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

July 11, 1996

Update: Teacher Under Fire For Hemp Presentation

        July 2, 1996, Simpsonville, KY:  Donna Cockrel, the fifth grade school teacher who brought Hollywood actor and hemp businessman Woody Harrelson to her class to discuss industrial hemp approximately one month ago, is under fire from both parents and school officials who have voiced strong opposition to her actions.  Recently, the award-winning teacher was informed by the Simpsonville Elementary School Board that she is being investigated because of complaints that followed Harrelson's visit.
        Audrey Yeager, the DARE officer for the Shelby County Sheriff's Office, was one of Cockrel's most outspoken critics.  "Everybody says hemp and marijuana are not the same thing, but they are; they're both illegal and it was being promoted to 10 and 11-year-old kids," she told camera crews from the television show "American Journal."  "I am terribly against it."
        Despite the criticism, Cockrel adamantly defended her actions and maintained that Harrelson's presentation related directly to her curriculum.  "I still believe what I did in the classroom was positive," said Cockrel who participates in a state program known as Environment in the Classroom.  She said that industrial hemp, as well as kenaf, soybeans and other alternatives to growing tobacco are frequently discussed in her class.  "I believe in myself.  My students believe in me.  If I'm not allowed to teach the truth to students, I'd rather quit teaching."
        Cockrel further added that she believed Harrelson -- who was adorned in hemp clothing for the occasion -- was just "showing what a product could be, not promoting it."
        Shelby County School Superintendent Leon Mooneyhand acknowledged that Cockrel is being investigated, but failed to indicate how long the investigation may take.  "I am looking into the matter as I would follow up on any matter that got this level of concern by staff, parents, and community."  Mooneyhand was reluctant to speculate about what sanctions, if any, may be taken against Cockrel, but said that her job was not in jeopardy.
        In the past, Cockrel has been recognized and awarded for enthusiasm in the classroom.  In a 1992 magazine article, The New York Times called her "a dynamo [with] ... boundless energy who's geared toward change."
        Harrelson, who is an ardent proponent of industrial hemp and is part owner of a California company that specializes in hemp-based clothing, was in town to speak at an international conference on industrial hemp in Lexington.  He was arrested in Kentucky two days after speaking to Cockrel's class for planting four seeds of industrial hemp in an orchestrated protest to bring attention to the differences between hemp and marijuana.
        For more information, please contact the office of Simon Halls @ (212) 957-0707 or the Colorado Hemp Initiative Project (CO-HIP) @ (303) 784-5632.  Press releases regarding Harrelson's arrest are available on the Internet at The Hempstead Company website.  Their website may be linked from the Hemp Industries Association homepage @:  "American Journal" featured a segment on the Simpsonville controversy on July 10, 1996.

High Court Strikes Down Pennsylvania Rulings
Requiring 'Exigent Circumstances' To Justify Warrantless Searches Of Automobiles

        July 1, 1996, Washington, D.C.:  In a decision that has drawn criticism from civil libertarians, the United States Supreme Court has ruled in a Per Curiam decision that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was incorrect in requiring police to obtain a warrant before searching an automobile unless "exigent circumstances" were present.
        In two separate cases, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court suppressed evidence uncovered in warrantless automotive searches because the "Commonwealth's jurisprudence of the automobile exception has long required both the existence of probable cause and the presence of exigent circumstances to justify a warrantless search."  The court maintained that the police had sufficient time in both cases to secure a warrant.  Therefore, they held that, "The warrantless search of [a] stationary vehicle violated constitutional guarantees."
        The United States Supreme Court concluded that Pennsylvania's interpretation of the "automobile exception of the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement" was incorrect.  The court maintains that an automobile's "ready mobility" is a sufficient circumstance to excuse failure to obtain a search warrant once probable cause has been established.  In addition, "the individual [has a] reduced expectation of privacy in an automobile, owing to its pervasive regulation."  Therefore, the court affirmed that, "If a car is readily mobile and probable cause exists to believe it contains contraband, the Fourth Amendment thus permits police to search a vehicle without more."
        "Essentially, the court has stripped Pennsylvanians of their state constitutional guarantees that provide local citizens with greater protections against warrantless searches of their automobiles unless both probable cause and unforeseen circumstances are present," said NORML Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre.  "In it's never-ending fight to assist in the 'War on Drugs,' the Supreme Court has trampled over civil liberties mandated by Pennsylvania's own state constitution."
        Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Ginsburg dissented on the basis that the Supreme Court lacked jurisdiction over the two cases.  "A fair reading of [both cases] demonstrates that the [Pennsylvania Supreme Court's] judgement almost certainly rested upon [an] ... independent consideration of its own Constitution," Stevens wrote.  Consequently, "there is no reason for this court to disturb the state court's findings."
        The cases are cited as Pennsylvania v. Edwin Labron and Pennsylvania v Randy Lee Kilgore.

Washington Activists Gear Up For November Election

        July 1996, Seattle WA:  Organizers of the annual Seattle HempFest -- one of the largest marijuana law reform rallies in the country -- have announced plans to embark on a mission to transform the Washington state hemp movement into a political force.
        Calling themselves the Washington Citizens for Hemp Reform, activists will soon begin polling candidates in all 49 Washington state legislative districts to determine candidates' positions on the issue of decriminalizing marijuana.  The information obtained will be distributed statewide immediately following the September 17 primary election in the form of a printed pamphlet entitled the Washington State Hemp Voters Guide. The guide will appear on both the Internet and in hard copy form.
        The Seattle-based organization also announced that it will embark on a comprehensive voter registration drive and will launch an educational campaign to directly inform Washington state voters of the harm marijuana prohibition causes both society and the environment.
        "The debate is over," said spokeswoman Vivian McPeak.  "It is time for state lawmakers to lead the way in this political movement which is gaining momentum nationwide.  Voters need to know their candidates' and legislators' view on this matter so they can make an educated decision when casting their ballot."
        For more information, please contact the Washington Citizens for Hemp Reform @ (206) 781-5734 or write to: 916 NE 65th, Suite 269, Seattle, WA 98115.