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

May 9, 1996

Federal Judge Speaks Out Against Drug War
Endorses Program To Stop Arresting Marijuana Consumers

        April 25, 1996, Waterville, ME:  A high-ranking federal judge criticized America's current anti-drug efforts while speaking before students at Colby College, reported The Associated Press.  Calling our drug war strategies a "losing battle," Chief Judge Juan Torruella of the First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals proposed that America seriously rethink its methods and goals, and suggested that the establishment of a national pilot program to alleviate marijuana-related prosecutions might be a first step in the right direction.
        At minimum, "a shift has to be made in the funding for drug enforcement toward an intense educational campaign," he said.
        Torruella, who went on the federal bench in 1975 and joined the appeals court in 1984, called for a national debate on the drug issue.  In addition, he said that an independent national commission should be empaneled to analyze alternative approaches to curbing drug use.  Currently, any legitimate debate on the issue is clouded by political "rhetoric" and anti-drug "hysteria," he claimed.  Torruella likened this attitude to the zealotry exhibited by anti-communists during the McCarthy era.
        Torruella was also critical of the ways in which he felt drug prosecutors and law enforcement officials have run rampant over the bill of rights.  "You can't have one Constitution for the good guys and another Constitution for the bad guys," he said.
        Torruella has served as chief judge of the First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals since 1994.

Federal Medical Marijuana Bill Attracts Additional Sponsors

        May 1996, Washington, DC:  Three more members of Congress, including one Republican and the House's only Independent, have recently signed on to a federal bill (H.R. 2618) that would permit physicians to prescribe marijuana as a therapeutic agent for seriously ill patients.  With the addition of the recent signees, U.S. Reps. Bernard Sanders (I-VT), George Brown (D-Calif.), and Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.), the total number of co-sponsors now stands at sixteen.
        "Slowly but surely, more and more members of Congress are coming forward to show their support for medical marijuana legislation," stated NORML Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre.  "This is a bill that deserves full bi-partisan support and prompt federal action."
        The inclusion of Bilbray brings the total number of Republican co-sponsors to three.  Republican support of this legislation is critical if the bill is to move forward in a Republican controlled Congress.
        Currently, H.R. 2618 is simultaneously pending before two subcommittees: the House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Crime and the House Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Health and Environment.  This past March, NORML Executive Director Keith Stroup, Esq. testified before the Subcommittee on Crime and encouraged Chairman Bill McCullom (R-Fla.) -- a former two-time co-sponsor of federal medical marijuana legislation himself -- to hold additional hearings regarding medical marijuana.
        H.R. 2618 was introduced in Congress last fall by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) to amend federal law to allow seriously ill patients to have legal access to marijuana for medicinal purposes.  If passed, the bill would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana to individuals suffering from "glaucoma, AIDS wasting syndrome, muscle spasms from certain spastic disorders including multiple sclerosis, paraplegia, and quadriplegia, or the nausea associated with cancer chemotherapy or radiology."  Presently, only eight patients are allowed to receive marijuana legally from the federal government.
        The effectiveness of medicinal marijuana has been endorsed by a number of scientific and medical associations including the American Public Health Association, the Australian Commonwealth Department of Human Services and Health, the National Academy of Sciences, and the National Nurses Society on Addiction.
        For more information about H.R. 2618 or medical marijuana, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

Navajo Hemp Crop Under Fire From Feds

        May 1, 1996, Navajo Nation, AZ:  Plans for a widescale planting of industrial hemp on American Indian soil have met opposition from federal officials who argue that any planting or harvesting of hemp would violate federal law.  Presently, Navajo Nation President Albert Hale is awaiting a legal opinion from the tribe's Justice Department before going forward with the project.  This past March, a ceremonial planting of industrial hemp seeds by the Coalition for Hemp Awareness (CHA) took place on Native American soil following the unanimous passage of a resolution by the Nation to allow for hemp cultivation to occur on sovereign soil.
        Often described as "marijuana's misunderstood cousin," industrial hemp is from the same plant species (Cannabis sativa) that produces marijuana.  Unlike marijuana, however, industrial hemp contains only minute traces of THC, the psychoactive ingredient that gives marijuana its medicinal and euphoric properties.  Regardless, DEA spokeswoman Dana Seeley still maintains that federal laws forbidding the cultivation of marijuana also apply to hemp.  "We are hopeful that they will not [go forward with their plans]," she said.  Seeley noted that the DEA will continue to monitor the situation closely and may take action if any large-scale test plots of hemp are planted.
        After decades of unemployment, leaders of the Navajo Nation feel that hemp cultivation will invigorate the local economy.  The Navajo Nation Hemp Project "is formulated to provide [a] bio-regional local industry that will create jobs and enhance the agricultural base," stated CHA spokeswoman Christie Bohling.  "With the many attributes and by-products of this natural renewable resource, the Navajo Nation will become self-sufficient in [its] ability to provide many of its own necessities."
        Currently, industrial hemp is grown legally throughout much of Europe and Asia and can be used to produce a variety of products such as cosmetics, textiles, paper, paints, plastics, and animal feed.
        For more information regarding the Navajo nation Hemp Project, please contact CHA @ P.O. Box 9068, Chandler Heights, AZ 85227.  For further information or for a copy of the Navajo nation resolution, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

Drug Czar Admits Most People Who Experiment With Drugs
"Walk Away" Without Problems

        May 1, 1996, Washington, D.C.:  During a recent speech at the National Press Club, new Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey made several remarks that cast doubt on the validity of the "gateway theory."
        McCaffrey stated that out of the 90 million Americans who have experimented with illegal drugs, only 3 million are current addicts.  In addition, he stated that the "overwhelming majority" of Americans who use illegal drugs simply "walk away and sa[y] it's not for me."
        "In my mind, the Drug Czar is simply acknowledging what we at NORML have already known," said Allen St. Pierre.  "Federal statistics tell us time and time again that the bulk the Americans who experiment with illicit drugs experiment solely with marijuana and do not progress to harder drugs or run into drug-related problems later in life."