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

August 29, 1996

State Looks Into Filing Tax Violations Against Marijuana Club Proprietors

        August 24, 1996, San Francisco, CA:  State officials are probing into whether proprietors of the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers' Club may have violated federal and state tax laws by failing to report club revenue to the IRS.  Failing to report income, including income generated through illegal activities, is against the law.  The allegation is the latest in a series of accusations made by state law enforcement officials since the club was raided on August 4.  To date, no individuals have been arrested in connection with the club, nor have any formal charges been filed.
        California Bureau of Narcotics Chief Joe Doane said that the issue of possible tax evasion arose because agents found no documents related to the withholding of salary for Social Security, state and federal taxes and workers' compensation for employees of the club.  "That indicates [that club founder Dennis Peron] was not following state and federal laws regarding payment of taxes on salaries and benefits," argued state attorney general's office spokesman Steve Telliano.
        Dennis Peron told United Press International that standard business practices were not followed at the club because of the underground nature of supplying medical marijuana to those who needed it.  "Until we change the law, you have to realize that what we are doing is illegal.  We've had to do things a certain way to protect the people whose lives we were trying to help."
        Californians for Compassionate Use treasurer John Entwistle called the state's latest allegation "another red herring" and reiterated that all profits were distributed back into the club.  "If we had bought big houses, then we'd be ashamed," he remarked.  "But we didn't; we've all taken vows of poverty.  There is no hidden money."
        Officials report that criminal charges involving both the tax issue as well as other facets of the club's activities may be filed in three to four weeks.
        For more information, please contact Californians for Compassionate Use @ (415) 621-3986.

Governor Signs Law Reinvigorating State Medical Marijuana Research Program

        August, 1996, Boston, Massachusetts:  Gov. William Weld signed into law legislation (H. 2170) that would reinvigorate the state marijuana therapeutic research program and eventually provide for a medical necessity legal defense.
        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 legislation was proposed by Rep. Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville) after communicating with a constituent who used marijuana as a therapeutic agent to combat severe nausea.  NORML Legal Committee member Michael Cutler, Esq. helped draft the legislation.
        For more information, please contact attorney Michael Cutler @ (617) 439-4990 or Bill Downing of Mass/Cann NORML @ (617) 944-CANN.

Cincinnati Buyers' Club Founder Pleads Guilty To Reduced Marijuana Charges

        August 20, 1996, Covington, KY:  Richard Evans, founder of the Greater Cincinnati Buyers' Club, plead guilty to a reduced misdemeanor charge of trafficking in marijuana under eight ounces and was sentenced to serve 29 days in county jail.  Evans will begin his sentence in September.  Evans had been facing three felony counts of trafficking in marijuana within 1,000 yards of a school following a February raid by law enforcement officers on the club's headquarters.
        "I was facing a total of 15 years in prison; they were offering 29 days in county jail," Evans said after he entered his guilty plea in Kenton Circuit Court.  Initially, Evans had considered battling the charges on constitutional grounds.
        Prosecutors agreed to reduce the charges against Evans after conceding that his actions "were not done as part of a commercial enterprise [or] ... for purposes of profit."  Evans told NORML that the judge in the case remarked that she believed that marijuana for medical purposes would eventually be legal in America, but noted that individuals have to abide by the law.
        When asked whether he would continue to operate the buyers' club once he completes his jail term, Evans responded that it wouldn't be "in this country."  However, he added that, "There's plenty of people lined up to take over."
        Evans called the judgment a "partial victory" and told NORML that a short stay in jail was a fair price for the large amount of publicity his case generated.

NORML Chapter Files Complaint
After Voters Strike Down Ballot Proposal To Decriminalize Marijuana

        August 16, 1996, Traverse City, MI:  Proponents of a city ballot initiative to decriminalize marijuana possession have filed a complaint with the Secretary of State alleging that opponents of the measure violated state campaign finance laws.  The proposal was rejected by voters by a 58 to 42 percent vote.
        The complaint, spearheaded by Traverse City NORML President Bill Bustance, maintains that Traverse City Police Chief Ralph Soffredine, Prosecutor Dennis LaBelle, and others acted as a political committee but failed to file any papers with the county clerk as required under the Michigan Campaign Finance Acts.  The complaint also alleges that opponents sent out a biased flyer against the proposal using the tax-funded mailing permit of Traverse City.  Bustance is demanding a new election.
        "We've had two successful initiatory petitions filed and if these claims [prove] substantial then we at least deserve one fair election," Bustance said.
        Traverse City officials admit that the city paid to send out over 9,400 flyers in a one-time mailing, but deny that the mailing was an attempt to influence voters against the ballot proposal.  The flyer was titled "Marijuana: Facts to Consider."
        According to Michigan law, a person who knowingly violates campaign finance rules could be punished by up to a year in jail or a $2,000 fine.  An organization that does so may receive up to a $20,000 fine.
        The road to the ballot had been a rocky one for marijuana activists. Chapter organizers' 1994 initiative drive was rejected by the city commission despite having well over the required number of signatures, because it allegedly conflicted with state law.  This year's petition was devoid of legal problems, but faced severe opposition from city commissioners who in December unanimously passed a resolution asking residents not to sign the petition.  The commission later passed a resolution encouraging voters to vote against the proposal.
        For more information, please contact Bill Bustance of Traverse City NORML @ (616) 264-9565.

Dutch Cities Get Into The Marijuana Business

        August 1996, Delfzijl, Netherlands:  For two decades, Dutch officials have tolerated the sale of marijuana and hashish in coffee shops; now some are going into business for themselves.
        Authorities in the town of Delfzijl are spending $294,117 to open a coffee shop on September 1, reports the Associated Press.  It is modeled on a similar project in the town of Bussum, outside Amsterdam.  Profits from the store will fund education campaigns on drug use, and the store will be staffed with counselors and youth workers offering free health information on drug use.
        "Of course we don't want people to use drugs, but that's not realistic," said Delfzijl City Hall spokeswoman Marjon Edzes.  "This is a healthier solution."
        Despite their policy of tolerating the sale of marijuana and hashish, the number of Dutch adolescents who have ever used marijuana is far lower than in America.  Dutch politicians maintain that their policy discourages hard drug use by separating the illicit drug markets.
        For more information on comparisons between illicit drug use rates among Dutch and American adolescents, please contact NORML @ (202) 483-5500 for a copy of "Exposing Marijuana Myths" by Drs. John Morgan and Lynn Zimmer.

Dole Calls For Larger Military Presence In Drug War

        August 25, Palos Park, Ill:  Responding to figures of rising illicit drug use among adolescents, Republican Presidential nominee Bob Dole vowed to greatly increase the role of the military in combating drugs.
        "We will make drug interdiction a priority for our intelligence services, beefing up not just technical operations but also human intelligence operations," said Dole during a recent campaign speech.  "We will expand the use of military technology, including reconnaissance and satellites and area surveillance and listening posts to track drug movements toward our borders."
        Dole also advocated using the National Guard in domestic drug interdiction efforts.  "Working with the governors, we will create designated National Guard units with appropriate training and equipment to provide a rapid response capability.  If we need the National Guard to move in, they'll have the training."
        "Dole's proposals are nothing new," commented NORML Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre.  "Increasing the use of military technology to interdict drugs began under the Bush administration at the cost of millions of taxpayers' dollars, yet yielded few tangible results.  Also, the National Guard has been utilized in domestic drug enforcement -- generally marijuana eradication -- since Congress authorized its use in 1988 by sidestepping the Posse Comitatus Act of 1879 that forbids the use of federal troops in civilian law enforcement."
        Dole defended his proposals by alleging that the threat of drugs, like the threat of terrorism from abroad, was an area where the military had a proper role.
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.  Copies of NORML's position paper: "National Guard Involvement In The Drug War" are available upon request.

America's Prison Population More Than Doubles In A Decade

        August 18, 1996, Washington, D.C.:  There were approximately 1.6 million men and women in the nation's jails and prisons last year, reported the Department of Justice.  This figure is a 113 percent increase since 1985 and equates to one out of every 167 U.S. residents in jail or prison.
        Since 1980 -- when the number of inmates in state or federal prisons or in local jails stood at just over 500,000 -- incarceration growth in the United States has ballooned over 200 percent.  According to federal statistics, the most significant factor for this dramatic increase is drug arrests.  Drug offenders now comprise more than 25 percent of all U.S. inmates, up from less than ten percent in the mid-1980s.
        "While Congress and politicians are calling for tougher sentencing and tougher judges, they are conveniently neglecting the fact that America already incarcerates a larger percentage of its population than any other country; this is a direct result of the drug war," said NORML Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre.  "Unfortunately, after listening to recent campaign speeches by both the Dole and Clinton camps, it appears this trend is far from over."
        For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre of NORML @ (202) 483-5500 or Mark Mauer of The Sentencing Project @ (202) 628-0871.  Copies of NORML's fact-sheet: "Percentage Of United States Inmates Incarcerated For Drug Violations: A Ten Year Comparison" are available upon request.