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

November 21, 1996

Office Of National Drug Control Policy Restates Opposition To Medical Marijuana Initiatives

        November 15, 1996, Washington, D.C.:  Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey re-emphasized the administration's opposition to voter-approved drug reform initiatives in California and Arizona that endorse the use of marijuana as a medicine.  The announcement came following several closed-door meetings with law enforcement and state officials.
        "There could not be a worse message to young people than the provisions of these referenda," stated McCaffrey in a November 15 press release.  "Just when the nation is trying its hardest to educate teenagers not to use psychoactive drugs, now they are being told that 'marijuana [is] medicine.'  The conflicting message is extremely harmful."
        The California initiative says that, "Patients or defined caregivers, who possess or cultivate marijuana for medical treatment recommended by a physician, are exempt from the general provisions of law which otherwise prohibit possession or cultivation of marijuana."  It further provides that, "Physicians shall not be punished or denied any right or privilege for recommending marijuana to a patient for medical purposes."  The Act does not supersede state legislation prohibiting persons from possessing or cultivating marijuana for non-medical purposes.
        Proposition 200 in Arizona, known as the "Drug Medicalization, Prevention and Control Act," is broader than California's measure and would essentially "medicalize" Arizona's drug policy.  The Act calls for mandatory, court supervised treatment and probation as an alternative to incarceration for non-violent drug users and provides expanded drug treatment programs.  It also permits doctors to prescribe controlled drugs such as marijuana to patients suffering from serious illnesses such as glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, cancer, and AIDS; however, this aspect of the measure is in direct conflict with federal law.  Arizonans voted in favor of the initiative by a vote of 65 to 35.
        "By our judgment, increased drug abuse in every category will be the inevitable result of the referenda," said McCaffrey.
        In the weeks following the initiatives passage, proponents have speculated as to whether the federal government will target physicians and patients complying with the new state laws.  On this matter, McCaffrey stated that federal law remains in "full force" despite the states' actions and that the Justice Department "will take action" when the evidence merits.
        "It is unfortunate that General McCaffrey chose only to meet with those who oppose the notion of marijuana as medicine when meeting to strategize the federal response to the passage of the California and Arizona initiatives," said NORML Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre, who noted that at least two physicians who learned of the meetings were barred from attending.  "These initiatives address health issues; to exclude input from physicians who are explicitly and specifically mentioned is unacceptable."
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of NORML @ (202) 483-5500 or Dale Gieringer of California NORML @ (415) 563-5858.

(Meanwhile) Drug Czar's Office Refuses NORML Meeting

        November 18, 1996, Washington, D.C.:  The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has denied NORML's request for a meeting with Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey.  NORML had offered to meet with McCaffrey following comments made by the General on National Public Radio that he "welcomed" NORML's involvement in the national debate over drug policy.
        According to a letter signed by Janet Crist, Chief of Staff, "The Director feels strongly that, in light of NORML's vigorous support for pro-marijuana ballot initiatives in California and Arizona along with its longstanding advocacy for the legalization of marijuana, the meeting you proposed would serve no useful purpose."
        She added that, "Your organization's agenda to legalize the use of ... marijuana ... is unsupportable (sic) on health, safety, as well as humanitarian grounds."
        "It's a shame that the Drug Czar was not sincere in his offer to meet with NORML to discuss certain aspects of American drug policy," said NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup.  "He has said on numerous occasions that we cannot arrest our way out of the drug problem; NORML has said for 26 years that an adult marijuana user should not face criminal penalties.  I think that there are a number of points that we could agree on.  Certainly, healthy discourse on this pertinent topic can only move the issue forward."
        Ironically, McCaffrey reiterated his invitation to meet with NORML representatives while speaking at American University in Washington D.C. on November 13.  This action prompted NORML's Executive Director to again request a meeting with the Drug Czar to discuss policy options.
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

Supreme Court Overturns Ohio Traffic Stop Decision

        November 18, 1996, Washington, D.C.:  The Supreme Court ruled that police do not have to inform drivers during a routine traffic stop that they are legally free to go before asking for consent to search their vehicle.  The ruling overturns a 1995 Ohio Supreme Court decision mandating that police must first inform motorists that they are "legally free to go" before requesting the driver's permission to search their car for drugs or other contraband.
        Writing the opinion for the court, Chief Justice William Rehnquist said that the court has "consistently eschewed bright-line rules" in Fourth Amendment analysis, and instead must examine the "totality of the circumstances" on a case by case basis.  "It would be unrealistic to require the police to always inform detainees that they are free to go before a police consent search may be deemed voluntary," Rehnquist concluded.
        In deciding the case, the High Court rejected the argument that many individuals will assume that they are in a police officer's custody as long as the officer continues to interrogate them.  "While knowledge of the right to refuse consent is one factor to be taken into account, the government need not establish such knowledge as the sine qua non of an effective consent," Rehnquist opined.
        The case is cited as Ohio v. Robinette, No. 95-891.
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

German State Plans To Sell Marijuana Over The Counter

        November 19, 1996, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany:  The small German state of Schleswig-Holstein recently announced plans to sell marijuana over the counter in an attempt to separate cannabis from the "hard" drug market, according to Reuters News Service.  The state said it will soon apply to the federal drugs agency for a permit to sell marijuana.
        The state Health Minister, Heide Moser, said authorities were losing credibility by treating marijuana as if it were as a dangerous as other "harder" drugs such as cocaine and heroin.  "General warnings about the dangers of drugs are no longer being taken seriously," she said.
        The idea drew criticism from the German federal government whose spokesman said that, "Schleswig-Holstein's stance has little to do with reality."
        The state, which is governed by a coalition of Social Democrats and environmentalist Greens, said it had not yet decided precisely where and how much cannabis would be available if its project wins approval.
        Marijuana is technically illegal in Germany, but the Supreme Court ruled in 1994 that possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use should no longer be punished.