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

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

August 15, 1996

Law Enforcement Bust Cannabis Buyers' Club In Key West, Florida
Founder, One Other Arrested On Felony Marijuana Charges

        August 14, 1996, Key West, FL:  For the second time in two weeks, law enforcement officials have raided and shut down operations of a cannabis buyers' club.
        Police sparked a wave of citizen outrage when Special Operations detectives raided a cannabis buyers' club in Key West and arrested two people, including club founder Zvi Baranoff.  Both individuals were charged with possession of felony amounts of marijuana with intent to distribute and possession of drug paraphernalia.  The Key West club serviced approximately 90 patients and has existed for one year.  It is one of an estimated 30 underground clubs throughout the United States that distributes marijuana as a medicine to seriously ill patients who possess a doctor's recommendation.
        "It seems like shabby treatment of someone who's trying to do something good," said a former Key West city commissioner who spoke anonymously with the Key West Citizen.  "Where's the compassion?  These people were dispensing medicine to people who can't eat, sleep, or hold food in their stomachs.  [The raid is nothing more than an] inhumane witch hunt."
        Detective John Elmore defended the raid by saying that police have no choice but to enforce the law.  Elmore further alleged that marijuana was sold to some individuals who did not suffer from valid medical illnesses.
        Local citizens appeared to be strongly supportive of the club and many club members voiced their discontent to the local media.  "We're just trying to extend our lives a little bit," said one HIV-positive club member.  "Maybe these officers should attend every funeral, or read the newspaper which would be stuffed with obituaries" if we didn't have underground access to medical marijuana.
        The Key West bust comes on the heels of a raid by California state narcotics agents last Sunday on the 11,000 member San Francisco Cannabis Buyers' Club.  No arrests have yet to be made in connection with the raid, but a temporary injunction has been granted to keep the club closed.  The decision by state Attorney General Dan Lungren to order the bust has outraged many members of the San Francisco community -- including Mayor Willie Brown, Sheriff Michael Hennessey, District Attorney Terence Hallinan, former Police Commissioner Jo Daly, and several members of the city's Board of Supervisors -- and cast harsh criticism upon state politicians and law enforcement.
        "With the recent raids of cannabis buyers' clubs in Cincinnati, San Francisco, and now Key West, the message is clear: law enforcement is targeting the sick and dying," said NORML Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre.  "Our sympathy goes out to the individuals and patients affected by these unfortunate incidents."
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

Two State Medical Associations Endorse Proposition 215

        August 8, 1996, San Francisco, CA:  Two statewide medical societies, representing a combined total of almost 10,000 physicians, have endorsed a California ballot initiative to legalize marijuana for medical use (Proposition 215).
        The San Francisco Medical Society (SFMS), which represents about 2,200 doctors in San Francisco, announced its support for Proposition 215 just four days after state law enforcement officers raided and closed down San Francisco's Cannabis Buyers' Club.  They were joined in their endorsement by the California Academy of Family Physicians (CAFP), which represents approximately 7,500 physicians statewide.
        San Francisco Medical Society President Dr. Toni J. Brayer said that the society based its decision on the results of an opinion poll of doctors who treat MDS and cancer patients as well as drug addicts.  The doctors surveyed reportedly told the society that they believed legalizing marijuana for medical purposes was a good idea because it has therapeutic value to many seriously ill patients.
        "This initiative is an important one.  ... It will protect our patients," Bayer said.  "What we want to do as physicians is to relieve pain and suffering."
        The society also recommends clinical testing of marijuana as a medicine so that scientific data may be generated on its effectiveness in treating patients.
        For more information, please contact Mark Capitolo of Californians for Medical Rights @ (916) 457-5546 or Allen St. Pierre of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

(Meanwhile) Judge Orders Changes in "Misleading" Ballot Argument Against Proposition 215

        August 9, 1996, Sacramento, CA:  Organizers of a campaign against a California ballot proposal to legalize marijuana for medical use (Proposition 215) took one on the chin as Sacramento Superior Court Judge William Ridgeway called part of the campaign's prohibitionist argument "misleading" and ordered changes.  Advocates for the medical marijuana initiative applauded Ridgeway's ruling and remarked that the statements in question were "yet another in a series of deceptions" waged by opponents of Proposition 215.
        The judge's action was sparked by an American Cancer Society (ACS) petition.  The ACS asked to have two references to the organization by opponents, collectively known as "No on 215," dropped or changed before publication in the ballot pamphlet distributed by the secretary of state.  The pamphlets went to press this week.
        The original "No on 215" rebuttal argument portrayed the ACS as vocal opponents of the medical marijuana initiative.  In truth, ACS attorney George Waters maintained that the organization neither supports nor opposes the measure.  Therefore, Judge Ridgeway ordered that "No on 215" alter their chief rebuttal argument: "American Cancer Society says no."  In addition, the judge ordered that a second reference to the Society's opinion on marijuana be removed entirely.
        Ballot initiative proponents also note that the rebuttal falsely claims that "no major doctor's organization supports Proposition 215" when, in fact, both the San Francisco Medical Society (SFMS) and the California Academy of Family Physicians (CAFP) -- together representing nearly 10,000 physicians -- have already endorsed the initiative.
        "Perhaps the reason 'No on 215' keeps stretching the truth is [because] the campaign has no choice," suggested Dave Fratello of Californians for Medical Rights.  "The entire campaign is predicated on a falsehood -- the notion that marijuana has no medical value.  This is proved wrong by the experience[s] of tens of thousands of patients, nurses, and doctors across California, many of whom support Proposition 215."
        For more information, please contact Mark Capitolo of Californians for Medical Rights @ (916) 457-5546 or Allen St. Pierre of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

Michigan City Residents Vote "No" To Local Measure To Decriminalize Marijuana

        August 7, 1996: Traverse City, MI:  Local residents rejected a city ballot proposal that would have made 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 community service for a first-time offender by a 58 to 42 percent vote.  The measure had been introduced by the local chapter of NORML.
        Despite the outcome, Traverse City NORML President Bill Bustance remained optimistic.  "The 42 percent [in favor of decriminalization] was better than anyone ever expected us to do," explained Bustance.  "Forty two percent of Traverse City residents were ready to repent for the sins of America's drug war."
        Bustance further added that he believes the city government used federal finds to sway Traverse City voters' decisions on the initiative, a felony offense in Michigan.  Bustance told NORML that he will file a complaint with the secretary of state in hopes of getting the initiative back on the city ballot.
        Prior to the August 6 primary, the Traverse City Commission had unanimously passed a resolution encouraging residents to vote against the initiative.
        For more information, please contact Bill Bustance of Traverse City NORML @ (616) 264-9565.

Scottish Senior Judge Says Cannabis Decriminalization Should Be Considered

        August 1996, Scotland:  One of Scotland's most senior judges, Lord McLuskey, has sharply criticized a federal "white paper" calling for enhanced anti-drug penalties.  In addition, the former solicitor general stated that there needs to be an open debate on the issue of decriminalizing cannabis.
        "The people who advocate the decriminalization of cannabis need to be listened to and not condemned," he said.  "Open debate is not only healthy, it is essential."
        In a nine page response to the June "white paper," McLuskey maintained that current prohibition ostracizes a large percentage of the younger generation and encourages disrespect for the law overall.  "A particular problem for the criminal justice system is that, if the law continues to treat all use of scheduled drugs [other than on prescription] as criminal abuse, it will further alienate and criminalize large numbers of younger people who regard the use of certain drugs in sensible quantities and settings as providing enjoyment without significantly threatening their health," McLuskey wrote.  "Alienating large numbers of people by making them into undetected offenders against criminal law greatly weakens the criminal justice system."
        McLuskey also argued that marijuana has medicinal value and contested the prohibitionist belief that any use of an illicit substance "must be an abuse."
        "The sentiments and concerns of Lord McLuskey greatly echo those of NORML and the testimony we presented this year before Congress," stated NORML Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre.
        McLuskey has sat in the House of Lords for 20 years.

Small Town Mayor Indicted On Marijuana Charges
After Allegedly Growing Marijuana For "Educational" Purposes

        August, 1996, Copperhill, TN:  Copperhill Mayor Janelle Kimsey has been indicted by a grand jury on marijuana possession charges after police discovered 10 marijuana plants growing on the deck of her home.  Kimsey turned herself in to authorities following her arraignment and was later released on $500 cash bond.
        Kimsey's legal problems began last June when 10 marijuana plants were found growing on her front porch.  At the time, Kimsey alleged that she was growing the marijuana for "educational" purposes.  "We made a drug bust a couple of months ago, and citizens wanted to know what [marijuana] looked like," she explained shortly after the incident.  "Dumb me, I didn't know I couldn't do it.  I know ignorance is no excuse, but in my case, it was ignorance."
        Authorities are not buying the mayor's claim and have set a trial date for September 20.  However, some citizens are critical that Kimsey is only being charged with simple possession -- a misdemeanor -- rather than cultivation.
        According to Shari Taylor, assistant district attorney for the 10th Judicial District, the 10 plants possessed by Kimsey "came to less than one-half ounce" (14 grams) when weighed all together and did not merit felony charges.  However, according to federal sentencing guidelines, one marijuana plant is presumed to weigh 100 grams.  "Apparently, there exists one set of marijuana plant-weight ratios for politicians and another set for the rest of America," commented NORML Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre.
        Kimsey is due back in court on September 16 for a status hearing.