News Release

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September 24, 1998

House Okays Legislation To Test Driver's License Applicants,
Others For Drugs

        September 24, 1998, Washington, D.C.:  House members overwhelmingly approved legislation last week encouraging states to drug test all teenage driver's license applicants.  The provision, included in H.R. 4550, further recommends that states adopt policies denying licenses to applicants who test positive for drug metabolites.
        "It is unfair and likely unconstitutional to arbitrarily subject one segment of the population to this degrading and unreliable procedure only on the basis of their age," said attorney Tanya Kangas, director of litigation for The NORML Foundation.
        In the past, President Bill Clinton has endorsed the idea of drug testing expectant teen drivers.
        A second provision in the legislation provides grants to non-profit organizations promoting drug-free workplaces, and prompts states to offer financial incentive programs encouraging small businesses to adopt drug testing procedures.
        "The passage of this legislation needlessly interferes with the privacy of approximately 50 percent of the nation's workforce," Kangas said.  "Drug testing, particularly urinalysis, is an intrusive search and lacks the ability to determine job impairment.  In addition, these procedures unfairly target marijuana smokers who may test positive for weeks after the drug's euphoric effects have worn off."
        Urinalysis is the most common type of drug test used by employers and law enforcement.  The test detects the presence of non-psychoactive metabolites that indicate past use of certain licit and illicit substances.  A positive test result, even when confirmed, does not indicate drug abuse or addiction, recency, frequency, amount of drug use, or impairment.
        Language in H.R. 4550 also encourages states to adopt laws allowing law enforcement to check motorists for the presence of drug metabolites, and urges voters to reject state efforts to modify existing criminal drug laws.
        The House passed the measure by a vote of 396 to 9.
        For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup, Esq. of NORML @ (202) 483-5500 or Tanya Kangas, Esq. of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

Senate To Take Up Resolution Rejecting Medical Marijuana

        September 24, 1998, Washington, D.C.:  The Senate will likely vote soon on a companion bill rejecting the use of marijuana as a medicine.  The measure, Senate Joint Resolution 56, is identical to a House resolution passed last week opposing state efforts to legalize marijuana as a medicine.
        Senate Joint Resolution 56, sponsored by Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), and John Kyl (R-Ariz.), expresses a "sense of the Congress" only and does not propose any new criminal sanctions on medical marijuana.
        House members approved the measure last week by a vote of 310-93.  Backers of the measure removed language defining marijuana as "a dangerous and addictive drug [that] should not be legalized for medical use" to assure the resolution's passage.
        For more information, please contact either Paul Armentano or Keith Stroup, Esq. of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

Voters In Nation's Capitol Will Decide On Medical Marijuana

        September 24, 1998, Washington, D.C.:  Voters in the District of Columbia will decide whether to allow the use of marijuana as a medicine this fall, election officials concluded last week.   The decision reversed a previous determination by the D.C. Board of Elections disqualifying Initiative 59, the District's medical marijuana proposal, from the November 3 ballot.
        Officials approved the initiative shortly after a D.C. Superior Court Judge ordered the BOE to include nearly 5,000 additional signatures gathered in support of the proposal.
        "We are certainly pleased that D.C. voters are going to have a chance to decide for themselves on this important initiative," said James Millner, a spokesman for the Whitman-Walker health clinic.
        Initiative 59 seeks to exempt patients who use marijuana under a doctor's supervision from the District's 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."
        In what could possibly become a stumbling block for the D.C. initiative, Congress appears poised to approve legislation mandating that no federal funds "may be used to conduct any [District] 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."  If approved by the Senate, the measure would prevent city officials from printing the ballot and processing its results, the Associated Press reported.
        For more information, please contact Keith Stroup, Esq. of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

Government Website Uses Anti-Drug Trafficking Funds To Launch State Propaganda
Campaign Against Medical Marijuana

        September 24, 1998, Spokane, WA:   Federal tax dollars earmarked for anti-drug trafficking efforts are being used by the Washington state Lieutenant Governor's office to sponsor a website highlighting the alleged dangers of marijuana.  The timing of the newly established site, launched only weeks before state voters will decide on a ballot measure to allow seriously ill patients to use marijuana under the supervision of a physician, drew sharp criticism from the drug reform community who speculate that the state's anti-pot campaign may violate federal tax laws.
        "The misuse of public funds to propagandize against the 1998 medical marijuana initiatives is repugnant," charged Allen St. Pierre, executive director of The NORML Foundation.  St. Pierre noted that present laws prohibit tax dollars from being used to fund a political campaign.  He urged concerned citizens to contact: The United States Department of Justice, Attention - Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder, Constitution Ave., 10th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20530 or call (212) 514-2101.
        "Ask Deputy Attorney General Holder not to allow moneys intended for street level law enforcement to be used to fund propaganda against voter initiatives," St. Pierre said.
        The Lieutenant Governor's office found itself embroiled in a similar controversy in 1997 when it used $170,000 in federal funds to sponsor a high-profile anti-marijuana campaign months before voters decided on a drug reform initiative.
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.


        September 24, 1998, Boston, MA:   NORML's Massachusetts affiliate expects over 70,000 people to assemble on the Boston Common next Saturday for its Ninth Annual Freedom Rally.  In past years, the Freedom Rally has drawn crowds approaching 100,000 people, making it the largest marijuana reform event in the nation.
        Speakers at the event include NORML board member Richard Evans, legal medical marijuana patient Elvy Musikka, White Panther Party founder John Sinclair, and Common Sense for Drug Policy head Kevin Zeese, along with several musical guests.
        For more information, please contact Caroline Toth of Mass Cann NORML @ (617) 864-7633.