News Release

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May 7, 1998

Federal Marijuana Eradication Program Seizes Nothing But Ditchweed, State
Auditor's Report Says

        May 7, 1998, Washington, D.C.:   Over 99 percent of the marijuana eradicated by the Drug Enforcement Administration's federally funded "Cannabis Suppression Program" is nonpsychoactive hemp, reveals a 1998 Vermont State Auditor's report. 
        "The national total of ditchweed eradicated compared to the total number of plants seized is 99.28 percent resulting in less than one percent cultivated indoor and outdoor plant eradication percentage at the national level," the report concludes.  It further notes that each cultivated plant seized by the DEA costs taxpayers an average of $3.02.  Nationally, the program spent over $9 million for marijuana eradication in all 50 states in 1996.
        Wild growing marijuana patches -- known as ditchweed -- are common throughout the southern and midwestern United States.  Many of the plants are remnants from government-subsidized plots grown during World War II when low-THC strains of marijuana were harvested for their fiber content.  This strain of marijuana will not intoxicate users when smoked.
        "The millions of taxpayers dollars spent targeting and eliminating ditchweed is a prime example of the type of government waste inherent to the War on Drugs," charged Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation.   "It is further counterproductive when one considers the economic and industrial benefits hemp holds as an agricultural crop.  While most Western nations are now encouraging their farmers to grow hemp, America blindly continues to support efforts to eliminate this proven worldwide cash crop."
        Presently, farmers in over 30 countries -- including Canada, France, England, Germany, Japan, and Australia -- grow hemp for industrial purposes.
        Vermont state legislator Fred Maslack (R-Poultney), who sits on the House Agricultural Committee, called the findings "damning." 
        "As far as the War on Drugs is concerned, they would be better off pulling up goldenrod," said Maslack, who sponsored a successful hemp research bill in 1996.  "It is no wonder the DEA is fighting hemp tooth and nail, because that is what their whole campaign is against, in the form of ditchweed.  [This] is a great fraud being perpetrated on the American people ... [and] it is high time to reallocate this law enforcement money."
        According to the Associated Press, however, federal funding for the eradication program will almost double in 1999.  Recently, members of Congress and Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey earmarked six million dollars to combat marijuana cultivation in Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia.  Of those three states, West Virginia currently spends the most dollars targeting ditchweed.  The Vermont report found that more than 93 percent of the total plants eradicated there were hemp.
        For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

ABA Association Opposes House Resolution Attacking Medical Marijuana

        May 7, 1998, Washington, D.C.:   The American Bar Association (ABA) voiced strong opposition this week to an effort by House Republicans to pass a "sense of the House Resolution" stating that "marijuana is a dangerous and addictive drug ... [that] should not be legalized for medical use." 
        "American Bar Association policy 'recognizes that persons who suffer from serious illnesses for which marijuana has a medically recognized therapeutic value have a right to be treated with marijuana under the supervision of a physician,'" stated ABA Government Affairs Director Robert Evans in a letter to Congress.  "We urge the House to defeat H. Res. 372."
        House Resolution 372 -- spearheaded by Rep. Bill McCollum (R-Fla.), chair of the Crime Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee -- awaits action by the House.  The measure declares that "the United States House of Representatives is unequivocally opposed to legalizing marijuana for medical use, and urges the defeat of state initiatives which would seek to legalize marijuana [as a medicine.]"
        NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. praised the ABA's stance against H. Res. 372.  "The ABA has a long history of fighting for the rights of seriously ill patients who benefit from the therapeutic use of marijuana,"  he said.  "Their support is crucial if we are to derail this ignorant and mean-spirited bill."
        The ABA has been a supporter of legalizing prescriptive access to medical marijuana since 1984.
        For more information on House Resolution 372, please contact either Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

No Link Between Decriminalization and Increased Marijuana Use, Australia
Report Finds

        May 7, 1998, Melbourne, Australia:   Decriminalizing marijuana does not lead to increased use, concluded a two year national study conducted by the Drug and Alcohol Council of South Australia (DASC).   The study compared use rates in Australian states that have decriminalized the simple possession of marijuana to those that maintain criminal penalties.
        "The study showed there was no evidence that the introduction of expiation (on the spot fines) for marijuana use has led to any increase in the prevalence or intensity and frequency of marijuana use," DASC clinical policy director Robert Ali said.
        The study also determined that decriminalization saved communities significant financial costs.
        The findings of the DASC study mimic those of a 1997 Australian study that found "no significant changes [in] ... patterns of cannabis use" among students in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) following the state's decision to decriminalize marijuana possession in 1992.  South Australia and the Northern Territory also implemented decriminalization in recent years.
        DASC researchers presented the study's findings to Australia's health and justice ministers on Monday.  The Ministers said that any changes in marijuana law should be left up to individual jurisdictions.
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

Jury Overturns Court Martial After Hearing Marine Consumed Legal Hemp Oil

        May 7, 1998, Camp Pendleton, CA:   For the second time in six months, a jury overturned a military court martial after hearing evidence that hemp oil may test positive for marijuana on a urine test.  The decision acquits Lance Corporal Kevin Boyd of charges that he smoked marijuana.
        "There is little doubt that the ingestion of some legal hemp oil products can test positive for marijuana on a urine test shortly after consumption," NORML Publications Director Paul Armentano said.  A series of studies conducted this past summer and reported in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology indicated that regular users of the oil may test positive for low levels of THC.   Those studies, along with a December 1997 acquittal of U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant Spencer Gaines, prompted some within the drug testing industry to call on Congress to amend federal law to prohibit the possession and sale of hemp products.
        Boyd's attorney, Captain Todd Wallace, said that his client's acquittal could pose serious trouble for the military's random drug testing program.
        "It's going to be tough on the government [prosecutors] because anyone who 'pops' on a drug test will argue this [defense,]" he said.
        Hemp health products, such as hemp seed oil, are sold commercially in nutrition stores across the nation and consumed for their high concentrations of amino and fatty acids.
        For more information, please contact either Paul Armentano or Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.