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

July 25, 1996

Conservative California Readership Strongly Supports Medical Marijuana Initiative

        July 22, 1996, Sacramento, CA:  A California ballot initiative (Proposition 215) that would permit patients who have the approval of a licensed physician to use marijuana for medical purposes received a strong vote of confidence from the results of a recent poll conducted by the Orange County Register.  Responding to the question: "Do you think marijuana should be legalized for medicinal use?" readers answered "yes" by nearly a three to one margin.  In all, over 1,100 Californians participated in the poll, with 73 percent responding that they approved of the use of medical marijuana.
        "The results of the Orange County Register poll are quite significant because of the widely acknowledged conservative political slant of the paper's readership," announced NORML Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre.  "These findings, coupled with the results of similar polls conducted both in California and nationally, demonstrate that there is ample support for the legalization of medical marijuana among both political conservatives and the general public."
        The results of the Orange County Register poll are the latest in a series of polls indicating strong support for medical marijuana.  A 1995 survey conducted by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) demonstrated that 83 percent of the American public agreed that patients who find marijuana an effective therapeutic agent should be able to use it legally.  In addition, six California polls -- including one conducted by the Binder Research Group -- have shown that a strong majority of Californians support medical marijuana.
        For more information please contact either Dave Fratello of Californians for Medical Rights @ (310) 394-2952 or Allen St. Pierre of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

Welfare Reform Bill Amended To Deny Convicted Drug Users Federal Benefits

        July 22, 1996, Washington, D.C.:  An amendment introduced by Senator Phil Gramm (R-Texas) that would deny federal assistance-based benefits to those individuals convicted of drug offenses -- including marijuana misdemeanors -- has been overwhelmingly approved by the Senate.  The amendment is part of an overall welfare reform package (S. 1956) that is currently in conference committee and is expected to be sent to the president's desk shortly.  It is not yet known if Clinton will sign the bill.
        The amendment proposed by Gramm would deny for five years all "means-tested" federal benefits, including programs such as welfare, Medicaid, food stamps, and student loans, to any individual who is found guilty of a minor drug offense.  Those found guilty of drug felonies would be ineligible for life.
        "If we're serious about our [anti-]drug laws, we ought not to give people welfare benefits who are violating the nation's drug laws," said Gramm.
        Gramm's amendment struck a chord with some congressmen, including Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) who voiced strong opposition to the measure. "Under this amendment, if you are a murderer, a rapist, or a robber, you can get federal funds; but if you are convicted even for possession of marijuana, you cannot," he said.  "[This amendment] would undermine the whole notion of providing drug treatment as an alternative sentence to a first-time drug offender if the individual requires federal assistance to obtain the treatment.  ... It is overly broad and is strongly opposed by [both] the [Conference of] Mayors and the National League of Cities."
        "Over 10 million individuals have been arrested on marijuana-related charges since 1965 with nearly one-half million arrested in 1994 alone," stated NORML Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre.  "This amendment could potentially make millions of otherwise law abiding Americans ineligible for federal benefits and is yet one more example of how our nation's alleged 'War on Drugs' is nothing more than a war on marijuana smokers."
        The amendment passed by a 75 to 25 vote.
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

Thousands Expected To Gather On Washington State Capitol
In Support Of Marijuana Legalization

        July 1996, Olympia, WA:  Washington state marijuana law reform proponents are anticipating a crowd of thousands to gather on the front steps of the Washington state capitol for the first ever Hemp Education Day on August 5.  In past years, marijuana reform events such as the Seattle Hempfest have drawn crowds in excess of 20,000 people. Organizers of the upcoming festival are hoping to harness the popularity of past gatherings and transform the Washington hemp reform movement into a strong political force.
        "We are aware that in the current political climate, you can't even discuss [the] issue [of marijuana law reform] publicly or privately without being singled out in the media as ... 'pro-drug,'" stated event organizer Gideon Israel.  "We must use this opportunity to open up a forum for truth and free expression on this matter.  ... Hemp Education Day will provide a soapbox for the people of Washington state, lawmakers, and other citizens to educate and be educated [about] marijuana."
        Activists scheduled to speak at the rally include NORML Legal Committee member Jeffrey Steinborn, Esq., Hemp BC owner Marc Emery, author Jack Herer, Don Wirtshafter of the Ohio Hempery, medical marijuana patient Ralph Seeley, and others.  The gathering is planned to take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
        For more information on Hemp Education Day, please call (360) 459-9107.

Anti-Drug Ad Called Homophobic By Gay Watchdog Group

        July 1996, New York, NY:  A recent public service announcement produced by the Partnership for a Drug Free America (PDFA) has been branded homophobic by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), a media watchdog organization based in New York City.
        The ad, scheduled to air nationwide this month, depicts a teenager named David whose life plummets downhill because of an addiction to heroin.  The ad concludes with the narrator saying, "And now I have sex with men for money, to support my habit.  ... I wish I didn't have to be like this."
        According to GLAAD, the ad suggests that drug use ultimately leads males to engage in homosexual sex and portrays homosexuality as a social ill more severe than drug use.
        "The spot sends a misguided message to America's young people and specifically to lesbian and gay youth," stated GLAAD managing director William Waybourn.  "The ad has the potential to exacerbate higher-than-average risks gay and lesbian youths face for substance abuse and suicide by implying that being gay is worse than being addicted to heroin."
        Although GLAAD has voiced their objections about the PSA to the Partnership, PDFA President Richard Bonette responded that he will not pull the ad.
        "While I appreciate your concerns, I simply disagree with your perspective and, therefore, cannot honor your request to remove 'David' from distribution," said Bonette.