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January 22, 1998

17 Year-Old First Time Offender Faces 10 Years For Role
In $20 Marijuana Sale

        January 22, 1998, Fayette, MO:   A Missouri judge sentenced an adolescent first time offender to ten years in state prison after finding him guilty of selling $20 of marijuana within 2,000 feet of the Central Methodist College.  State law classifies the offense as a Class A Felony that carries a sentencing range of ten years to life.
        Billy Polson, 17, helped Alex Martinez acquire 3.4 grams of marijuana from students at the Missouri college campus.  Martinez -- who dated Polson's sister at the time -- later revealed that he was working undercover for the Boonville Police Department.  He also admitted purchasing malt liquor for the defendant shortly before Polson agreed to sell him marijuana.
        Missouri attorney and NORML board member Dan Viets -- who represented Polson -- called the felony conviction "horribly unfair."
        "I told the judge that if he wanted to help Polson get along with his life, then giving him a felony conviction record was the worst thing he could do," Viets said.  He explained that the judge had the option of placing Polson on probation without a conviction.  Viets also said that the prosecutor in the case, Greg Robinson, could have charged Polson with a lesser offense to avoid the excessive sentence.  Viets said that Robinson wished to make an example out of Polson before the upcoming elections.
        Attorney Tanya Kangas, Director of Litigation for The NORML Foundation, questioned why law enforcement would use its limited resources to target someone like Polson.  "Alex Martinez was a reserve officer with the Boonville Police Department," she explained.  "He was paid to become intimate with a young woman to gain the trust of her younger brother.  The police department paid Alex to encourage a minor to drink alcohol.   The department paid Alex to arrange a transaction close to the college to increase Bill's sentence under a law designed to protect elementary school children from drug dealers.   Except here in this case, the law served to incarcerate a kid who is younger than the attendees of the nearby school.  Since when is this the proper role of law enforcement?"
        Polson is presently serving his ten year sentence in a Missouri Department of Corrections bootcamp facility.  The judge has the option of placing Polson on probation within 120 days.
        For more information, please contact either Tanya Kangas of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751 or Dan Viets of The NORML Legal Committee @ (573) 443-6866.

AIDS Treatment Publication Defends Medical Marijuana

        January 22, 1998, San Francisco, CA:   AIDS Treatment News, a San Francisco-based bi-monthly medical journal, voiced support for efforts to allow the use of marijuana as a medicine in its most recent issue.
        The following excerpt is taken from the "Comment" section of the January 23 issue.

        "The public has strongly supported legitimate medical use of marijuana for years.  Whenever given a chance to vote or express its opinion in surveys, almost all of the opposition is from government officials and anti-drug professionals.  Meanwhile, the scientific case for medical use keeps growing stronger.  Far more dangerous psychoactive drugs, like morphine, are successfully allowed in medical use.  Somehow marijuana has become a symbolic or political hard line to be maintained by anti-drug believers regardless of human cost.   The costs will mount until the public can organize itself to insist that those who urgently need this medicine can obtain and use it legally."

        The issue also featured articles on medical marijuana patient Will Foster -- an Oklahoma man sentenced in 1997 to serve 93 years in prison for growing marijuana to treat the inflammation of severe rheumatoid arthritis -- and the experimental anti-inflammatory drug CT-3 that is derived from a marijuana metabolite.
        For more information, please contact either Paul Armentano or Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

American Farm Bureau Reverses Position On Industrial Hemp

        January 22, 1998, Charlotte, NC:   The American Farm Bureau Federation reversed its two-year position supporting research and domestic cultivation of industrial hemp, at its January 14 annual convention.   The Federation is the largest farming organization in the United States.
        Delegates to the convention voted 198-168 to go on record against producing hemp and eliminated previous language in favor of research.   Two years earlier, delegates unanimously endorsed a resolution to "encourage research into the viability and economic potential of industrial production in the United States."  At that time, delegates further approved that "such research include planting test plots ... using modern agricultural techniques."
        Eric Steenstra, owner of the Virginia based hemp company Ecolution, called the Farm Bureau's action a definite "setback."
        "It is a big disappointment to see farmers succumbing to pressure from law enforcement," Steenstra said.  He charged that the Farm Bureau changed their position based upon inaccurate information, and challenged the argument that hemp plots would be used as a cover for growing marijuana.
        "Once hemp cultivation is a tightly regulated, licensed industry, it is difficult to believe that this will be a legitimate reason for concern," he said.
        Missouri Farm Bureau president Charles Kruse led the charge to repeal the federation's position.  Kruse said he was swayed after hearing testimony from state law enforcement who alleged that marijuana and hemp would be indistinguishable to police officers.  Law enforcement also argued that hemp was unlikely to be a profitable cash crop.
        "Since when are law enforcement agents experts on agriculture and the fiber industry?" asked Allen St. Pierre.  St. Pierre noted over 30 countries, including Canada, already allow for the commercial cultivation of industrial hemp.  "Apparently, law enforcement in those countries has no difficulty distinguishing hemp from marijuana."
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

Former U.S. Attorney General, New York Times Columnist, Others To Speak Out On
The Drug War

        January 22, 1998, Boston, MA:   The Voluntary Committee of Lawyers will coordinate a forum on January 29 to examine the present state of the "War on Drugs."  Panelists for the event are Federal District Court Judge Nancy Gertner, law professor John G. S. Flym of Northeastern University Law School, and Dr. David Lewis of the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University.  New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis will moderate the event.  Former U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richardson will also be in attendance.
        For more information, please contact either Richard Evans @ (413) 586-1348 or Michael Cutler @ (617) 739-9093.