April 15, 1999
NORML Foundation Family Custody Project
Victorious In New Jersey
Parenting Rights Case
April 15, 1999, Camden, NJ:
A New Jersey mother successfully challenged state authorities who sought to deny
her custody of her newborn son because she tested positive for minimal levels of marijuana
metabolites. The Family Custody Project, a project of The NORML Foundation
established to give legal and scientific support to parents threatened with losing custody
of their children because of positive marijuana tests, assisted the case by providing
legal counsel and expert witnesses.
"More and more state authorities nationwide are moving forward to place young children in foster care when they suspect a parent smokes marijuana," NORML Foundation Litigation Director Tanya Kangas, Esq. said. "The theory they are advancing is that marijuana smoking per se, without any allegations of abuse or neglect, is grounds to remove the child from the parents."
The most recent case involved mother Deneen Clark, who tested positive for under 10 nanograms of marijuana metabolites 24 hours after giving birth. State authorities accused Clark of "child abuse" based on the positive result and began legal proceedings to place her son in foster care. Clark challenged the allegations with pro bono legal help provided by NORML Legal Committee member William Buckman of Moorestown, New Jersey, and drug testing and child welfare experts. Faced with a losing case, the state eventually dropped all charges.
"The NORML Foundation's contacts and support helped this family stay together," Clark said.
For more information, please contact either Tanya Kangas of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751 or NORML Legal Committee member William Buckman @ (609) 608-9797.
Nevada Decriminalization Legislation Clears First Hurdle
April 15, 1999, Carson City, NV:
The Assembly Judiciary Committee soundly approved legislation last week to relax
Nevada's harshest-in-the-nation marijuana possession laws.
NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. praised the vote. "Marijuana smokers, like their nonsmoking peers, work hard, raise families, pay taxes, and contribute to their communities," he said. "They are not part of the crime problem and should not face arrest and jail."
Assembly Bill 577, introduced by Assemblywoman Christina Giunchigliani (D-Las Vegas), seeks to reduce minor marijuana possession from a category E felony to a misdemeanor offense punishable by no more than a $100 fine. Nevada remains the only state that maintains felony criminal penalties for simple marijuana possession.
Eleven lawmakers voted for the measure, and only three opposed it. Judiciary Committee Chairman Bernie Anderson (D-Sparks) commended Giunchigliani's bravery for introducing the measure, which also gained support from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and regional public defender's offices. "I always admire someone who has the courage to ... put this issue forward," Anderson said. "It's been misrepresented for a long period of time."
The bill awaits action by the Assembly, which must vote on it by April 19.
For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500. To download a copy of this legislation, please visit: http://www.leg.state.nv.us/70th/bills/AB/AB577.html. To read about additional state marijuana reform legislation, please visit the NORML website at: http://www.norml.org/laws/stateleg1999.html.
Hawaii Medical Marijuana Resolutions Move Forward In Senate
April 15, 1999, Honolulu, HI:
A pair of resolutions urging medical marijuana reform are moving forward in the
Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR) 183 urges Congress and the Drug Enforcement Administration "to consider rescheduling medical marijuana." Senate Concurrent Resolution 133 requests state officials to examine "the language, implementation, and effectiveness of medical marijuana laws in other states." The Senate Ways and Means committee passed both bills yesterday by 6 to 2 votes.
NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. called the measures positive, incremental steps toward medical marijuana reform. "Passage of this language will put Hawaii's legislature along side dozens of medical organizations, like the American Public Health Association and the New England Journal of Medicine, that have requested federal officials to reschedule medical marijuana," he said. "Hopefully, passage of these resolutions will mark the first step toward granting legal access to medical marijuana for seriously ill Hawaiian patients."
A pair of bills seeking to exempt medical marijuana patients from state criminal penalties died earlier this year.
The Senate resolutions now await action by the House of Representatives.
For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500. To download copies of this legislation, please visit: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov. To read about additional state marijuana reform legislation, please visit the NORML website at: http://www.norml.org/laws/stateleg1999.html.
U.K. Researchers To Use DNA Technology In Drug Testing, Tracking Marijuana
April 15, 1999, London, United
Kingdom: Researchers at Strathclyde University are applying DNA science to
develop drug tests that indicate whether someone has been handling marijuana, The
Herald newspaper reported earlier this month. Scientists claim that the testing
may allow police to track the supply routes of marijuana as it travels from source
countries to dealers to users.
NORML Foundation Executive Director Allen St. Pierre said the easiest way for government officials to track marijuana would be to "tax it like any other legal, regulated product. This new DNA science sounds like just another technological boondoggle in the war against marijuana smokers."
Dr. Adrian Linacre, a DNA specialist, said he has already developed a test using marijuana's DNA that demonstrates whether an individual has had physical contact with the drug. He said he hopes to create a database containing DNA fingerprints of different strains of marijuana so that police can determine whether different people have come in contact with marijuana from the same source.
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.
New Hampshire Lawmakers Say No To Marijuana Decriminalization
Halt Further Debate Until 2001
April 15, 1999, Concord, NH:
State lawmakers showed their opposition to marijuana decriminalization yesterday by
defeating a bill lowering marijuana penalties, and later voting to prevent its
reintroduction until after the year 2000.
House Bill 87 proposed changing possession of less than one ounce of marijuana from a Class A misdemeanor to a noncriminal violation. The House defeated the measure by a vote of 269 to 92, and later decided 219 to 149 to postpone the bill indefinitely. That vote prevents bill sponsor Rep. Tim Roberston (D-Keene) or any other legislator from reintroducing the measure next year.
A bill sponsored by Robertson to legalize medical marijuana has been carried over until next year.
For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.