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

February 6, 1997

Record Number Of State Legislatures To Decide On
Industrial Hemp In 1997

        February 6, 1997, Washington, D.C.:  At least ten state legislatures will decide on measures pertaining to the cultivation of industrial hemp in 1997, the largest number since hemp was made illegal by the federal government in 1937 under the Marihuana Tax Act.
        "Domestic sales of imported hemp products raked in approximately $25 million dollars in sales in 1994 alone and the American Farm Bureau now calls hemp 'one of the most promising crops in half a century,'" said NORML's Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre.  "The explosion of industrial hemp legislation at the state level is a direct result of growing awareness among legislators and the public that this is a viable crop for American farmers."
        Presently, legislators have introduced industrial hemp legislation in at least six states: Colorado, Hawaii, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, and Virginia.  While some of these measures simply mandate state-run committees to study the economic benefits of, and barriers to, production of industrial hemp, other more progressive bills allow for test plots of hemp to be cultivated for research purposes.
        "The state of Hawaii needs to act now and plant test plots of industrial cannabis hemp so that it -- and not its competitors -- will be in the position to establish important business ties with the manufacturers of hemp-based fiber, pulp, paper, oil, paints, sealants, fuel and food," states legislation introduced in Hawaii by Rep. Cynthia Thielen (R-Kailau Kameohe), one of three state bills introduced to allow for domestic cultivation.
        According to former Colorado Senator and hemp advocate Lloyd Casey, representatives and senators in at least six additional states "range from 75 percent to 95 percent" sure that they will also introduce industrial hemp legislation in 1997.  These states are: Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Oregon, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.
        "Industrial hemp provides a window of opportunity for U.S. agriculture producers to take advantage of a highly profitable fiber crop [with] many uses ...," wrote Bob Winter in the June 17, 1996 edition of Farm Bureau News -- the weekly newspaper of the American Farm Bureau Federation.
        "International trade agreements (e.g., GATT and NAFTA) recognize the designation of 0.3 percent ... THC as the distinction between industrial hemp and marijuana.  [Yet,] current U.S. law[s] do not differentiate between hemp and marijuana.  Thanks to these laws, ... U.S. farmers are prohibited from growing a highly profitable crop without government subsidy."
        Often described as marijuana's misunderstood cousin, industrial hemp is from the same plant species (Cannabis sativa) that produces marijuana.  Unlike marijuana, however, industrial hemp has only minute amounts of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient that gives marijuana its euphoric and medicinal properties.  Currently most of Europe and Asia grow hemp for industrial purposes. Both Australia and Canada engage in hemp cultivation for research purposes.
        For more information, please contact Laura Kriho of the Colorado Hemp Initiative Project (CO-HIP) @ (303) 784-5632 or Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.  Lloyd Casey may be contacted via e-mail at:  For updates on state hemp legislation, please check out NORML's website @: or e-mail CO-HIP at:  Copies of NORML's position paper: Can America Afford Not To Grow This Plant? are available upon request.

State Senator Proposes Cultivating Marijuana For Medical Research

        February 3, 1997, Sacramento, CA:  Senator John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara) recently released language seeking to codify Proposition 215, the medical marijuana initiative passed by California voters in November.  The measure, known as the "Proposition 215 Implementation Act of 1997," will authorize major clinical research regarding medical marijuana as well as address distribution options and make minor clarifying amendments to Proposition 215.  The language will be introduced to the state legislature later this month.
        "On November 6, ... 56% of [the California electorate] voted to protect the most basic right of Americans: to be free from inappropriate control by government." said Vasconcellos.  "Now the work begins to ensure the people of California's policy is translated into the most effective practical terms for the Californians it's intended to benefit."
        The bill requires the University of California to establish a Medical Marijuana Research Center and appropriates $2 million per year for three years to fund its operations.  The bill also creates a task force to study options for distribution of medical marijuana and report back to the Legislature with recommendations.
        "If the federal government is unwillingly to conduct real research to benefit sick and dying people, then California will," Vasconcellos said.
        Finally, the measure makes three simple clarifications of Proposition 215:

        The language released yesterday will be introduced as a Senate bill by February 28.
        "This [language] carries forward the will of the voters and deserves bi-partisan support, said Dave Fratello of Americans for Medical Rights.  "California can take the lead in beginning new Phase III human studies of marijuana to speed the drug approval process."
        For more information, please contact either Sen. John Vasconcellos' office @ (916) 445-9740 or Bill Zimmerman of Americans for Medical Rights @ (310) 394-2952.  For more information on medical marijuana or for a copy of NORML's position paper: Making The Case For Medical Marijuana, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

NORML Testifies In Support Of Marijuana Decriminalization Bill In New Hampshire

        February 6, 1997, Concord, New Hampshire:  NORML Legal Committee Co-chair, Michael Cutler, Esq. of Boston, Massachusetts, testified before the New Hampshire subcommittee on Justice and Public Safety on January 29 in favor of legislation reducing the penalty for possession of less than one and one-half ounces of marijuana from a class A misdemeanor to a "violation."  He was joined by the bill's chief sponsor, Rep. Tim Robertson (D/R-Cheshire), and a representative from the local American Civil Liberties Organization (ACLU).
        Cutler discussed the failure of prohibition to deter adult and adolescent marijuana use and access.  He submitted numerous state research studies demonstrating that decriminalization has had virtually no effect on either marijuana use or on related attitudes about marijuana use among American young people in states that enacted such measures over 20 years ago.  Cutler noted that at least two of the representatives attending expressed support for the measure and speculated that New Hampshire's governor may be sympathetic toward the bill.
        Under current state law, possession of marijuana is punishable by a one-year sentence and/or $1,000 fine.  Under Rep. Robertson's proposal (H.B. 118-FN), individuals possessing small amounts of marijuana would receive a ticket and a small fine.
        For more information, please contact Rep. Robertson @ (603) 271-3529 or Attorney Michael Cutler @ (617) 439-4990.