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

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

August 1, 1996

Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Research Program
May Breathe New Life From Assembly Measure

        July 30, 1996: Boston, Massachusetts:  A bill (H. 2170) introduced by Rep. Patricia Jehlen (D-Somerville) that would reinvigorate the state marijuana therapeutic research program and eventually provide for a medical necessity legal defense has passed the Massachusetts state assembly and now awaits the signature of Gov. William Weld.  Sources close to Gov. Weld indicate that he will sign the bill into law.
        As amended by the state legislature, H. 2170 will direct the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) to pass rules and regulations within 180 days for the establishment of a marijuana medical research program.  Like many states, Massachusetts had previously adopted legislation allowing for such a program, but had never addressed the issues of funding, regulations, or viable sources for marijuana.
        "The new law does not solve the problem of the federal government's denial of access to legal marijuana, but it puts Massachusetts on the record as aggressively researching the issues of treatment and supply," said NORML Legal Committee member Michael Cutler, Esq.
        "[It] creates pressure for a legal source to be created," added an aid from Rep. Jehlen's office.  "[It is] a step in the right direction."
        The measure also provides patients who are certified to participate in the program a legal defense against marijuana charges.  This provision was a concession from the legislation's original intent which would have allowed any patient with a physician's pre-trial diagnosis of medical necessity to use the defense.  Weld expressed concern that the bill~s original language was overly broad.
        The governor has 10 days to either sign or veto the measure.
        "By enacting this law, [Gov. Weld] will allow attention to the medicinal needs of patients, whose access to treatment is blocked by the identity of their necessary medicine rather than by conduct which they can control," summarized Cutler.  "For many patients, their use of marijuana enables them to support themselves and their families rather than being totally disabled and publicly supported.  For these patients, who risk arrest and prosecution every day for the crime of desiring an ordinary quality of life, this law provides hope for a rational future of doctor-patient therapies free from governmental interference."
        For more information, please contact Michael Cutler Esq. @ (617) 439-4990 or Bill Downing of NORML Mass/Cann @ (617) 944-CANN.

Update: Welfare Reform Bill Amendment Altered
To Deny Federal Benefits To Those Convicted On Felony Drug Charges Only

        August 1, 1996, Washington, D.C.:  Most recreational marijuana smokers will be exempted from the provisions of a last minute amendment (Samdt. 4935) introduced by Sen. Phil Gram (R-Texas) that denies for life federal assistance-based benefits to all individuals convicted on felony drug charges.  The amendment is part of Congress' overall welfare reform package.
        In the measure's original form, the law additionally denied "means-tested" federal benefits for five years for anyone convicted of a marijuana misdemeanor.  Possession of a small amount marijuana is generally treated as a misdemeanor in all 50 states.  The initial language was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate.
        Gramm's amendment was altered during recent debate in conference committee.  As the amendment stands now, it will only apply to future felony drug convictions and states will be able to opt out of the program if they enact legislation to do so.  President Bill Clinton has agreed to sign the welfare reform package into law.
        "The conference committee has provided relief for some marijuana smokers by altering Gramm's amendment; however, this bill still unfairly and inappropriately targets drug users," noted NORML Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre.  Pierre noted that under the revised amendment, a murderer, rapist, or robber could receive federal funds and benefits, but not an individual convicted of cultivating marijuana.
        For more information, please contact either Gwen Rubenstein of the Legal Action Center @ (202) 544-5478 or Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

California Law Enforcement Must Procure A Warrant
Before Using Heat Scanning Devices

        July 26, 1996, Sacramento, CA:  The California Supreme Court has let stand a 1st District Appellate Court decision mandating that state law enforcement officials must procure a warrant before conducting thermal imaging searches of private residences where they suspect drug cultivation may be taking place.  The lower court ruling is now binding on trial courts statewide.
        Only Justices Marvin Baxter and Ming Chin voted to grant a hearing on the prosecution appeal; four votes are required for a hearing by the seven-member court.
        "The use of thermal imaging devices can give law enforcement information regarding activities taking place inside a residence that they would not otherwise be privy to without procuring a search warrant and entering the house," stated NORML Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre.  "By its very nature, it is an intrusive practice that constitutes an unreasonable search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.  Therefore, it should require a warrant.  NORML applauds the actions of the California court."
        In its decision this April, the 1st District Court of Appeals likened the use of thermal imaging to that of electronically tracking the movement of chemicals inside a home by using a beeper.  The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1984 (U.S. v. Karo) that a warrant must be attained before law enforcement can use a beeper.
        "Like the beeper signal ... the thermal imaging scan of [the] residence told the police something about activities within the house which they could not otherwise have learned without obtaining a warrant," opined Justice Marc Poche.  "PreciseIy because the thermal imaging is indiscriminate in registering sources of heat, it is an intrusive tool which tells much about the activities inside the home which may be quite unrelated to any illicit activity."
        "... [Therefore,] we find that society recognizes as reasonable an expectation that the heat generated from within a private residence may not be measured by the government without a warrant permitting such a search."
        For more information on the use of thermal imaging, please contact Allen St. Pierre of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

Update: Partnership For A Drug Free America
Agrees To Modify Ad Criticized As "Patently Homophobic"

        July 29, 1996, New York City, NY:  The Partnership for a Drug Free America has agreed to re-edit a series of anti-heroin public service announcements that had drawn sharp criticism from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).
        The ad in question featured a teenager named David whose life plummets downhill because of an addiction to heroin.  The ad concluded 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."
        GLAAD first voiced opposition to the spot early this month alleging that the ad "had 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."  At that time, PDFA President Richard Bonette refused GLAAD's request to pull the ad.
        Recently, however, Bonette has experienced a change of heart.  He now says that the spots will be re-edited to omit the references to prostitution.  "A perception of offense, however unintended, [may] dilute or interfere our basic message" of keeping adolescents drug free, Bonette recently explained in a letter to GLAAD.
        Alan Klein, news media director at GLAAD said, "We're very much pleased that the Partnership has taken the concerns of the gay and lesbian community serious."

ATTENTION:  Those individuals looking to access NORML's webpage should temporarily use the following URL address: