News Release

1001 Connecticut Ave, NW - Ste 710 - Washington, DC 20036
Tel. 202.483.8751 - Fax 202.483.0057 - E-mail - Internet

July 16, 1998

Drug Czar Distorts Facts To Malign Dutch Drug Policies

        July 16, 1998, Washington, D.C.:   Statistics flaunted by Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey regarding alleged Dutch homicide and marijuana usage rates are purposely misleading and inaccurate, NORML Foundation Executive Director Allen St. Pierre charged today.
        "It is unacceptable for a high ranking U.S. official to stoop to using such tactics to malign the Netherlands' drug policies," St. Pierre said.
        Earlier this week, McCaffrey claimed that the Dutch murder rate is more than twice that of America's.  He further purported that three times as many Dutch youth admit trying marijuana than do their U.S. counterparts.   McCaffrey said that liberal drug policies were to blame for the higher Dutch figures.
        In fact, however, both Dutch homicide rates and prevalence of youth marijuana use are far lower than those in America.
        "There is a very disturbing trend of blatant misinformation coming from Barry McCraffrey, which seems to indicate that he is woefully uninformed about key parts of the very policy he is paid to represent and enforce," said David Borden of the Drug Reform Coordination Network, an Interet-based information center on drug policy.
        Official data from the Dutch government's Central Planning Bureau put the country's murder rate for 1996 at 1.8 per 100,000 people.   That figure is 440 percent lower than the current U.S. murder rate of 8.2 per 100,000.  McCaffrey falsely claimed that the Dutch murder rate was 17.58 per 100,000.
        McCaffrey also alleged that Dutch youth experiment with marijuana in greater numbers than U.S teens.  However, 1996 data recorded by the University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future project determined that 45 percent of America's high school seniors admit they have tried marijuana.  By comparison, research compiled by the National Institute of Health and Addiction in the Netherlands found that less than 21 percent of Dutch adolescents have experimented with the drug.  McCaffrey falsely stated that only 9.1 percent of American teens had ever tried marijuana.
        "The Dutch overwhelmingly approve of their current marijuana policies," St. Pierre remarked.  "Those policies seek to normalize rather than dramatize marijuana use, and separate marijuana users from the hard drug market.  If McCaffrey believes that America's marijuana policy of arresting and jailing more than 12 million users since 1965 is more effective than the Netherlands', then he should find no need to distort the facts and lie to the American people."
        For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of the NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.  David Borden of DRCNet may be reached @ (202) 293-8340.

Oregon Voters Will Decide On Legalizing Medical Marijuana This Fall

        July 16, 1998, Portland, OR:   Oregonians will decide this fall whether to legalize the medical use of marijuana under a physician's supervision.  State election officials announced Friday that petitioners Oregonians for Medical Rights qualified their medical-use proposal for the November ballot.
        "The federal government's failure to act on the medical marijuana issue leaves proponents no choice but to bring this question straight to the voters," NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup said.
        The Oregon initiative seeks to allow patients suffering from a "debilitating medical condition" and holding a state-issued identification card to legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana.  Registered patients would also be able to cultivate marijuana for medical use.  Cultivation limits allow patients to grow no more than three mature plants at any one time.  The initiative also permits non-registered patients to raise the "affirmative defense of medical necessity" if they face state criminal marijuana charges.
        "This is a tightly worded initiative designed to benefit seriously ill patients using marijuana under a doctor's supervision," Stroup said.
        Oregonians will also vote this year on whether to accept or reject the Legislature's decision to recriminalize the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for recreational use.  Oregon became the first state to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana in 1973.  Last year, the Legislature decided to increase the penalty for simple marijuana possession from a noncriminal "violation" to a class C misdemeanor punishable by 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.  Petitioners Citizens for Sensible Law Enforcement collected sufficient signatures to freeze the new law and refer the measure to this year's November ballot.
        For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup of NORML @ (202) 483-5500 or Geoff Sugerman of Oregonians for Medical Rights @ (503) 873-7927.  Citizens for Responsible Law Enforcement may be reached @ (503) 239-0575.

Australian State Decriminalizes The Possession Of Marijuana

        July 16, 1998, Victoria, Australia:   Victoria's Chief of Police announced that first time marijuana users will no longer face criminal charges for possessing less than 50 grams of the drug.  Victoria is the fourth Australian state to enact marijuana decriminalization in recent years.
        Police Commissioner Neil Comrie said the new policy will take effect on September 1, 1998.  A six month trial of the liberal policy in the Broadmeadows district of Victoria had been successful, Comrie said.
        "Victoria's new marijuana policy is similar to the laws of ten U.S. states where marijuana users face a civil 'violation' rather than criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of the drug," NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup said.  "It is encouraging to see other regions around the globe adopt these reforms."
        Under the new system, individuals will receive a warning 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.
        Other Australian states that rely on the caution system are South Australia, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), and the Northern Territory.  This May, the Drug and Alcohol Council of South Australia concluded a two year national study finding that the decriminalization of marijuana does not lead to increased use.
        Comrie said that Victoria will also begin a pilot program for warning users of other illicit drugs, including heroin.  The trial program for hard drug offenders will have stricter conditions, he added.
        For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

Nevada Medical Marijuana Proponents To Challenge Signature Count

        July 16, 1998, Carson City, NV:   A signature drive to place a medical marijuana initiative on this year's state ballot fell short by a total of 43 signatures in two counties, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Tuesday.
        Dan Hart, spokesman for Nevadans for Medical Rights, said that his group will appeal to the Secretary of State to review the results.   The group remains "confident" that the required signatures will be restored in the necessary counties.
        Petitions to qualify for the ballot fell seven signatures short in Lyon county and 36 short in Nye County, the paper reported.  The group was successful in eleven other counties, turning in more than 74,000 signatures overall.
        Petitioners seek to amend the state Constitution to allow patients to use marijuana upon the advice of their physician.
        For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751 or Dave Fratello of Americans for Medical Rights @ (310) 394-2952.