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

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

May 16, 1996

Hawaii State Legislature Passes Hemp Resolution

        May 1996, Honolulu, Hawaii:  For the first time in its history, the Hawaii State Legislature has passed a resolution to conduct a study on the economic potential of growing industrial hemp as an agricultural product.
        House Resolution 71 and House Concurrent Resolution 63 describe the study as a fact-finding and information-gathering forum that would examine the following aspects of industrial hemp: 1) the commodity value, 2) economic potential and other benefits, 3) comparison of the economic potential with that of similar crops, 4) interest of Hawaii landowners, businesses, and other parties in growing industrial hemp, 5) federal procedures for obtaining a permit to grow hemp, and 6) the barriers that prohibit the growing of hemp.
        "Thousands of acres of former sugar plantation land still await the arrival of a viable alternative crop," stated Rep. David Tarnas (D-6th District), a chief backer of the measure.  "Industrial hemp should be allowed to prove itself as a successful commodity here in Hawaii -- as it is doing in other places around the world."
        The joint Senate Committees on Agriculture, Labor, and Employment and Ways and Means stated in their committee report that "given the State's current economic crisis, the viability of alternative cash crops should be explored to the fullest extent possible."
        The Hawaii Agribusiness Development Corporation will be initiating the research project at the University of Hawaii, College of Tropical Agriculture.
        Earlier this year, Rep. Tarnas introduced legislation to amend the state law to authorize the production, possession, and commerce of non-psychoactive industrial hemp in Hawaii.  However, the House Agriculture Committee voted to postpone deciding on that bill until next year.
        For more information, please contact Rep. David Tarnas @ (808) 586-8510.

California Secretary Of State Issues Raw Count For Medical Marijuana Petition

        May 15, 1996, Santa Monica:  A raw count by the California Secretary of State demonstrates that a state-wide initiative to legalize marijuana for medical use has well over the necessary number of signatures to appear on the November 1996 state ballot.  Although the total number of signatures will not be certified by the State for another six or seven weeks, the Secretary of Sate announced that raw count figures indicate that more than 758,000 signatures were collected -- well over the 433,269 required to qualify the initiative for the 1996 ballot.
        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 patients or defined caregivers who possess or cultivate marijuana for medical treatment recommended by a physician are exempt from the general provisions of law which otherwise prohibit possession or cultivation of marijuana.  In addition, the initiative declares that physicians shall not be punished or denied any right or privilege for recommending marijuana to a patient for medical purposes.
        If the initiative is passed by California voters this fall, the measure will become law immediately and cannot be vetoed.
        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.  Additional information regarding the 1996 Medical Marijuana Initiative may be accessed via the Internet @:

Oregon Marijuana Initiative Approaches Required Number Of Signatures
To Be Placed On Ballot

        May 9, 1996, Portland, OR:  An Oregon state campaign to regulate the sale of marijuana to adults appears to be well on its way toward qualifying for the November 1996 general election.
        Headed by local NORML activists and the Political Action Committee Pay for Schools by Regulating Cannabis (PSRC), a proposal to comprehensively reform marijuana laws in the state has gathered in excess of 65,000 signatures -- more than three quarters of the number needed to place the initiative on the ballot.  The PSRC must gather at least 73,261 registered Oregon voters' signatures by July 5, 1996 to qualify.
        Known as the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act (OCTA), the PSRC proposal would tax and regulate the sale of marijuana to adults, license farmers to cultivate the drug for sale to the state, permit physicians to prescribe marijuana as a therapeutic agent to seriously ill patients, and allow farmers to grow industrial hemp for fiber, oil, and protein production.
        The OCTA would authorize the sale of marijuana to take place in state-run liquor stores where the age limit of 21 can be strictly enforced.  The PSRC estimates that the profits generated from the regulated sale of marijuana could amount to $500 million a year or 20 percent of Oregon's total state budget.  The OCTA would direct 65 percent of that money toward funding primary and secondary education.  In addition, 30 percent of the revenue would go to state and community colleges, four percent would go to fund drug abuse treatment programs, and the remaining one percent would be used to implement realistic drug education programs in the schools.
        According to Chief Petitioner Paul Stanford, the pending Oregon legislation is drafted to effectively stand up to the barrage of court challenges that it will presumably face.  The OCTA is written in compliance with the restrictions imposed by several international anti-drug treaties and the bill provides numerous constitutional protections in its comprehensive preamble to ensure that the act will be upheld in court.  Moreover, the OCTA even provides funding for the inevitable legal battles that await it by collecting revenue through the issuing of cannabis license fees, Stanford notes.
        Preliminary surveys indicate that the OCTA has a realistic chance of passing.  School funding is a very urgent issue in Oregon and a poll conducted by the state's largest television station, KATU-TV, showed that 55 percent of the respondents answered yes when asked, "Should marijuana be sold in liquor stores to fund education?"
        "The war on drugs is the issue on which the future of freedom in America swings," stated Stanford.  "Families and individuals are being destroyed by this misguided civil war.  The war on drugs is not about drugs, it's about money and the continued centralization of economic and political control.  The Oregon Cannabis Tax Act is the first big step toward a solution."
        For more information, please contact the PSRC @ (503) 235-4606 or write P.O. Box 86741, Portland, OR 97286.  The organization may also be contacted via the Internet @:

Railroad Accident Data Shows Few Benefits From Random Drug Testing

        May 13, 1996, San Francisco, CA:  An examination of Federal Railroad Administration accidents statistics demonstrates that random drug testing has had no apparent effect on railroad accident safety, reports California NORML.  The FRA data shows that prior to the introduction of random drug testing in 1990, the number of accidents due to human error declined steadily, from 3.8 per million rail miles in 1978 to 1.4 in 1986.  Since then, however, the accident rate has held steady at around 1.4 to 1.8.
        "This data calls into question the supposed safety benefits of random drug testing," said California NORML coordinator Dale Gieringer.  Unlike alcohol tests, drug urinalysis tests cannot detect actual impairment, but only whether a drug was used in the past.  In the case of marijuana -- the drug detected in the overwhelming majority of positive tests -- urine tests can register positive for days or weeks after last use, long after the euphoric affects of the drug have faded.
        Random drug testing was imposed on the nation's railway workers in the wake of a highly publicized 1987 Amtrak-Conrail collision in which the crew were determined to have smoked marijuana.  The responsibility of marijuana for the accident was never clearly determined, however.  An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board determined that better equipment and personnel management would have prevented the accident, but did not recommend drug testing.  Nonetheless, Congress promptly rushed to require drug testing for all of the nation's transportation workers following the accident.
        "The effectiveness of this regulation has never been scientifically proven," states Gieringer.  "While proponents say that testing has reduced the number of transportation workers testing positive for drugs, there is no indication this has had any [significant] safety benefits.  Poblems include: substitution of alcohol and other untested drugs for tested drugs such as marijuana; unreliability of tests in discriminating drug abuse; cheating and evasion by drug abusing workers; and lack of relation between test result and job performance."
        For more information, please contact Dale Gieringer of California NORML @ (415) 563-5858 or via e-mail @:

Drug Czar Critical Of Amount Of Money Spent Fighting Drugs: Calls Record
Setting FY 1997 Budget Lean

        May 8, 1996, Washington, DC:  Responding to criticism that the federal government isn't spending enough money to fight drugs, Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey admitted that he believed President Clinton's record high $15.1 billion budget proposal for Fiscal Year 1997 to be "a lean ... request."
        "Could more money be used on international and interdiction programs?  There is no question," McCaffrey told a House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight.  McCaffrey's remarks were made despite the fact that Clinton's budget request allocates nearly $10 billion to be used in 1997 solely for law enforcement here and abroad.
        "How much is enough," questioned NORML's Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre.  "Twenty billion, 30 billion, when will it end?  Despite claims that this new, anti-drug strategy focuses on youth prevention and education, the Office of National Drug Control Policy will spend a record high $10 billion dollars on law enforcement -- a figure that the Drug Czar now claims to be too little.
        "Since 1988, federal spending on anti-drug programs has increased more than 300 percent, yet according to government statistics illicit drug use has remained virtually unchanged among adults and has actually increased among adolescents.  We cannot continue to keep throwing money at the problem and expect any sort of positive results."
        For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

Dealers Caught Close To Churches To Face Stiffer Penalties

        May 7, 1996, Springfield, IL:  Legislation that will stiffen penalties for those convicted of selling marijuana or other illicit drugs within 1,000 feet of a place of religious worship will take effect in 1997 under a measure signed by Gov. Jim Edgar.
        "This legislation takes our efforts to take drug dealers off the street a step further by creating another safe zone where those dealers know they will pay an even bigger price for their crimes," Edgar said.
        The measure, sponsored by Rep. John Jones (R-Mount Vernon) and Sen. William O'Daniel (D-Mount Vernon), increases the penalty by one level for selling drugs within 1,000 feet of a place of religious worship.  The legislation is similar to current laws providing enhanced penalties for those convicted of selling drugs on the grounds of schools, public parks, and public housing, or within 1,000 feet of them.