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. . . a weekly service for the media on news items related to marijuana prohibition.

June 19, 1997

National Association Of Broadcasters Enlists In War On Marijuana

          June 19, 1997, Washington, D.C.:  The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) announced that it will join forces with the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America (PDFA) to launch a nationwide television campaign against marijuana use.  This effort comes just two months after the ABC television network aired a month-long advertising and programming campaign against drug use.
          In a June 17 press release, NAB declared that it will be distributing an anti-marijuana booklet to broadcasters at all NAB-member stations.  The booklet, produced in cooperation with HHS Secretary Donna Shalala, gives examples of how stations can become involved in helping their communities "combat marijuana and other illegal drug use."
          "We are pleased that Secretary Shalala has asked us broadcasters to join in the fight against drug abuse," said NAB President & CEO Edward O. Fritts.  "Broadcasters have a distinct and special link to their audience and we are always happy when we can assist in the educational efforts for the communities that we serve."
          Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of The NORML Foundation, criticized the NAB's involvement in the campaign.  "Broadcasters have no business being involved in an anti-marijuana campaign that is based upon propaganda and half-truths," he said.  St. Pierre speculated that NAB-member stations may pattern this latest anti-marijuana campaign after the ABC television network's recent anti-drug effort.
          ABC's crusade, which featured hourly public service announcements from the PDFA, drew generally low television ratings and was maligned by many in the media.  Critics, such as nationally syndicated columnist Robert Scheer, labeled the effort hypocritical.  "To create it's 'March on Drugs' campaign, ABC turned to the Omnicon Group advertising agency, the same agency that handles the Anheuser-Busch account, which spends $156 million a year on network advertising," Scheer wrote in a March 11 Los Angeles Times column.  "This glaring double-standard demonstrates, once again, that we are serious only about ending drug abuse that does not turn a legal commercial profit.  ...Surely, ... a warning that is transparently dishonest is worse than useless."
          For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

Governor To Decide Fate Of Marijuana Re-Criminalization Effort In Oregon

          June 19, 1997, Salem, OR:  A Republican-sponsored bill that would recriminalize the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana passed the Oregon State Legislature on Wednesday and now stands before Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) . The governor has five days to decide whether to sign or veto the bill.
          House Bill 3643 increases the penalty for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana from a non-criminal "violation" to a class C misdemeanor crime.  Under the new law, individuals would be arrested and, if convicted, could face up to 30 days in jail, a $1,000 fine, and loss of their driving privileges for six months.
          "This ill-advised legislation will cost the state at least $2 million per year, and the legislature intends to pay for this added cost by taking the money from youth crime and drug prevention funds," said NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq.  "This bill would effectively send thousands of otherwise law-abiding Oregonians to jail for smoking marijuana."
          State activist Paul Stanford agrees.  "The state is already reeling financially ... and now the legislature [wants] to spend our tax dollars to arrest, try, and jail nonviolent cannabis users," he said.  "Oregon cannot afford such an expensive, ill conceived bill."
          Oregon was the first state to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana in 1973. Presently, marijuana decriminalization laws remain in effect in ten states: California, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Oregon.  Individuals found possessing small amounts of marijuana in these states receive a traffic-like citation and must pay a small fine.
          For more information, please contact either Sandee Burbank @ (541) 298-1031 or Paul Stanford of the Campaign for the Restoration and Regulation of Hemp @ (503) 235-4606.  For additional information, please contact R. Keith Stroup of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

Drug Medicalization Initiative Pushes For Ballot In Washington

          June 19, 1997, Seattle, WA:  An initiative effort to reform Washington state's illicit drug policies is entering its final phase of signature gathering.  Activists have two weeks left to acquire the 179,248 signatures necessary to place Proposition 685, the "Drug Medicalization and Prevention Act of 1997," on the 1997 state ballot.
          Proposition 685 models itself after an Arizona drug-reform initiative passed in November by 65 percent of the voters.  The initiative makes the following changes in state drug laws:
          * Requires that any person who commits a violent crime under the influence of drugs serve 100 percent of his or her sentence.
          * Permits doctors to recommend Schedule I controlled substances such as marijuana to seriously and terminally ill patients.
          * Provides that persons convicted of non-violent drug possession crimes successfully undergo court supervised drug treatment programs and probation instead of being sentenced to prison.
          * Requires that nonviolent persons currently in prison for personal possession or use of illegal drugs, and not serving a concurrent sentence for another crime, or previously convicted under any habitual criminal statute in any jurisdiction of the United States, be made eligible for immediate parole and drug treatment, education, and community service.
          A story in this Tuesday's Seattle Times reports that backers of the proposition expect to have more than enough signatures by the July 3 deadline to meet the state ballot requirement.  Proponents recently hired paid signature gatherers to step up efforts in the final weeks before the deadline.
          "We plan on being on the ballot and are looking forward toward ... the rest of the campaign ... [this] fall," Dr. Robert Killian, the initiative's sponsor, told NORML.
          For more information, please contact Madeline Johnson of Citizens for Drug Policy Reform @ (206) 781-6795.  Copies of the initiative are available from NORML upon request.