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July 17, 1997

Drug-Law Reform Advocates Turn In Twice The Signatures Necessary
To Resurrect Proposition 200

          July 17, 1997, Phoenix, AZ:  Provisions allowing doctors to prescribe marijuana to seriously ill patients and mandating that individuals convicted of the personal possession or use of a controlled substance not be sentenced to jail may again become law in Arizona.
          The controversial proposals, approved by voters last November by a nearly 2-1 margin, were repealed by the Legislature this spring.  Backers of the initiative, operating under the moniker The People Have Spoken, filed referendums in May opposing the Legislature's changes.  Yesterday, they turned in approximately 200,000 signatures of registered voters to the Secretary of State's office, nearly twice the number required to put the Legislature's action on hold, pending a citizen vote in November 1998.
          If the signatures are verified, a process that will take almost one month, the original provisions will be allowed to take effect.
          "The people are livid about what the Legislature did," Dr. Jeffrey Singer, co-chairman of The People Have Spoken, told The Arizona Republic.  "Voters made a decision on the issue and [lawmakers] are trying to thwart the will of the people."
          "Let the Legislature try to claim that Arizona voters were somehow 'duped' again," said NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, referring to allegations made by some state officials this spring.  "The overwhelming turnout on this signature drive to reinstate the guidelines of Proposition 200 clearly demonstrates that Arizonans want access to medical marijuana for the seriously ill and do not believe in arresting and jailing non-violent drug offenders."
          For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.  For additional information, please contact Sam Vagenas of The People Have Spoken @ (602) 222-6639.

Former Presidential Candidate Funds Campaign Opposing Washington D.C.
Medical Marijuana Initiative

          July 17, 1997, Washington, D.C.:  Americans for Hope, Growth, and Opportunity (AHGO), a political advocacy organization headed by former Republican presidential hopeful Steve Forbes, announced that it will fund a campaign opposing a Washington D.C. medical marijuana initiative.
          "[District] children are being targeted by twisted drug predators," Forbes claimed, referring to backers of a proposal to permit seriously ill patients to use marijuana with a doctor's recommendation.  "AHGO is launching [a] radio campaign, issuing a memo to Congressional leaders, and working with local leaders and anti-drug coalitions to mobilize public opinion against this very serious threat," he said.
          The district's Initiative 57 would legalize the possession and cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes under a physician's supervision.  Members of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT-UP), a national AIDS advocacy organization, filed the initiative earlier this year after interim Council Chair Charlene Drew Jarvis and U.S. Attorney Eric Holder proposed legislation to stiffen penalties for the possession of marijuana.  "We should not make criminals out of sick and dying people who are simply trying to improve the quality and quantity of their lives," ACT-UP spokesman Steve Michael explained.  Presently, thousands of AIDS patients in the district use marijuana medicinally to combat the effects of the wasting syndrome and nausea.
          The language of the initiative is based upon a successful California campaign exempting medical marijuana patients who possess a doctor's recommendation from state prosecution for marijuana possession or cultivation.  Federal law currently forbids any physician from legally prescribing marijuana for any illness, including glaucoma, cancer chemotherapy, spasticity disorders, or AIDS wasting syndrome.
          "This is a shockingly misguided effort by Mr. Forbes that reflects a total lack of compassion for those less fortunate," said NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup.  "Whatever one may feel about the 'War on Drugs,' denying an effective medication to seriously ill and dying patients should never be part of it.  Mr. Forbes' conduct is shameful."
          Backers of Initiative 57 must gather 16,763 valid signatures by December 8, 1997, to qualify for the September 1998 ballot.  Proponents are hoping to gather the bulk of the signatures on July 22 when district residents vote in a special election for Council Chair.
          For more information, please contact either R. Keith Stroup of NORML @ (202) 483-5500 or Steve Michael of ACT-UP @ (202) 547-9404 for more information.

White House Says Weld Ambassadorship Will Move Forward Despite Senate Objections Over Medical Marijuana

          July 17, 1997, Washington, D.C.:  President Clinton announced that he will nominate Gov. William Weld as ambassador to Mexico despite criticism from Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) that the governor is not "ambassador quality" because he supports legal access to medical marijuana.
          "The president is going to stand up and fight for Gov. Weld," White House spokesman Mike McCurry told reporters on Wednesday.  "He intends to proceed with the nomination of Gov. Weld as U.S. ambassador to Mexico."
          Sources close to Helms responded that the senator would block Weld's appointment.  Helms, whose Foreign Relations Committee must approve all ambassadorial nominees, has openly criticized Weld for his support of the use of marijuana as a medicine.  Tolerance toward the use of medical marijuana could make Weld unsuitable to be an ambassador of a major drug producing and trafficking nation like Mexico, Helms told reporters in June.  Helms is a co-sponsor of federal legislation that would sentence physicians who recommend the medical use of marijuana up to eight years in prison.
          Weld signed legislation last year reinvigorating a statewide program that would distribute marijuana to certified patients who suffer from serious illnesses like glaucoma and cancer.  The bill also creates an "affirmative defense" of medical necessity for some patients who use medical marijuana.  Earlier this year, Weld publicly stated that he has "no problem" with the use of marijuana for medical purposes.
          For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751 or NORML Mass/Cann @ (617) 944-2266.

Award Winning Teacher, Hemp Proponent Fired By Kentucky School Officials

          July 17, 1997, Simpsonville, KY:  Donna Cockrel, an award-winning elementary school teacher who became immersed in controversy after bringing Hollywood actor Woody Harrelson to her class to speak about industrial hemp in May 1996, was fired by Shelby County Schools Superintendent Leon Mooneyhan on Tuesday.
          In a letter from Mooneyhan attained by the Lexington Herald-Leader, the superintendent states that Cockrel was fired for alleged insubordination, conduct unbecoming a teacher, inefficiency, and incompetence.  Mooneyhan claimed that his action was not based on Cockrel's views on hemp.
          Cockrel said she intends to appeal her dismissal and seek a public hearing.  She has stated in the past that she believed she was being persecuted for her stand on hemp.  Last July, Mooneyhan acknowledged that Cockrel was being investigated by school officials because of complaints from parents and local law enforcement officers following Harrelson's presentation.
          At that time, Cockrel adamantly defended her actions.  "I still believe what I did in the classroom was positive," said Cockrel, who participates in a state program known as Environment in the Classroom.  She said that industrial hemp, as well as kenaf, soybeans and other alternatives to growing tobacco are frequently discussed in her class.  "I believe in myself.  My students believe in me.  If I'm not allowed to teach the truth to students, I'd rather quit teaching."
          For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.