News Release

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December 10, 1998

High Court Overturns Iowa Blanket Search Law,
Marijuana Conviction

        December 10, 1998, Washington, DC:   An Iowa law allowing police to conduct blanket searches of motorists and their vehicles after citing them for minor traffic violations is unconstitutional, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.
        "This decision demonstrates, thankfully, that there are still limits regarding law enforcement's power to conduct a non-consensual, warrantless search," said NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq.
        In a unanimous decision, the Court found that Iowa police violated the Fourth Amendment when they arbitrarily searched a motorist's vehicle after citing him for speeding.  Writing for the Court, Chief Justice William Rehhquist said the search was not necessary to ensure officer safety or prevent the destruction of evidence.  Past courts have allowed blanket searches only when such conditions apply and the suspect has been placed under arrest.
        By striking down the statute, the Court overturned the conviction of an Iowa man found in possession of marijuana during a traffic stop.  Police searched the defendant's car without consent or probable cause after citing him for speeding.
        For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup of NORML @ (202) 483-5500 or NORML Foundation Litigation Director Tanya Kangas @ (202) 483-8751.

Clinton Administration Calls Amendment Nixing D.C. Medical Marijuana
Vote "Sensible"

        December 10, 1998, Washington, D.C.:   The Department of Justice filed legal papers last week supporting a Congressional amendment that forbids the D.C. government from certifying the results of November's election on medical marijuana.  Initiative sponsors and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are challenging the constitutionality of the amendment in federal court.
        "This motion places the Clinton Administration clearly on the side of thwarting democracy," announced NORML Foundation Executive Director Allen St. Pierre.  "They are supporting efforts to stifle the voice of the more than one hundred thousand D.C. residents who voted to legalize medical marijuana in the District of Columbia.
        The amendment in question, introduced by Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.) and attached to the District's appropriations bill, mandates the D.C. government to withhold funds for any initiative that minimizes marijuana penalties.   Officials estimate that certifying the results would cost the city $1.64.
        A legal brief filed by the Justice Department said "[Congress] has sensibly prohibited the use of public funds to conduct an election on Initiative 59," the District's medical marijuana proposal.  Exit polls indicate that 69 percent of D.C. voters approved the measure.
        A federal judge will rule on the issue later this month.  Several area groups, including the D.C. chapter of the League of Women Voters, the D.C. Statehood Party, the Gay and Lesbian Activist Alliance, the Metropolitan Washington Council of the AFL-CIO, and the D.C. Chapter of the Republican National African-American Council filed court papers siding with the ACLU.
        If the judge orders city officials to tabulate and certify the vote results, Congress then has 30 days to accept or veto the new law.
        For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup of NORML @ (202) 483-5500 or Wayne Turner of ACT-UP @ (202) 547-9404.

Michigan Man Must Return To Virginia Jail To Serve Out 24 Year Old Marijuana

        December 10, 1998, Detroit, MI:   A Michigan businessman convicted of selling $10 worth of marijuana 24 years ago must return to Virginia to serve jail time, a Circuit judge ruled Monday.
        "It's all the more difficult [to send the defendant back to Virginia] when you see [his] family here and understand that the family is a credit to the state [of Michigan] and [that the defendant] has been a credit to the state," Circuit Judge William Cahalan said.  He said he had no choice but to honor the extradition warrant issued by Virginia state officials.
        Defendant Alfred Martin, 49, received a ten year prison term in 1974 for the sale of a small amount of marijuana.  Martin spent two days at a prison farm before escaping and relocating to Michigan.  He now owns his own business and is married with children.  Judge Cahalan said Martin has led "an exemplary life since his conviction 24 years ago.
        NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. said the case exemplifies the "lack of proportionality" in marijuana sentencing.   "One wonders how many more families will be sacrificed before our elected officials agree to end marijuana prohibition," he said.
    Virginia officials previously sought to extradite Martin in 1976, but then-Gov. William Milliken refused their request.  Since then, the U.S. Supreme Court has found that governors do not have discretion over legitimate extradition requests.
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

Jamaican Custom Officials To Order Drug Tests For Airline Passengers

        December 10, 1998, Kingston, Jamaica:  Custom officials will subject random passengers to drug tests at the island's two international airports to determine if they are smuggling illegal substances, a November 17 article from the Jamaican news service, The Gleaner Company, reported.
        The article stated that Customs officials will request "suspicious-looking passengers" to take a standard urine test.   Officials will take those who test positive to an area hospital and check to see if they have ingested illegal drugs.  If drugs are retrieved, police will then make an arrest.
        Customs official Ivy O'Gilvie told The Gleaner Company that passengers who refuse to take the test will likely be taken to the hospital anyway.  She said the on-the-spot test takes only minutes to complete and is "90 percent accurate."
        "It's hard to imagine that any tourist or business traveler will want to pass through Jamaican Customs under the threat of excreting on demand for law enforcement," NORML Foundation head Allen St. Pierre said.   "A country so reliant on foreign travel should immediately rescind such a foolish invasion of privacy."
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

Congress Allocates $23 Million To Develop Anti-Marijuana Fungus

        December 10, 1998, Washington, D.C.:   Legislation approved by Congress last month allocates $23 million toward developing a new fungus aimed at destroying drug-producing plants like
marijuana.  U.S. officials stated that they hope to introduce the soil-borne fungi to foreign nations such as Columbia, Peru, and Bolivia.
        "We are setting a dangerous precedent by promoting the development of biological agents in the war on marijuana," NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. said.  "There is a real danger that such a toxic agent may have serious adverse impacts on surrounding plants and the ecosystems of these nations.  Is this really a path we want to pursue?"
        Professor Paul Arriola, an expert in plant genetics at Elmhurst College in Illinois, agreed.  "It's frightening to think that in the search for a quick fix, we might cause ourselves more long-term ecological and social problems," he said.
        Representatives Bill McCollum (R-Fla.) and Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) spearheaded the legislation, which they called a potential "silver bullet" in the war on drugs.
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.