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February 5, 1998

Republican Coalition Proposes Life Without Parole For Kansas
Marijuana Growers

        February 5, 1998, Topeka, KS:   A Republican coalition of 38 state representatives is backing legislation that imposes a sentence of life without parole to any individual convicted of growing 100 or more marijuana plants.
        "This legislation would enact one of the most severe anti-marijuana statutes in the country," said NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq.  "It is shocking to believe that this is the direction some states are heading in regards to non-violent marijuana offenses, especially at a time when much of the Western world is shifting toward policies of marijuana decriminalization."
        House Bill 2367, presently before the House Judiciary Committee, applies to persons who grow marijuana as well as those who possess significant quantities of the drug.  The Committee held its third hearing on the bill Monday, but has yet to take any serious action.  The Committee must decide on all pending legislation by February 28.
        "Since the potential harm stemming from the cultivation of 100 or more marijuana plants is relatively minor when compared to violent offenses, it is impossible to justify this sort of mandatory punishment," said Tanya Kangas, Director of Litigation for The NORML Foundation.
        Kansas law currently allows inmates convicted of capital murder or murder in the first degree to be eligible for parole after serving 25 years of their sentence, Kangas noted.  "Apparently, Kansas Republicans are prepared to punish non-violent marijuana growers more severely than murderers," she said.
        Presently, federal law mandates a five year sentence for persons found growing 100 marijuana plants.
        For more information, please contact either Paul Armentano or Keith Stroup of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

Local Officials Pledge Support For Medical Cannabis Dispensaries Named
In Federal Lawsuit

        February 5, 1998, Oakland, CA:   Officials in Oakland, Mendocino County, and Santa Cruz unanimously passed resolutions condemning the federal government's effort to close down local cannabis buyers' clubs.
        "It is important that the governmental leaders in the jurisdiction[s] most directly impacted by the federal lawsuit are unanimous," said Oakland attorney Robert Raich who, along with NORML Legal Committee member William Panzer, represents the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Club.   "Republicans and Democrats alike recognize that medical marijuana distribution benefits both public health and safety.  The Clinton administration should heed their call and immediately dismiss the lawsuit with prejudice."
        Last week, a U.S. district court judge combined the six cases against the clubs into one.  The facilities targeted in the federal complaint are: San Francisco Cannabis Cultivators' Club, the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Club, San Francisco Flower Therapy, the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, the Santa Cruz Cannabis Buyers' Club, and the Ukiah Cannabis Buyers' Club.  To date, not a single public official in any of the communities served by the six dispensaries have endorsed the federal action.
        "Public officials are satisfied with the way cannabis buyers' clubs are implementing the spirit of Proposition 215," said NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq.  "They oppose attempts from Washington to stifle the will of the voters and the needs of seriously ill patients who depend on these facilities."
        Oakland city officials called the local buyers' club "a well-organized, safe, and responsible" facility, and urged the federal government "to desist from any and all actions that pose obstacles to access to cannabis for Oakland residents."  Similarly, the Mendocino Board of Supervisors resolved its support for the Ukiah Cannabis Buyers' Club, and further called on Congress to conduct hearings on the legalization of marijuana.  The Santa Cruz City Council resolved to support the Santa Cruz Cannabis Buyers' Club as well as a local dispensary not named in the suit, The Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana.
        Public hearings in the federal lawsuit are scheduled to begin on March 24.
        For more information, please contact either Dale Gieringer of California NORML @ (415) 563-5858 or Attorney William Panzer @ (510) 834-1892.

Hawaii Supreme Court Strikes Down Marijuana Challenge

        February 5, 1998, Honolulu, HI:   Hawaii's 1978 privacy amendment to the state constitution does not allow individuals to possess or use marijuana for recreational purposes, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled on Friday.
        "In as much as we are convinced that the [1978 Constitutional Convention] delegates who adopted the privacy provision did not intend to legalize contraband drugs, we also believe that the voters who later ratified the privacy provision did not intend such a result," Associate Justice Mario Ramil stated in a 36-page opinion.  He was joined by Chief Justice Ronald Moon.   Justices Robert Klein and Paula Nakayama wrote a separate concurring opinion, and Associate Justice Steven Levinson dissented.
        The 4-1 decision affirmed the petty misdemeanor conviction of Lloyd Mallan, who was caught smoking marijuana in his car in 1990.   Mallan's challenge -- which had been pending before the Hawaiian Supreme Court for four years -- was the first time the high court ruled on whether the 1978 privacy amendment legalized the simple possession of marijuana.
        Justice Ramil ruled that Mallan did not have a "fundamental right" to smoke marijuana recreationally.  However, the Court's opinion specified that the ruling did not address the use of marijuana for medicinal or spiritual purposes.
        "It appears that the court is leaving the door open for future constitutional challenges, particularly on the medical use issue," NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. said.
        For more information, please contact Keith Stroup of NORML @ (202) 483-5500 or Donald Topping of The Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii @ (808) 988-6287.

School Anti-Drug Programs Preaching "Zero Tolerance" Receive Failing Grade From
National Research Journal

        February 5, 1998, Thousand Oaks, CA:   The most comprehensive collection of scientific evidence to date suggests that "zero tolerance" drug prevention programs such as D.A.R.E. fail to prevent drug use among America's youth, states the February issue of the national research journal Evaluation Review.  Research published in the issue also indicates that "misleading or inadequate evaluation methods [are] being used to justify these programs' widespread application."
        Five new studies provide evidence that "current programs and their conceptually flawed underpinnings cannot consistently prevent youth from using or abusing substances," said Dr. Joel Brown of the Center for Educational Research and Development.  "Th[is] research ... represents one of the first coordinated attempts to challenge the myopic approach to program evaluation and look at the broader issues of students' well-being."
        The federal government currently spends about $2.4 billion annually on youth drug prevention programs, according to General Accounting Office (GAO) 1997 estimates.
        For more information, please contact either Michael Shellenberger of Communication Works @ (415) 255-1946 or Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.