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

June 13, 1996

Medical Marijuana Initiative Qualifies For November Ballot

        June 6, 1996, Sacramento, CA:  California's Medical Marijuana Initiative has qualified for the November general election.  The Secretary of State's office in Sacramento certified the initiative measure which will allow California voters the opportunity to legalize marijuana for medical use.
        The initiative, which gathered 775,000 signatures to qualify for ballot access, provides that "patients or defined caregivers, who possess or cultivate marijuana for medical treatment recommended by a physician, are exempt from general provisions of law which otherwise prohibit possession or cultivation of marijuana."  It also provides that "physicians shall not be punished or denied any right or privilege for recommending marijuana to a patient for medical purposes."
        This measure will not legalize or otherwise change existing law against use, sale, or possession of marijuana for recreational use, proponents note.  It will prevent the criminal prosecution of those patients who have a legitimate medical need to use marijuana.
        Although more research is needed, it is clear from both available studies and rapidly accumulating anecdotal evidence that marijuana is a valuable aid in reducing pain and suffering for patients with a number of serious ailments including cancer, spastic disorders, glaucoma, and the appetite loss associated with the wasting syndrome of AIDS.
        "This proposition would not have been necessary if Gov. [Pete] Wilson had not vetoed S.B. 1364 in 1994 and A.B. 1529 in 1995," said longtime marijuana activist Dennis Peron, referring to two prior medical marijuana bills that were passed by the California legislature.  "This whole issue is more about compassion than marijuana.  I think it's time to let doctor's decide, not politicians."
        For more information on the Medical Marijuana Initiative, please contact Dave Fratello of Californians for Medical Rights @ (310) 451-2522.

Victorian Politicians Reject Marijuana Decriminalization

        June 12, 1996, Victoria, Australia:  Victorian politicians failed to endorse one of the chief recommendations of Professor David Pennington -- head of Premiere Jeff Kennett's advisory council on drug reform -- who concluded that the decriminalization of marijuana for cultivation and personal use would be an effective step in steering individuals away from hard drugs.  Just prior to the Kennett Government's decision, Pennington had warned Parliament that the implementation of the council's findings without marijuana decriminalization would be "very much a second-best answer."
        "The government firmly believes that before the decriminalization of marijuana is considered further, a better coordinated, better resources, more innovative and carefully focused education, treatment, and law enforcement strategy should be given a chance to work," stated a press release from the Victorian Cabinet.
        "The Premier's 'firm belief' ... is laughable," responded Jamnes Danenberg of HEMP SA, spokesman for a leading Australian cannabis law reform lobby group.  "Just how many more people need to be convicted [under prohibition] before the right signal is sent?"
        For months Victorian politicians had been debating over whether to implement many of the 72 major drug reforms suggested by the Drug Advisory Council report, the most controversial being marijuana decriminalization.  In all, the Kennett government approved a majority of the report's policies, including shifting the state anti-drug focus to education rather than enforcement, but rejected taking any steps toward decriminalizing marijuana.  The government did conclude, however, that it "will review penalties applying to the use and possession of drugs of dependence to ensure that users are treated as having a health problem first and as criminal offenders second and that treatment, rather than punishment, is the priority."
        "The fact that the subject of marijuana decriminalization is a serious topic of debate among Australian politicians is a positive note for drug-reform advocates everywhere," noted NORML Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre.  "On the other hand, it indicates just how far behind the United States is lagging compared to other western nations when it comes to addressing the issue of alternative drug policies.  Certainly, our own politicians would be well advised to heed the recommendations the Pennington Report."
        For more information, please contact Jamnes Danenberg of HEMP SA Inc. @ (+61) 8 297 9442 or write: P.O. Box 1019, Kent Town, South Australia, 5071.  HEMP SA can be contacted via e-mail @: or browsed on the World Wide Web @

Environmentalists Voice Concern Over State's Decision
To Spray Marijuana With Pesticides

        June 11, 1996, Tulsa, OK:  Oklahoma narcotics officers and area environmentalists are clashing over the state's decision to begin spraying pesticides on wild marijuana plants in five counties.  Authorities argue that the spraying will deter people from cultivating, selling, and smoking marijuana, but environmentalists are concerned that the chemicals could pose potential heath hazards to both the environment and the population.
        Approximately 15 to 30 narcotics agents will begin spraying uncultivated marijuana plants with glyphosate, a chemical weed killer commonly marketed under the brand name "Round-Up."  State officials claim that spraying is the most effective way to eradicate uncultivated marijuana.
        "The herbicide has been tested, found to be safe and has a very low toxicity to wildlife," said Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs spokesman Mark Woodward to the Tulsa World News.  To enforce his position, Woodward noted a 1986 U.S. Department of Justice study that showed an individual could smoke 139 marijuana cigarettes treated with glyphosate a day and still be under the safe level in regard to the chemical.  However, some area environmental activists are not convinced.
        "[Glyphosate] can do a lot of damage to our bio-diversity; this can wreak damage on our wildflower population," contested Noah Berry, vice president of EcoLaw Institute Inc., a state organization that works to strengthen environmental laws.  Berry also cited a Journal of Pesticide Reform report from last year that claimed glyphosate exposure was the third most commonly reported of pesticide illness among agricultural workers in California.
        "Maybe the state should get into the dandelion eradication business, if it's busy work they want," Berry suggested.
        This will mark the third year the bureau has sprayed uncultivated marijuana crops.
        For more information, please contact Michael Pearson of Oklahoma NORML @ (405) 840-HEMP.

Medical Marijuana User, Activist To Be Arraigned On Felony Marijuana Charge

        June 12, 1996, St. Paul, MN:  Longtime medical marijuana user and activist Darrel Paulsen will be arraigned on June 24 in connection with a September 1995 raid on his residence by agents from the East Metro Drug Task Force.  Paulsen has been charged with felony possession of marijuana in the fifth degree.
        An outspoken advocate for medical marijuana, Paulsen has acknowledged to using marijuana as a means to control his cerebral palsy.  He has been featured on local news telecasts, spoken at national gatherings, and is currently running for city council.  Paulsen tells NORML that he intends to request a postponement at his arraignment.
        Paulsen has publicly said that he uses marijuana daily for medical purposes.  Approximately two ounces of marijuana were confiscated during the fall raid.
        Paulsen encourages other activists to contact Assistant District Attorney Stuart Shapiro and voice their disapproval over the city's decision to file charges in this matter.
        For more information on this case, please contact Allen St. Pierre of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.  To contact the assistant district attorney's office, please call (612) 438-4438. Paulsen's case number is: K7-96-1170.  If any activists would like to contribute to a fund established to help offset Paulsen's legal fees, he or she can write to the following address: Paulsen & Company, Attention: Medical Defense Fund, P.O. Box 2865, St. Paul MN, 55102.

Supreme Court Rules On Traffic Stops

        June 11, 1996, Washington, D.C.:  Minor traffic stops can be used as justification for detaining motorists and searching their vehicles for drugs, ruled the Supreme Court in an unanimous decision.  Critics argue that the ruling will encourage police to use phony pretexts to invade the privacy of motorists -- particularly minorities -- while proponents maintain that it provides law enforcement with an additional weapon to combat illicit drugs.
        "This is an opinion that essentially allows police to do an end run around the Fourth Amendment," said Steven R. Shapiro of the American Civil Liberties Union.  He warned that the judgment will most likely subject motorists to arbitrary stops.
        "The Supreme Court has announced to the world, 'We don't care what the method is, so long as the search can be justified in hindsight,'" agreed Natman Schaye, a Tucson Arizona lawyer who filed an amicus brief for the defendants on behalf of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
        "Officers are still bound by the same rules that they were bound by yesterday," countered Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, who applauded the decision.  "I think it's an affirmation of the manner in which good and innovative police officers are already conducting themselves."
        Writing the opinion for the court, Justice Anton Scalia affirmed that ulterior motives do not strip officers of their justification for a stop as long as a traffic violation has occurred.  "For the run of the mine case, ... [the Court] think[s] there is no alternative to the traditional common law rule that probable cause justifies a search and seizure."  The case is Whren v. United States.

Chicago Bulls Coach Attributes Team's Success To Hemp

        June 13, 1996, Chicago, IL:  As the Chicago Bulls appear poised to win the NBA championships, the Washington Post reports that Head Coach Phil Jackson has his own explanation for his team's success.
        "You've got to be in touch with higher spirits," Jackson told one reporter.  "You have to smoke hemp."