FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 24, 1998
Contacts: Allen St. Pierre; Paul Armentano, (202) 483-8751
Marijuana Arrests For 1997 Most Ever
FBI Data Confirm Clinton's Marijuana War To Be Toughest In Nation's History
Washington, DC: State
and local law enforcement arrested nearly 700,000*
Americans on marijuana charges during 1997, according to the latest edition of the Federal
Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Uniform Crime Report. This figure is almost
double the number of arrests recorded in 1993, the year President Bill Clinton took
office, and pushes the total number of marijuana arrests under his administration to
approximately 2.8 million. The 1997 yearly arrest total for marijuana violations is
the highest ever recorded by the FBI.
FBI data indicate that 87 percent of marijuana arrests are for simple "possession" only. The remaining 13 percent are for "sale/manufacture," a category that includes all cultivation offenses -- even those where the marijuana was being grown for personal or medical use.
"These new FBI statistics indicate that one marijuana user is arrested every 45 seconds in America," stated Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of The NORML Foundation. "Law enforcement's 'war on drugs' remains primarily a war on recreational and medicinal marijuana consumers."
St. Pierre noted that marijuana arrests constituted nearly one-half of all illicit drug arrests in 1997, and totaled just fewer than all arrests for violent crimes. "Marijuana prohibition is clearly a waste of precious law enforcement resources that could be better focused on serious crime," he said.
Since 1970 law enforcement has arrested approximately 11.5 million Americans on marijuana charges, annual FBI reports indicate.
Marijuana Arrests Under President Bill Clinton
Total Arrests: 2,787,660
*No arrest statistics for the District of Columbia, Florida, Kansas, New Hampshire, and Vermont were available to the FBI for 1997. Only limited arrests statistics were provided from Kentucky, Illinois, and Montana. Therefore, arrest totals for these states were estimated by the FBI for inclusion in the overall total. FBI's estimated marijuana arrest total for 1997 stands at 695,200.
Medical Marijuana Patient Unable to Take Conventional
Freed From Jail
November 24, 1998, Asheville, NC:
Federal District Court Judge Lacey Thornburg today released medical marijuana
patient Linda Jean Marlowe from jail and sentenced her to six months of home confinement.
Reformers applauded the decision, which marked a strong departure from the
potential 14-month prison term provided under federal sentencing guidelines.
NORML Legal Committee (NLC) member Joe Bondy, who assisted with Marlowe's defense, called the outcome a "compassionate one." NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. agreed. "The judge in this case realized that America's 'war on drugs' must not include imprisoning the sick and dying who benefit from the medical use of marijuana," he said.
Federal law enforcement officials arrested and charged Marlowe, 45, with six federal felonies based on her receipt of a package of marijuana from Switzerland. Marlowe suffers from several rare and debilitating diseases including porphyria (a congenital liver abnormality), degenerative disk disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and fibromyalgia. She had obtained the marijuana for her personal medical use to alleviate chronic pain and nausea.
Marlowe's liver condition prevents her from ingesting conventional pain medications. Dr. Frederick Bissel, Marlowe's treating physician, explained at a recent hearing that conventional medications can harm her diseased liver. He further testified that marijuana is a highly effective analgesic that does not damage the liver.
Marlowe's attorneys asked the Court permission to present evidence at trial of her medical need for marijuana, but the Court refused. She was eventually found guilty by a jury on June 8, 1998. She retained her right to appeal the court's refusal to permit her to raise a medical necessity defense.
While out on supervised release awaiting sentencing, Marlowe continued to smoke marijuana to alleviate her pain. Her prolonged use caused her to fail several court ordered drug tests, and resulted in her bond being revoked and eventual incarceration.
At today's sentencing hearing, Bissel testified to Marlowe's serious medical condition. In addition, Joe Bondy, a federal sentencing expert from New York, offered an affidavit from Dr. John P. Morgan, professor of pharmacology at CUNY Medical School and an expert on the medical use of marijuana. Bondy urged the judge to depart from the sentencing guidelines on the basis of Marlowe's medical use. Although the judge refused, he did grant a downward departure based on her severe medical condition. The NLC will also be helping with the appeal of Marlowe's conviction, arguing that she should have been allowed to argue a medical necessity defense at trial.
Friends and supporters of Jean Marlowe have established a defense fund to help defray the legal costs of her defense and appeal. Those who wish to contribute should send a contribution to the NORML Foundation/Jean Marlowe Defense Fund, 1001 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 710, Washington, DC 20036.