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

March 27, 1997

Oklahoma Legislature Ready To Approve Aerial Spraying Of Controversial Anti-Marijuana Herbicide

        March 27, 1997, Oklahoma City, OK:  Legislation that would allow law enforcement to spray the herbicide glyphosate (brand name: "Round Up") from low-flying helicopters on wild marijuana crops appears on its way to becoming law in Oklahoma.  The bill was overwhelmingly passed by the House and Senate Agriculture Committee despite testimony and heavy campaigning from Oklahoma NORML activists who introduced evidence indicating several potential health and environmental hazards posed by the chemical.  The full Senate is expected to approved the bill shortly.
        "I have [recent] documentation from a doctor in Hawaii detailing scores of complaints from residents due to this herbicide being sprayed aerially," testified Oklahoma NORML President Michael Pearson.  "A mistake such as this [must] not happen ... in Oklahoma."
        Pearson referred to several scientific and anecdotal reports linking glyphosate spraying to various illnesses.  Most recently, a physician in Hawaii -- Dr. Patricia Bailey -- collected incident reports from some 40 persons, ages nine months to 84 years, who claimed to have contracted flu-like symptoms such as nausea and headaches shortly after aerial marijuana-eradication efforts were conducted on the island.  Additional reports of alleged glyphosate-related hazards such as dead wildlife were reported by local Hawaiian television station KGMB and in the Hawaii Tribune-Herald.
        Bailey and Pearson's concerns echo statements made in several environmental publications over the last few years.  For example, a report in the February 1993 issue of Global Pesticide Campaigner called marijuana eradication efforts using glyphosate in Colombia "unsuccessful" and highlighted the chemical's potential dangers.  "Reports from other countries where aerial spraying has been used in anti-drug programs are not encouraging," states the article. "International health workers in Guatemala report acute poisonings in peasants living in areas near eradication spraying, while farmers in these zones have sustained serious damage to their ... crops."
        Closer to home, residents in California have also complained of glyphosate exposure, according to an article in the winter 1995 edition of the Journal of Pesticide Reform.  It states: "In California, the state with the most comprehensive program for reporting pesticide-cause illness, glyphosate was the third most commonly-reported pesticide illness among agricultural workers.  Among landscape maintenance workers, glyphosate was the most commonly reported cause."  The article also called aerial movement of the chemical through unwanted drift "unavoidable."
        Presently, there are numerous 100-acre patches of wild marijuana growing in Oklahoma.  The marijuana is left over from government-subsidized plots grown during World War II when low-THC strains of the plant were harvested for their fiber content.  Commonly referred to as industrial hemp or "ditchweed," this strain of marijuana will not get users "high" when inhaled.
        The bill's sponsor, Rep. Danny Hilliard (D-Sulfur), declared that passage of the legislation is "necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health, and safety."  Law enforcement currently conduct state marijuana eradication efforts on foot using portable glyphosate sprayers.
        For more information on the use of glyphosate in marijuana eradication, please contact Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.  For more information on H.B. 2116, please contact Michael Pearson of Oklahoma NORML @ (405) 840-4367 or via e-mail at:  Rep. Danny Hilliard may be reached at (405) 521-2711 or by writing to the Oklahoma House of Representatives at: 2300 North Lincoln St., Oklahoma City, OK 73105-4885.

Hearing Held In Case Of Arkansas Couple Extradited To America To Face Marijuana Cultivation Charges

        March 27, 1997, Little Rock, AR:  A hearing was held on March 20 in the case Cheryl and Les Mooring, an Arkansas couple who had been extradited last January after fleeing the United States for Holland in 1994 rather than face federal charges for marijuana cultivation.  It is speculated that the Moorings are the first Americans to be successfully extradited from Holland by the United States government to face marijuana charges.
        Evidence was entered by the defense alleging that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) violated the Moorings Fourth Amendment rights by gathering evidence without a search warrant, explained NORML Amicus Curiae Committee Co-Chair Michael Cutler, Esq., who defended Mrs. Mooring pro bono.  After reviewing this evidence and the defense's motion to suppress, the prosecution conceded that the Fourth Amendment issue should be examined further and that Cheryl Mooring played no significant role in her husband's marijuana cultivation.  The prosecution's admission marked a victory for Ms. Mooring and allowed to her to plead guilty to a lesser charge of "misprison of a felony" (failing to turn in someone whom she knew was committing a felony) for which she was immediately released from jail.  No escape charges will be brought against Ms. Mooring.
        Mr. Mooring's guilty plea to the marijuana charges carries a ten year mandatory minimum prison term.  However, the defense negotiated an unusual provision allowing him to withdraw his plea if the suppression motion is eventually granted by the trial or appellate court.  If the courts decide the search was illegal, he will be released.
        Mr. Mooring claims that he uses marijuana to treat chronic pain.  Cutler praised the dismissal of Cheryl Mooring's drug charges as a "tribute to NORML's advocacy."  He further acknowledged the "moderate views" of the trail judge, and most importantly, the Assistant U.S. Attorney "who recognized the injustice of subjecting Cheryl to federal drug law sentencing."
        Cutler notes the Mooring case clearly illustrates the insanity of the drug war.  "The idea that the federal government would engage in a year-and-a-half battle against Dutch opposition to extradite this couple in an effort to keep children drug-free is absolutely ridiculous," summarized Cutler.
        For more information, please contact attorney Michael Cutler @ (617) 439-4990 or Allen St. Pierre of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

Hawaii Court Case To Argue For Religious Use Of Marijuana

        March 25, 1997, Kealakekua, HI:  Jury selection was taken for an upcoming trial to determine whether smoking marijuana is a religious sacrament protected under the United States Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.  This case will be the first argued since the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that Rastafarians can defend themselves against charges of marijuana possession on religious grounds.
        The defendant in the case, the Rev. Dennis Shields, is a minister in the Religion of Jesus Church and claims that the use of marijuana is a sacrament in his church.  He was charged with misdemeanor possession of a detrimental drug in 1994 after police found several ounces of marijuana at his home.  Shields has been a long-time member of the church, which was founded nearly three decades ago.
        The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 strengthened protections for religious groups and was intended to curb criminal prosecutions that interfere with religious beliefs.  Congress passed the law after an Oregon court ruled that Native Americans had no right to use peyote during religious ceremonies.  The act requires the government to show a compelling interest for any prosecution that significantly hinders the exercise of religious freedom.
        For more information, please contact the Rev. Dennis Shields @ (808) 328-9794 or Allen St. Pierre of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.