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

October 17, 1996

DEA Herbicide Under Fire From Hawaii Residents
Locals Complain Of Nausea, Other Ailments Due To Spraying

        October 17, 1996, Hawaii Island, Hawaii:  Residents of Hawaii's Big Island are complaining of nausea, headaches, and fatigue and some are pointing fingers at the federal government.
        For nearly a decade, Drug Enforcement Agency-coordinated marijuana eradication efforts have targeted Hawaii Island, often spraying a glyphosate-based herbicide from low-flying helicopters over suspected marijuana patches.  Recently, however, some residents are claiming that the pesticide, a chemical weed-killer similar to "Round Up," is killing wildlife and making some citizens sick.
        "You can actually taste it in your mouth," said Roger Christie of the Hawaii Hemp Council, who alleges that diesel fuel is occasionally mixed with the pesticide.  Christie claims that gusts of wind disperse the pesticide to outlying communities, where it collects in rainwater catchments.  Rooftop catchments are a common source of residents' drinking water.
        "In the last two weeks, hundreds of people have come to me with their complaints and said that's why I'm feeling this way too," said Ka'u resident Susan Smith in an interview with KGMB-TV earlier this month.  "[Law enforcement] are flying over my house every other day.  ... It's like a war zone out here."
        "[Glyphosate] can do a lot of damage to our bio-diversity," said Noah Berry, vice president of EcoLaw Institute Inc., an Oklahoma organization that works to strengthen environmental laws.  Berry cited a 1995 Journal of Pesticide Reform report that said glyphosate exposure was the third most commonly reported pesticide illness among agricultural workers in California.
        DEA spokesman Sidney Hayakawa acknowledged the residents' concern and noted that the spraying procedure is currently under evaluation.  He told KGMB-TV that the agency will issue an updated Environmental Impact Statement next year.
        Lenny Terlip of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) told NORML that claims of glyphosate harming the environment and endangering the health of residents were "erroneous."  He denied reports that the herbicide was mixed with any additives and said that the sprayings were not being conducted near houses or residential areas.  The helicopter-mounted spray-guns have "pin-point accuracy," he added.
        For now, however, the battle rages on and many residents remain unconvinced.  This is an example of "law enforcement run amuck," claimed environmental activist and resident Jerry Rothstein, who recently attended a town meeting where numerous residents complained of health complications such as eye irritation, itchy throats, and bronchial problems due to spraying.  Photographs on display at the meeting documented orange-sprayed foliage in forests and yards as well as dead bird carcasses.  "From the response of the Ka'u community, th[ese] latest aerial herbicide attack[s] appear to be among the worst yet," noted Rothstein.
        "Why do we have to wait [until] five years from now [for an answer?]" asked Smith.  "Why do we have to wait ... till they tell us, okay, it's toxic and now it's outlawed?"
        Currently, only one other state, South Dakota, engages in aerial herbicide spraying.
        For more information, please contact either Roger Christie of the Hawaii Hemp Council @ (808) 961-0488 or Jerry Rothstein @ (808) 329-1568.  Additional information is available from Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

Drug Tax Ruled Unconstitutional By Texas Appeals Court

        October 16, 1996, Austin, TX:  A state law meant to penalize drug dealers by making them pay taxes on confiscated drugs violates constitutional guarantees against double jeopardy, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled Wednesday.  The decision is similar to a 1995 Arizona ruling that prohibited an individual who possessed marijuana from criminal prosecution "because the tax imposed prior to the prosecution served a punitive purpose."
        Lawyers involved in the case said the 5-4 decision means the state can either impose a drug tax or prosecute an individual for illegal activity; it can't do both.  "This [ruling] means the state only gets one chance to punish you," said Tom Moran, a Houston attorney representing the defendant.
        The decision could lead to the review of nearly 1,000 of drug cases in which both criminal penalties and taxes were assessed.  In cases which all or some of the state drug tax has been paid, this ruling could be "a pretty good get-out-of-jail-free card," said Dan McCrory, an assistant district attorney for Harris County.  A spokesman for the state comptroller's office told the Dallas Morning News that counties had referred over 9,000 cases to their offices for collection of the drug tax.
        In the recent decision, the court found that Texas' $98 tax on an ounce of marijuana and $200 per gram of controlled substance was so high as to conclude, "it ... is a penalty for criminal conduct."  Therefore, the court ruled that because the defendant had already been punished by "imposition and partial collection of a tax," further prosecution would violate his Fifth Amendment protections against double jeopardy.
        The case had initially been denied by Texas courts, but the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the state courts to reconsider based upon a 1994 Supreme Court ruling on double jeopardy.  In that case, Department of Revenue v. Kurth Ranch, the Supreme Court ruled that to collect a tax on the possession of drugs from defendants who had already been charged, convicted, and sentenced on criminal charges involving the same drugs was the functional equivalent of a successive criminal prosecution.
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

Drug Enforcement Administration Attacks California Medical Marijuana Measure

        October 17, 1996, Washington, D.C.:  The Drug Enforcement Administration has come out against a California ballot initiative (Proposition 215) to prevent the state prosecution of patients who use marijuana for a documented medical need.
        In a press release issued by Thomas Constantine, chief administrator, the agency states that it is "firmly opposed" to the proposal.  The agency cites rising adolescent drug use and an alleged lack of evidence regarding marijuana's therapeutic value as reasons for holding its position.
        "How can we tell American children to refuse to use illegal drugs when medical practitioners are prescribing marijuana as casually as they prescribe penicillin or cough syrup?" he asked.  "The children of America deserve to live a drug-free life, safe from the effects of drugs, and safe from the crime and degradation that drug-taking breeds.  Proposition 215 sends the unequivocal message that we have surrendered to the legalizers and have relinquished our principles."
        "This initiative is not about sending messages to kids, it's about reality," said Dave Fratello of Californians for Medical Rights.  "The reality is that marijuana is helpful as a medicine."
        "Marijuana has a 5,000 year medical history and was declared to be 'one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man' in 1988 by the DEA's own Chief Administrative Law Judge," said NORML Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre.  "Marijuana's medical utility has been endorsed by such well respected organizations as the American Public Health Association, National Academy of Sciences, and Federation of American Scientists.  For the DEA to claim otherwise is fallacious."
        Proposition 215 is currently endorsed by the San Francisco Academy of Family Physicians, San Francisco Medical Society, California Nurses Association, and others.  It continues to have strong voter support and leads by 33 percent, according to an October 15 Field Poll.
        For more information, please contact Dave Fratello of Californians for Medical Rights @ (310) 451-2522 or Allen St. Pierre of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.