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

October 3, 1996

Political Cartoonist Supports Proposition 215, Angers State Attorney General

        October 3, 1996, San Francisco, CA:  California State Attorney General Dan Lungren thinks that the nationally syndicated comic-strip Doonesbury is going to pot, and he isn't amused.
        Lungren is upset over this week's series of Doonesbury cartoons focusing on the police raid on the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club and promoting Proposition 215, a state ballot initiative to prevent the state prosecution of patients who use marijuana for a documented medical need.  Lungren was responsible for ordering the August 4 raid on the club and is one of the chief opponents of Proposition 215.  He has asked Universal Press Syndicate, which distributes the cartoon, to either pull this week's strips or include a disclaimer saying the cartoon is inaccurate.  UPS is doing neither.
        "This week's Doonesbury strips clearly advance the wink-and-nod attitude toward drug use that is most responsible for the addition of thousands of American kids to the drugged and at risk roster," argued Lungren in a letter to the San Francisco Chronicle.
        Cannabis Buyers' Club Founder Dennis Peron countered that Lungren was advocating censorship.  "Instead of attacking characters in a cartoon, why doesn't he meet me in a debate?" he asked.
        "This week's Doonesbury strips are bringing national exposure to a situation in dire need of widespread attention and reform," said NORML Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre.  "National polls indicate that Americans delineate between marijuana use for recreational purposes and medical needs and strongly support the latter.  If Doonesbury can help further the debate, then it's a positive step."
        Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau has refused to comment specifically on Lungren's attacks, but did weigh in on the issue of marijuana prohibition in the September 16 issue of Time Magazine.
        "Before we can get any traction on controlling pot, ... the generation that popularized the stuff has got to finally come clean about what made it so alluring in the first place -- and then square that with current marijuana policy," Trudeau wrote.  "A good start might be for every middle-aged public official in America to take the following oath.
        "... I concede that I once did not view marijuana as dangerous.  ... It was only after my appetite for recreational drugs had abated, and I produced children whom I did not believe capable of 'handling' marijuana as responsibly as I had, that I came to oppose decriminalization.  I acknowledge that it was this fear, and not new medical evidence, that caused me to subsequently support mandatory sentencing for other people's children caught emulating the actions of my generation."
        Doonesbury runs in 1,400 newspapers.
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.  For more information on Proposition 215, please contact Dave Fratello of Californians for Medical Rights @ (310) 394-2952.

Supreme Court To Rule On Drug Testing Of Political Candidates

        October 1, 1996, Washington, D.C.:  The Supreme Court will review the constitutionality of a Georgia law mandating candidates to pass a drug test before qualifying to run for elected state office.
        The law is being challenged by attorney and former Libertarian candidate for Lieutenant Governor Walker Chandler.  Chandler is appealing a 2-1 decision issued this past January by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upholding the law.  Chandler said that the 11 page dissent in that case made his challenge appealing to the High Court.
        "I do not believe that the suspicionless search in these circumstances serves any special governmental need beyond the normal need for law enforcement, and, if it did, I believe that the candidates' privacy interests outweigh the governmental interests," opined dissenting Circuit Judge Rosemary Barkett, raising questions about the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment guarantee to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.  "We are not merely dealing with the denial of a job opportunity, but with the denial of the opportunity to participate in our democratic form of government."
        Barkett's dissent also called into question apparent First Amendment violations posed by the controversial law.  "The majority maintains that the government's purpose [in passing this legislation] is not suppression of free expression.  Yet, it supports it by citing the importance of ensuring that elected officials are 'persons appreciative of the perils of drug use' and 'sympathetic to drug interdiction efforts.'  Establishing a certain ideology as a 'qualification' for holding public office appears to be a content-based restriction on free expression."
        In taking the case, the Supreme Court will also determine how far the government may go in requiring people to submit to drug tests where there is no particular suspicion of individual wrongdoing, reports the Washington Post.
        NORML's Amicus Curiae Committee will file an amicus brief in the case.
        The Georgia law does not apply to congressional candidates, whose qualifications are prescribed by the U.S. Constitution and Congress itself.
        For more information, please contact Attorney Walker Chandler @ (800) 560-3882.  For more information about drug testing, please contact Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500 or visit NORML's homepage at:

Ohio High School Cracks Down On Hemp

        October 3, 1996, Eastlake, OH:  Students at North High School in Eastlake Ohio who wear jewelry made out of hemp fiber will be sent to the principle's office and have their parents notified, according to a new policy enacted by school officials this past Tuesday.
        Critics of the policy argue that the new rule inhibits freedom of expression and amounts to nothing more than harassment.
        "It's extremism on the [anti-drug] issue," said Northcoast NORML chapter president John Hartman, who announced that he would provide hemp clothing and twine to interested students.  "Is the intention to pick out students and harass them or attempt to enforce their drug-free school policy?  Either way, [it's] persecuting them for wearing [legal] hemp jewelry."
        According to principle George Spinner, a proponent of the policy, hemp jewelry symbolizes "sympathy" toward marijuana, a view that he believes to be unacceptable in a school environment.  "The truth is, they are wearing it because of the relationship of hemp and marijuana."
        Spinner noted that the jewelry will not be confiscated, but admits that officials are asking students not to wear it.
        "By their own admission, school officials are trying to suppress a political statement about our government's policies toward marijuana and industrial hemp," said NORML Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre.  "This harassment clearly infringes upon a student's constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression."
        Several students have approached Northcoast NORML to complain about the new policy and some have begun to hand out fliers challenging the rule.  Over 1,500 students attend the school.
        For more information, please contact John Hartman of Northcoast NORML @ (216) 521-9333.  E-mail may be addressed to: