News Release

1001 Connecticut Ave, NW - Ste 710 - Washington, DC 20036
Tel. 202.483.8751 - Fax 202.483.0057 - E-mail - Internet

January 7, 1999

Dutch Marijuana Use Half That Of America, Study Reveals

        January 7, 1999, Amsterdam, the Netherlands:  Americans consume marijuana at rates more than double those of their Dutch counterparts, according to a study published Tuesday by the Center for Drug Research (CEDRO) of the University of Amsterdam.
        "These findings illustrate that criminalizing marijuana does little, if anything, to discourage use," said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of The NORML Foundation.  He noted that Dutch law allows citizens over 18 to buy and consume marijuana in government-regulated coffeeshops.
        The study found that 15.6 percent of Dutch persons aged 12 and over had tried marijuana.  Of these, 4.5 percent reported using marijuana in the past year, and 2.5 percent said they used the drug during the past month.   By contrast, 32.9 percent of Americans admit trying marijuana, and nine percent report using the drug in the past year.  Slightly more than five percent of Americans say they use the drug monthly.
        The study's authors concluded that "a repressive [marijuana] policy as in the U.S. does not necessarily result in less drug use.   The availability of drugs is no determining factor for levels of drug use in a country."
        The study, financed by the health ministry and conducted by Amsterdam University and the Central Bureau of Statistics, is the first to document national marijuana use rates.
        Data previously compiled by the Dutch National Institute of Health and Addiction (NIHA) determined that Dutch adolescents use marijuana at significantly lower rates than Americans.  The agency reported that 21 percent of Dutch adolescents admit trying the drug compared to 45 percent
of American high school seniors.
        For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.  To view a summary of the CEDRO report online, please visit:

One In Seven Drug Prisoners Serving Time For Marijuana Offenses

        January 7, 1999, Washington, DC:   One in seven drug prisoners is behind bars for marijuana-related offenses, newly released data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics reveals.
        "Jailing thousands of marijuana offenders is a tremendous waste of judicial resources and taxpayer dollars that would be better spent targeting violent crime," NORML Foundation Executive Director Allen St. Pierre said.  He estimated that taxpayers spend approximately $900 million annually to incarcerate marijuana offenders.
        Nearly 40,000 Americans are presently incarcerated in state and federal correctional facilities for marijuana violations.   Of these, 28,650 marijuana offenders are state inmates, and 10,538 are federal prisoners.  In all, marijuana prisoners compose 14 percent of all state and federal drug inmates.
        The newly released figures appear in the January 1999 Department of Justice report: Substance Abuse and Treatment, State and Federal Prisoners, 1997.  Previous DOJ reports omitted data regarding the number of marijuana offenders behind bars.
        The report did not determine what percentage of the estimated 600,000 inmates in local jails are serving time for marijuana offenses.
        For more information on marijuana incarceration rates, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.  Federal data regarding annual marijuana arrest rates is available from The NORML Foundation upon request.

Pot Use No Higher Among California Kids After Passage Of Prop. 215,
State Study Finds

        January 7, 1999, Sacramento, CA:   Statewide marijuana use among adolescents has not increased since the passage of Proposition 215, according to data released last week by the Attorney General's office.
        "These figures belie claims of Prop. 215 opponents, led by former Attorney General Dan Lungren and Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey, that the approval of medical marijuana will lead to an explosion of teen marijuana use," California NORML Coordinator Dale Gieringer said.
        The report cites statistics from the 1997-98 California Student Substance Abuse Survey that found fewer high school students using marijuana than in previous years (1995-96).  The report did note a statistically insignificant increase in marijuana use among 7th graders.
        Statistics previously released in August by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) reported that California teens used marijuana at lower rates than the national average.
        "The findings of these two surveys, the first to cover the post-1996 period, flatly contradict claims that legalizing medical marijuana sends a dangerous message to children," NORML Foundation Executive Director Allen St. Pierre said.
        For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751 or Dale Gieringer of California NORML @ (415) 563-5858.  Preliminary copies of the study are available from the Attorney General's press office @ (916) 324-5500.

Washington Lieutenant Governor Busted For Illegally Opposing
Drug Reform Initiative

        January 7, 1999, Olympia, WA:   The state Executive Ethics Board fined Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen $7,000 for illegally spending taxpayers' dollars to oppose a 1997 statewide drug reform initiative, The Seattle Times reported last week.
        "Federal law prohibits state officials from using public funds to influence the outcome of an initiative," NORML Foundation Executive Director Allen St. Pierre said.  "Lieutenant Governor Owen used taxpayer moneys in 1997 and 1998 to oppose initiatives legalizing medical marijuana.   His actions clearly undermined the democratic process."
        The ethics board contends that Owen used public employees, equipment, federal grant money, and his own working hours to illegally campaign against Initiative 685, "The Drug Medicalization and Prevention Act of 1997."   The initiative sought to legalize the medical use of marijuana, and mandated alternative sentencing for non-violent drug offenders.  Voters rejected the measure by a vote of 60 to 40 percent.
        Drug reform proponents allege that Owen also misused federal funds in 1998 to oppose Initiative 692.  Months before the election, Owen's office received approximately $200,000 in federal moneys from the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to fund a statewide anti-drug campaign focusing chiefly on the alleged dangers of marijuana.  The grant also helped pay for the establishment of an anti-medical marijuana website.  Despite Owen's efforts, 59 percent of voters backed the initiative, which became state law on December 3.
        "The fine against Owen should put all elected officials and anti-drug bureaucrats, from Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey to local sheriffs or narcotic officers, on notice," St. Pierre said.  "Public funds may not be used to influence public opinion in advance of an election or initiative.   It is hard to imagine a more repugnant and threatening specter than a government willing to spend taxpayer's dollars to actively campaign against free elections."
        For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751 or visit the website MarijuanaNews at: