to patrol known drug source countries such as Columbia and Peru.  In addition, $27 million is to be spent on domestic enforcement, including marijuana eradication, and $13 million is allotted to the DEA for "classified programs."

Cincinnati Buyers Club Founder To Face Felony Drug Charges

        April 19, 1996, Covington, KY:  Richard Evans, founder of the Greater Cincinnati Buyers Club -- one of an estimated 30 underground clubs located across the country that supply marijuana as a therapeutic agent to seriously ill patients who possess a physician's recommendation -- has been charged with three felony counts of trafficking marijuana within 1,000 yards of a school in connection with a February raid by law enforcement officers on the club's headquarters.  Evans' home, which is located in close proximity of a school, served as the headquarters for the Cincinnati club.  Evans informed NORML last February that he had two marijuana seedlings growing at the time of the bust.
        Evans was subpoenaed to testify before the Kenton County Grand Jury on April 19 and questioned about his involvement in the buyer's club.  Evan's plead the Fifth Amendment and was later taken to Kenton County Jail.  He was released on $5,000 bond and will be arraigned on Monday.
        "I am sick of living in a country where I can't be free," Evans adamantly summarized at a press conference following the raid last February. "Give me liberty or give me death.  We are going to have a cannabis buyer's club."
        For more information, please contact Richard Evans of Americans for Compassionate Use @ (606) 431-8719 or Attorney Gatewood Galbraith @ (606) 281-6909.

Woody Harrelson Withholds Taxes To Protest Industrial Hemp Prohibition

        April 17, 1996, Denver, CO:  Appalled at the recent defeat of a bill that would have allowed Colorado to become the first state to legally grow industrial hemp since World War II, Hollywood actor and hemp activist Woody Harrelson has withheld $10,000 of his taxes to protest the government.
        "I know I'm only a pampered actor with no room to complain, ... but the fact is I care," Harrelson wrote in a two page proclamation.  Previously Harrelson, who has commercial interests in a hemp clothing company, had pledged his support for the Colorado hemp bill by affirming that he "will personally guarantee that all hemp produced in Colorado will be purchased at fair market prices."  The legislation was recently killed by the House Agriculture Committee by a 8-5 vote.
        According to a story that ran in USA Today, Harrelson said that he's been quietly fighting on behalf of industrial hemp and other environmental causes for years.  He even slipped president Clinton a letter regarding hemp cultivation while they both attended actor Ted Danson's wedding, the feature noted.
        In response to Harrelson's action and to commemorate his efforts on behalf of the Colorado Hemp Production Act of 1996, the Colorado Hemp Initiative Project (CO-HIP) has declared July 23 to be Woody Harrelson Appreciation Day.  "Mr. Harrelson has shown great courage and integrity in speaking out in the name of the [environment,] said CO-HIP's Laura Kriho.  "As a well known and talented actor, his fame has brought media attention to issues like the salvage logging rider and the industrial hemp movement.  We hope he continues to be a vocal supporter."
        For more information, please contact CO-HIP @ (303) 784-5632.