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

May 30,1996

Marijuana Reform Debate In Full Force In Canadian Federal Government

        May 1996, Ottawa, Canada:  Debate over Canada's federal policies regarding both the widespread cultivation of industrial hemp and the legalization of small amounts of marijuana for recreational use are currently in full swing in the Canadian Senate.
        Hearings have been ongoing regarding the future of proposed government bill C-8, a measure currently before the Senate that will effectively replace the Narcotic Control Act with the Controlled Substances and Abuse Act.  Currently, the measure retains the existing penalties for marijuana: a potential $1,000 fine or six months in jail.  However, a growing group of vocal senators from both major parties feel that the time for decriminalization of marijuana has come and the federal law must reflect that.
        "I am in favor of decriminalizing marijuana," said Liberal Senator Rose-Marie Losier-Cool, one of five senators who sit on the Senate's Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee who have publicly endorsed decriminalization.  "We must look at this very seriously.  The approach we have now is criminal, it's punitive.  Maybe it's a health approach we should be taking a serious look at.  The punitive approach has not worked and the problem is still there."
        "Cannabis is much less lethal than cigarettes and alcohol," added Quebec Progressive Conservative Senator Pierre-Claude Nolin.  "Are we into prohibition because it's somewhat of a dogma that we don't question and [because] everybody else is doing it?"
        "Senators [are] much more interested in a harm reduction model of drug control in this country than they [are] in a punishment model," confirmed Liberal Senator Sharon Carstairs, Chairwoman for the senate committee.  "That is where almost all of the senators are coming from."
        In addition to the growing movement regarding the use of recreational marijuana, support for policies legalizing the widescale growing of industrial hemp is also gathering support.  According to a staff-member for Liberal Senator Lorna Milne, the senator will soon be introducing an amendment to C-8 that will make it legal to cultivate hemp by adding "mature hemp stock" to a list of approved substances.  The staffer reports that Milne's office does not anticipate "any difficulty" regarding the passage of the amendment and adds that the proposal has the support of Health Minister David Dingwall.
        "[Hemp cultivation] seems to me to be a sensible thing to do," Milne said recently.
        Bill C-8 is currently undergoing it's second committee review in the Senate and the overall bill is expected to be amended and returned to the House of Commons.  Sources who have spoken to NORML anticipate that any measures regarding hemp cultivation should pass both the Senate and House without complications, but warn that proposals regarding the decriminalization of recreational marijuana will most likely be opposed by the House.
        To find out more about the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs or to read the transcripts from testimony given to the Senate Committee, please browse the following website:  For additional information regarding the status of bill C-8, please contact Dana Larsen of Cannabis Canada @ (800) 330-HEMP or via the Internet @:  Senator Lorna Milne's office may be reached @ (613) 947-7695.

Black Motorists Subject To Stops And Searches On I-95 More Often Than Whites

        May 1996, Perryville, MD:  Black motorists are stopped and searched for drugs at least four times more often than whites by a special Maryland highway drug unit that patrols stretches of Interstate 95, according to a recent report from the Associated Press.
        Although state police spokesmen have flatly denied using racial profiles, findings from an AP computer analysis of car searches indicate that more than 75 percent of all drivers whose cars were searched by the special drug squad through the first nine months of 1995 were black.  In all, the Special Traffic Interdiction Force (STIF), whose six officers are white, searched 145 of the motorists it stopped along a 50 mile stretch of I-95 between the Delaware border and the Baltimore County line; of these, 110 motorists were listed as black, 24 white, six Hispanic, and five "other" minorities.  Maryland police maintain that the findings are a coincidence.
        Maryland state troopers, like those in many states, are forbidden to use racial profiles in traffic stops.  In addition, Maryland troopers are mandated to provide records on highway searches to the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland under terms of a legal settlement reached in 1994.
        According to at least one attorney from the ACLU who spoke with the AP, a future class-action lawsuit may be considered if the data eventually proves a pattern of discrimination.  At least one private discrimination lawsuit has already been filed against three STIF troopers.
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

Repeat Felony Marijuana Possession Penalties Reduced In Missouri

        May 1996, Jefferson City, MO:  Thanks in large part to the efforts of Missouri NORML Coordinator Dan Viets, Gov. Mel Carnahan signed into law Senate Bill 830 which significantly reduces the range of punishment for second and third offense felony marijuana possession.
        SB 830 was filed after Viets contacted Sen. Joe Moseley (D-Columbia) late last year and alerted him that under the Missouri prior and persistent drug offender statute, an individual who merely possessed more than one and one quarter ounces of marijuana on two occasions would be eligible for a punishment ranging from 10 years to life in prison.  One who had committed three such offenses would be subject to 10 years to life in prison without the possibility of probation or parole.
        The passage of SB 830 changes the law to specify that simple marijuana possession offenses will no longer be punishable under the prior and persistent drug offender statute.  Therefore, a second offense of felony marijuana possession which formerly had a sentencing range of 10 years to life now has a sentencing range of zero to seven years.  Furthermore, regardless of how many drug offenses of any nature one has, no simple possession offense will ever carry a punishment of more than seven years and the defendant will remain eligible for probation and parole.
        "Senator Moseley ... [is] one of the most effective advocates for rational reform of the criminal laws generally with whom I have ever had the privilege of working," stated Viets.
        For more information, please contact Attorney Dan Viets of Missouri NORML @ (314) 443-6866.

Dennis Peron Leaves Cannabis Buyers Club

        May 29, 1996, San Francisco, CA:  Dennis Peron, founder of the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club -- the nation's largest and most overt supplier of wholesale marijuana to the seriously ill -- has stepped down from his post as director.  Peron will now concentrate full-time on passing the California Medical Marijuana Initiative which is slated for the November ballot.
        Taking over for Peron as director of the 10,000 member club is longtime AIDS and marijuana activist Beth Moore.  Moore will continue to run the club as a not-for-profit organization.
        "I intend to run the Club with as much love as Dennis founded it," stated Moore.  "I know medical marijuana is saving lives.  It is a moral imperative that our mission continue.  It is with heavy heart that we say goodbye to Dennis, but we know that we must legalize [cannabis] and Dennis has been chosen for the task.
        "I will continue to work for social justice and compassion for our sick," said Peron upon his retirement from the Club.  "The initiative is just the first step towards a more loving and compassionate society."
        For more information, please contact Beth Moore of Californians for Compassionate Use @ (415) 621-3986.

City Commission Urges Citizens To Just say No To NORML Ballot Proposal

        May 20, 1996, Traverse City, MI:  The Traverse City Commission has unanimously passed a resolution urging city residents to vote against an initiative put forth by the Traverse City NORML chapter to reduce marijuana penalties.  The measure -- which will appear on the ballot August 6 - seeks to make possession, use, or sale of less than one ounce of marijuana in Traverse City punishable by a maximum penalty of $100 and up to ten hours of community service for a first-time offender.  Earlier this year, the City Commission unanimously passed a resolution encouraging residents to not sign the NORML petition.
        Bill Bustance, president of the Traverse City NORML chapter, denounced the Commission's latest action and remarked that it "discounts the intelligence of the worthy citizens that signed the petition."  However, Bustance still remains confident that there is ample voter support for the measure.  "We're not asking: 'Are you for marijuana or are you against marijuana?' or 'If you're for NORML or against NORML?' ...  We're asking: 'Do you want to throw people in prison at a cost of $30,000 per year or do you want to enact fines and community service that will go directly to the community?'"
        Bustance challenged opposing groups to a televised debate.
        For more information, please contact Bill Bustance of Traverse City NORML @ (616) 264-9565.