News Release

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

February 4, 1999

Post-Arrest Approval For Medical Marijuana No Protection, California
Appeals Court Rules

        February 4, 1999, San Francisco, CA:   Patients seeking legal protection under California's medical marijuana law generally must obtain a doctor's recommendation before their arrest, a state appeals court ruled recently.
        The Court's ruling (People v. Rigo) affirmed the marijuana conviction of a gastritis patient who acquired a physician's recommendation to use the drug three months after police arrested him for cultivation.   The defendant said he learned about treating gastritis with marijuana while living in Switzerland and was growing the drug to self-medicate.
        The Court found that Proposition 215 did not protect the defendant's marijuana use because he made no effort to obtain a physician's recommednation to use the drug prior to his arrest, and no "exigent circumstances" existed to validate his subsequent approval.  "Appellant did not seek medical approval until the consequences of the justice system gave him impetus to do so and did not do so in a reasonable amount of time for reasons independent of his arrest," the three-judge Court of Appeal panel unanimously ruled.  "The language in the ballot pamphlet emphasized that the purpose of the initiative was to help seriously ill patients who act pursuant to a doctor's recommendation or approval.   ...To allow self-medication in ... this case would improperly promote non-medically supervised use of marijuana ... which would frustrate the intent of the voters in enacting Proposition 215."
        NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. said that the decision should serve notice to patients who are self-medicating with marijuana.  "Patients must obtain a recommendation from a physician or the protection afforded by Prop. 215 will not be available if they are arrested," he said.
        The appeals court distinguished this case from an earlier ruling (People v. Trippet) made by the Court of Appeals, 2nd Division, that determined Prop. 215 "may be applied retroactively to provide, if its terms and the applicable facts permit, a defense to [an] appellant."  In that case, the defendant successfully argued that her doctor's verbal recommendation to use marijuana for migraines qualified her for protection under Prop. 215.
        For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup of NORML @ (202) 483-5500 or NORML Foundation Litigation Director Tanya Kangas @ (202) 483-8751.

Increased Penalties, Prison Sentences Don't Deter Drug Use, ABA Study Finds

        February 4, 1999, Washington, D.C.:   Increased enforcement of drug laws and stiffer penalties do not deter the use of marijuana and other drugs, a new study by the American Bar Association found.
        "The current policy of simply arresting and incarcerating drug users does not work," said Myrna Raeder, chairwoman of the ABA's Criminal Justice Section.
        NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. agreed.  "We've arrested over 12 million Americans for marijuana offenses since 1965," he said.  "It is clear that this punitive approach is ineffective.   It's time we stopped arresting otherwise law abiding citizens who smoke marijuana."
        The ABA study, The State of Criminal Justice, found illicit drug use on the rise despite increased federal funds, higher levels of drug arrests, and higher incarceration rates than at any time in our nation's history.  The report also determined that law enforcement priorities are shifting from dealers to users.  "While drug arrests were up from 1992 to 1997, nearly 80 percent of those arrests were for possession," it found.
        FBI figures report that police arrested nearly 700,000 Americans on marijuana charges in 1997.  Eighty-seven percent of these arrests were for simple possession.  In all, law enforcement arrested more than 1.5 million people on drug charges.
        The ABA found that the total number of people who had used drugs within the previous month increased approximately 18 percent between 1992 and 1997.  It estimated that 14 million Americans are regular drug users, but noted that nearly 80 percent of them only use marijuana.
        For more information, please contact Keith Stroup of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.  Copies of the ABA report are available from the ABA Service Center @ (800) 825-2221 (cite product code 5090073).

Athletic Association Mandates Drug Testing For Louisiana
High School Students

        February 4, 1999, Orleans, LA:   Student athletes at more than 400 Louisiana High School Athletic Association member schools may soon be subject to drug testing under a resolution narrowly approved by the LHSAA Friday.
        NORML Legal Committee member William Rittenberg dismissed the LHSAA proposal as a "feel good measure" that would do little to deter student drug use.  "The only tangible effect of such a policy will be to encourage our children not to believe in our basic constitutional liberties," he said.  Rittenberg recently won separate legal cases striking down a pair of Louisiana laws that mandated drug tests for public school employees and elected officials.
        The LHSAA resolution states that each member school must develop and implement a substance-abuse drug testing policy for student athletes.  The LHSAA executive committee will review the procedure before its implementation.
        The United States Supreme Court ruled 6 to 3 to allow the drug testing of student athletes in 1995.
        LHSAA commissioner Tommy Henry estimated that fewer than 50 of the 400+ LHSAA member schools have existing drug testing policies.
        For more information please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.   Attorney William Rittenberg is available @ (504) 524-5555.

Oregon Schools Offer Students $1,000 Incentive To Snitch On Classmates

        February 4, 1999, Portland, OR:   Three Portland school districts will begin paying students up to $1,000 to snitch on classmates who use marijuana and other drugs at school, the Associated Press reported.
        NORML Foundation Executive Director Allen St. Pierre criticized the proposal.  "Paying children $1,000 to become government spies in the war against marijuana users is one of the most Orwellian government excesses I can identify," he said.
        Mayor Vera Katz unveiled the plan, dubbed the Campus Crime Stopper program, two weeks ago.  The paid-informant program will operate similar to existing "crime-stopper" hotlines, but will be aimed exclusively toward students who want to call the school police.
        Similar programs already operate on school campuses in Charleston, South Carolina and Thousand Oaks, California, the AP story said.
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre or Litigation Director Tanya Kangas of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.