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March 12, 1998

"War On Drugs" Can't Succeed, Australian Drug Policy Head Admits
Okays Chief Police Commissioner's Plan To "Caution" Rather Than Arrest
Marijuana Users

        March 12, 1998, Victoria, Australia:   The chief police commissioner for the Australian state of Victoria, Neil Comrie, announced that he is likely to order police to "caution" rather than criminally charge people found in possession of small amounts of marijuana.  The plan drew immediate praise from Professor David Penington -- director of the State Government's Drug Task Force -- who said that many young people find marijuana prohibition "hypocritical."
        "We know that alcohol abuse causes far more deaths [than marijuana]," Penington said.
        Under the new system, individuals will receive a warning from police for possessing marijuana.  Individuals may receive no more than two cautions, must have no prior criminal convictions for drug offenses, and agree to being cautioned, the Australian Associated Press reported.
        Presently, three Australian states have implemented policies decriminalizing the personal use of marijuana.  Federal statistics indicate that one-third of the population have tried the drug.
        "A 'War on Drugs,' which is in effect a war on drug users, can never succeed, as the traffickers just have too many ways in which they can brings drugs into the country or manufacture them," Penington said.   Penington himself recommended that the government decriminalize marijuana in 1996 as head of Premiere Jeff Kennett's advisory council on drug reform, but the state failed to endorse the measure.
        State Opposition leader John Brumby, said that Comrie's administrative decision demonstrates Kennett's failure to provide leadership on the drug issue.
        "It is an abject failure of leadership on Premiere Kennett's behalf that we have to have the chief commissioner of police in this state making that decision because the Premiere lacked the courage to do it," he said.
        Comrie said that he will issue a final decision in two months.  He said that he will also consider whether to implement such a policy concerning the possession of other drugs.
        "My position is that I have a totally open mind to it," he said.
        For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

CNN Internet Poll Shows 96 Percent Of Respondents Support Use Of Marijuana
For Medicinal Purposes

        March 12, 1998, Atlanta, GA:   Nearly 25,000 respondents to an ongoing CNN Internet poll said they "support the use of marijuana for medical purposes."  Only four percent of respondents, less than 1,000 voters overall, said they opposed the drug's use by seriously ill patients.
        "Medical marijuana is clearly an issue where the American public is far ahead of the federal politicians," NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. said.  "Legislators need to realize that legal access to medical marijuana is a politically safe issue that is supported among a majority of mainstream Americans across all political boundaries."
        Separate surveys conducted in 1997 by ABC News, The Luntz Research Company, CBS News, Lake Research, and a statewide Florida polling firm all showed that a clear majority of the public favored legalizing medical marijuana, Stroup added.
        "The CNN poll is simply the latest," he said.
        For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.  A breakdown of medical marijuana opinion polls conducted between 1995 and 1997 appears on NORML's website at: http://www.norml.org/.

Judge Dismisses Felony Charge Over Possession Of Legal Hemp Seeds

        March 12, 1998, Hilo, HI:   A Circuit Court Judge dismissed a seven-year old indictment charging marijuana activist Aaron Anderson with commercial promotion of marijuana after he was found in possession of legal hemp bird seeds.  A jury voted 9-3 to acquit Anderson last October, but a judge later granted the prosecutor's request to retry the case.
        "I can't think of a bigger waste of taxpayer dollars than the money spent prosecuting Aaron Anderson for purchasing a product recognized as legal under federal law," said Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of The NORML Foundation.  "After seven years, it finally appears this issue has been put to rest."
        "We believe the judge did the right thing based on the law and the facts of this case," said attorney Brian DeLime, who represented Anderson.
        Prosecutors charged Anderson, age 60, with second-degree commercial promotion of marijuana, a class B felony that carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.  Charges were filed after Anderson ordered a 25-pound shipment of hemp seeds from the mainland in 1991.
        Circuit Court Judge Greg Nakamura cited the outcome of Anderson's trial last year, the age of the indictment, and budgetary constraints as reasons for dismissing the charges against the defendant.
        Although the importation and possession of hemp seeds is legal under federal law, prosecutors argued that the seeds fit the legal definition of marijuana under state law.  Police also alleged that a small percentage of the seeds sprouted.  Last year, Deputy Prosecutor Kay Iopa testified that her office would not prosecute a "little old lady" if she possessed hemp seeds, but would file charges against an individual like Anderson who "is very vocally, very outwardly, advocating the legalization of marijuana."
        Presently, Anderson and former co-defendant Roger Christie -- who had similar charges against him dismissed last year -- are awaiting trial in a federal countersuit against the county alleging that they were targeted for prosecution because of their outspoken beliefs.
        For more information, please contact either Aaron Anderson of the Hawaii Hemp Council @ (808) 965-0300 or Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.  Roger Christie may be contacted @ (808) 325-0702.

Empower America Conference Attacks Medical Marijuana

        March 12, 1998, Washington, D.C.:   A sparsely attended afternoon conference organized by Empower America repeated prohibitionist warnings about the dangers of relaxing federal drug policies and urged voters to reject initiatives legalizing marijuana for medical use.
        "For physicians to prescribe burning leaves is hypocrisy," explained Dr. Robert Dupont, former head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).  Dupont was joined by Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrator Thomas Constantine, Swiss doctor Ernst Aeschbach, and California Bureau of Narcotics Officer Christy McCampbell.  Empower America co-director William Bennett moderated the symposium.  Only about 40 people attended the event.
        "The media and the public are paying less attention to these type of rhetoric-ladened prohibitionist events than ever before," said Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of The NORML Foundation.  "They understand that the issue of medical access to marijuana is a public health issue, and that it has no place in a forum emphasizing the 'War on Drugs.'"
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.