News Release

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September 10, 1998

Governor's Signature All That Stands In The Way Of Freedom For Medical Marijuana User Originally Given 93 Year Sentence

        September 10, 1998, Oklahoma City, OK:  A parole board recently ordered the release of medical marijuana patient Will Foster contingent upon the governor's approval.  The board's decision came days after an appeals court determined that Foster's 93-year sentence for cultivating medical marijuana "shocked the conscience."  Governor Frank Keating has yet to okay the board's decision, and The NORML Foundation urges medical marijuana proponents to contact the state office and encourage him to do so immediately.
        An Oklahoma jury sentenced Foster in 1997 to 93 years in jail for cultivating marijuana in a 25-square foot underground shelter and other marijuana-related charges.  Associate District Judge Bill Beasley ordered the sentences to run consecutively.  Foster maintained that he grew the marijuana to alleviate the pain of rheumatoid arthritis; however, Oklahoma law does not accept the defense of medical necessity as a basis for acquittal on a marijuana charge.
        Last month, an appeals court judge found Foster's sentence excessive and reduced the term to 20 years.  At Foster's first parole board hearing days later, officials unanimously voted to release him upon approval from the governor.
        Supporters of Foster, who was featured on NBC's Dateline Magazine television series last Sunday, are encouraging Gov. Keating to follow the parole board's recommendations and authorize his release.  Those close to Foster maintain that his arthritis has become significantly worse while incarcerated and has spread to his fingers, wrists, and ankles.
        "Will Foster is a loving husband and father of two children who has been wrongly imprisoned for his efforts to treat a painful and debilitating condition with medical marijuana," NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup said.  "The parole board acted in a responsible manner to correct this injustice.  It would be unconscionable for Gov. Keating to permit this travesty of justice to continue.  It is time for Will Foster to go home."
        The NORML Foundation urges concerned parties to contact the governor and voice your support for medical marijuana patient Will Foster.   Contact Gov. Frank Keating at the following address:

Governor Frank Keating
State Capitol Building, Room 212
Oklahoma City, OK 73105
(P) (405) 521-2342
(F) (405) 521-3317 or (405) 523-4224
url: http:

        For further background on the Will Foster case, please visit the May 1997 issue of Reason Magazine online at:   For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup of NORML @ (202) 483-5500 or Adam Smith of the Drug Reform Coordination Network @ (202) 293-8340.  Will Foster's wife Meg is available for comment @ (918) 584-0027.

Court Challenges Boost Hopes For Colorado, DC Medical Marijuana Initiatives

        September 10, 1998, Washington, DC:   Backers of a pair of medical marijuana initiatives previously disqualified from this fall's ballot remain confident that their measures will go before a public vote in November.
        Last week, DC Superior Court Judge Ellen Huvelle ordered the Board of Elections (BOE) to include nearly 5,000 additional signatures in support of Initiative 59, the District's medical marijuana proposal.  Initiative backers Act-Up contend that the inclusion of the signatures will be sufficient to qualify the initiative for the November ballot.  BOE officials had previously "set aside" the signatures because the address stated on the circulator's affidavit failed to match that in the Board's voting records.
        In Colorado, medical marijuana proponents Coloradans for Medical Rights (CMR) will appeal to a judge tomorrow to have their initiative immediately placed on the fall ballot.  Petitioners allege that the Secretary of State's office made frequent errors when processing a random-sample check of the more than 88,000 signatures in support of the proposal.  Attorneys for CMR argue that an independent review of the Secretary of State's sampling technique demonstrates petitioners collected an adequate number of signatures to qualify for this year's ballot.
        The Colorado initiative seeks to allow seriously ill patients who have a doctor's recommendation to possess up to two ounces of marijuana or grow three plants for medical use.  The measure also encourages patients to enroll in a state identification program, and allows individuals to raise an affirmative defense in court if they possess more marijuana than the set amounts.   DC's Initiative 59 seeks to exempt patients who use marijuana under a doctor's supervision from criminal marijuana penalties.  The measure also proposes allowing residents to "organize not-for-profit corporations for the purpose of cultivating, purchasing, and distributing marijuana exclusively for ... medical use."
        For more information, please contact Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

Patient's Glaucoma Justified Medical Marijuana Use, Cultivation,
Canadian Judge Rules

        September 10, 1998, Vancouver, British Columbia:  A provincial court judge in Vancouver recently ruled that a patient's medical need for marijuana shielded him from criminal drug charges.
        "This case is significant because a judge, not known to be lenient in this Province, was nevertheless persuaded that it was ... not contrary to the public interest to grant [the defendant] a conditional discharge" for possessing marijuana, said NORML Legal Committee member John Conroy, who argued the case.   The judge was clearly influenced by the "nature of the defendant's motives, namely self medication, and the absence of any harm to others by his conduct," he said.
        Defendant Stanley Czolowski, who uses marijuana medicinally to treat glaucoma and nausea, faced charges of cultivating marijuana and possessing the drug for the purpose of supplying a local medical marijuana dispensary.   The Crown dropped the trafficking charge in exchange for a guilty plea to the cultivation charge.  Judge Jane Godfrey exercised judicial discretion when sentencing Czolowski and gave the defendant only one year probation.  Godfrey based the mitigated sentence on the fact that Czolowski grew marijuana solely for medical purposes.
        "I have heard from the accused and I have read the material that [details] what [the defendant's] daily existence is like, and I have no difficulty whatsoever in understanding his personal motivation and I have extreme sympathy for his personal situation," Judge Godfrey said.  "I have considered the facts before me and ... am satisfied it's not contrary to the public interest ... to grant [the defendant] a discharge."
        Czolowski will not have a criminal record if he successfully completes his probation.
        This decision is the latest in a series of recent Canadian court rulings distinguishing medical marijuana users from other criminal offenders.
        For more information please contact either NORML Foundation director of litigation Tanya Kangas @ (202) 483-8751 or NLC member John Conroy @ (604) 852-5110.