News Release

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August 13, 1998

Cannabis Club Staff Designated As Officers Of City Of Oakland

        August 13, 1998, Oakland, CA:   City officials designated employees of the local cannabis buyers' cooperative as Officers of the City of Oakland in a groundbreaking ceremony today.
        Attorney Robert Raich said that the action immunizes the Oakland Cannabis Cooperative staff from federal criminal and civil liability.  Section 885(d) of the Federal Controlled Substances Act provides that any officer of a city who is enforcing a local ordinance relating to controlled substances will be protected from criminal sanctions.  Last month, the City Council unanimously passed an ordinance recognizing that a "medical cannabis provider association ... may ... distribute safe and affordable medical cannabis."
        "Because the ordinance relies on provisions of federal law, it may be replicated in cities throughout the country, not just in California or other states that may pass laws similar to Proposition 215," Raich said.
        City Council representative Nate Miley and Oakland Club attorneys also called today for a dismissal of all federal charges against the Cooperative.  The club remains open in violation of a federal judge's decision to temporarily enjoin operations of six state medical marijuana dispensaries -- including the Oakland club -- named in a federal civil lawsuit.
        "The Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative runs a clean, legitimate business, contributes to Oakland's downtown revitalization, and prevents seriously ill people from turning to the streets to buy their medicine," said Miley.  "We're delighted to offer the Cooperative all the support we can, and hope that other cities follow suit."
        Jeff Jones, Executive Director of the Oakland Cooperative, praised the Council's decision to designate the club.  "This is a great day for our patients and a great day for Oakland," he said.
        "I think a lot of Oakland patients can breathe a big sigh of relief now," added Raich.
        For more information, please contact either Dale Gieringer of California NORML @ (415) 563-5858 or attorney Robert Raich @ (510) 338-0700.

Oregon Democrats Oppose Marijuana Recriminalization Effort

        August 13, 1998, Salem, OR:   The Democratic Party of Oregon recently announced their opposition to Measure 57, a state referendum recriminalizing the simple possession of marijuana.
        "This measure does nothing to deal with the real problems of crime in our state, and deals with an activity that is already sanctioned under the law," the state Party said in an official press release.
        Voter passage of Measure 57 this fall would increase the penalty for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana from a non-criminal "violation" to a class C misdemeanor crime.  Individuals convicted under the proposed measure could face 30 days in jail, loss of their driving privileges for six months, and have their property seized by law enforcement.
        Democratic Party Chair Marc Abrams said that Democrats were concerned the new law would increase the state's rising prison costs.
        Oregon's Legislature decriminalized simple marijuana possession in 1973, replacing criminal penalties with a small, mandatory fine.   Soon after, ten states enacted similar marijuana decriminalization statutes.   Marijuana remains decriminalized in all but one of those states.
        "For more than 20 years, Oregon has stood as a leader in the fight for rational marijuana laws," NORML Executive R. Keith Stroup, Esq. said.  "Through the referendum process, voters this year have the opportunity to reject recriminalization and continue with a proven and successful state policy."
        For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

DC Medical Marijuana Petitioners Challenge Initiative Count

        August 13, 1998, Washington, DC:   Attorneys on behalf of DC medical marijuana petitioners are appealing in Superior Court a decision by the DC Board of Elections to disqualify Initiative 59 from the November 1998 ballot.
        A complaint filed this week by ACT-UP head Wayne Turner argues that the BOE acted "arbitrarily and capriciously" when it rejected 4,600 petition signatures gathered by circulator Tanya Robinson.  Had the BOE allowed the signatures in question, proponents maintain that Initiative 59 would have qualified for the ballot.  Officials from the BOE contend that they properly "set aside" Ms. Robinson's signatures because the address stated on her certificates failed to match that in the Board records.
        Attorney Alisa Wilkins, co-counsel for Turner's challenge, said that the address entered by Ms. Robinson on her petition is the same address listed as her mailing address on her DC voter registration card.  Proponents further hold that Ms. Robinson has been continuously registered as a DC voter since 1983.
        Initiative 59 seeks to exempt seriously ill patients who use marijuana under a doctor's supervision from criminal marijuana penalties.   The measure also proposes allowing District residents to "organize not-for-profit corporations for the purpose of cultivating, purchasing, and distributing marijuana exclusively for ... medical use."
        Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, House Representatives approved an amendment to the "District of Columbia Appropriations Act of 1999" stating that no federal funds "may be used to conduct any ballot initiative which seeks to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution of any schedule I substance ... or [marijuana] derivative."
        For more information, please contact either Wayne Turner of ACT-UP @ (202) 547-9404 or attorney Tanya Kangas of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

ACLU's Stance On Marijuana In New York Times Attacked By Drug Czar's Office

        August 13, 1998, Washington, DC:   Washington officials attacked an ACLU advertisement in the New York Times questioning marijuana prohibition.  In a recent letter sent to ACLU President Nadine Strossen, Office of National Drug Control Policy Chief of Staff Janet Christ expressed "disappointment" with the group's public position, and questioned whether the campaign spoke for the entire organization.
        American Civil Liberties Union President Nadine Strossen responded that the organization has "a long history of opposing our nation's drug laws as violating a range of fundamental civil liberties."
        She continued: "The basic problem ... is the failure of federal law and policy to recognize the proper line that divides legitimate government authority from adult individual's sovereignty over their own minds and bodies.   Accordingly, the question raised by our advertisement is whether there is a principles and scientific basis for drawing that line differently for marijuana and alcohol.  Any time you, General McCaffrey or, indeed, the President is willing to debate that question with us publicly, we would welcome such an opportunity."
        For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751 or Ira Glasser of the ACLU @ (212) 549-2500.

International Marijuana Symposium To Be Held In London

        August 13, 1998, New York, NY:   The Lindesmith Center in New York and The Release Organization in London are sponsoring a joint conference on September 5 to discuss options for the regulation and decriminalization of marijuana.  The symposium, entitled: "Regulating Cannabis: Options for Control in the 21st Century," will be held at Regent's College in London, England.
        Speakers scheduled to attend the conference include NORML board member Dr. John Morgan of City University of New York (CUNY) Medical School; Lynn Zimmer, co-author of Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts; Ethan Nadelmann of The Lindesmith Center; Peter Cohen of the University of Amsterdam; Ueli Minder of the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health; and many others.
        For information on attending, please contact Mireille Jacobson of The Lindesmith Center @ (212) 548-0603.