News Release

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May 6, 1999

Michigan First State To Force Welfare Applicants To
Pass Drug Tests

        May 6, 1999, Lansing, MI:   Welfare applicants must pass a drug test to receive financial aid, according to a new law signed by Gov. John Engler (R) last week.  The measure, dubbed "Project Zero Tolerance," is the country's first to require drug testing as a condition of eligibility for public assistance.
        "It is unprecedented for a Legislature to single out low-income citizens and compel them to prove they are 'drug free' as a requirement for financial aid," NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. said.   "This policy insults thousands of law abiding citizens and would probably not survive a constitutional challenge."
        House Bills 4090 and 4091 mandate Michigan's Family Independence Agency (FIA) to implement "a pilot program of substance abuse testing as a condition for family assistance eligibility" in three counties by October 1, 1999.  Those already receiving financial aid will be subject to random testing to maintain their eligibility.  The Legislature intends to expand the program to test all state welfare recipients by April 1, 2003.
        A fiscal impact report by the Senate estimated that implementing the pilot program could cost state taxpayers more than $1.6 million dollars.  "This is an enormous waste of tax dollars that should be spent improving people's lives, not on punitive measures," Stroup said.
        The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the National Organization for Women (NOW), Michigan affiliate, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence of Michigan, and others opposed the proposal.
        NORML Legal Committee member William Rittenberg of New Orleans criticized the drug testing program and said the NORML Foundation may challenge it in court.  Rittenberg successfully struck down provisions of a 1997 Louisiana drug testing bill that required all residents receiving moneys from the state, including those holding state contracts, to pass a urine test.
        Congress amended federal law in 1996 to encourage states to drug test welfare recipients and deny financial aid to those who test positive.
        For more information, please contact Keith Stroup of NORML @ (202) 483-5500 or William Rittenberg of the NORML Legal Committee @ (504) 524-5555.  To download a copy of this legislation, please visit: <>.

Mounties Back Canadian Marijuana Decriminalization Effort

        May 6, 1999, Ottawa, Ontario:   The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) announced their support for a recent proposal to remove criminal penalties for the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
        "Law enforcement agencies are promoting, not hindering, the marijuana decriminalization movement in Canada," NORML Executive Director Keith Stroup said.  "Police know first hand that arresting marijuana smokers is a waste of time and resources."
        The RCMP said they "fully support" the position adopted last month by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) in favor of decriminalizing minor marijuana offenses.  The CACP recommended that first time marijuana offenders receive a ticket and pay a small fine in lieu of arrest or criminal penalties.
        Their proposal persuaded MP Keith Martin (Reform Party-Esquimalt) to introduce legislation in the House of Commons last week that would decriminalize marijuana.
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.  The RCMP's and the CACP's position statements on marijuana decriminalization appear online at: <>.

Medical Marijuana Patients Open With Their Doctors, Survey Shows

        May 6, 1999, Nimblin, New South Wales:  Patients who use medical marijuana regularly discuss their use with their doctors, according to a recent survey reported by the Australian Associated Press.
        "Th[is] shows that general practitioners don't fly into a rage and chuck people out of their room when a patient talks about cannabis use," said researcher David Helliwell, who authored the survey.
        Helliwell analyzed responses from more than 200 medical marijuana users from Australia and overseas.  He found that 63 percent of respondents had discussed their medical marijuana use with a health worker, and 50 percent had spoken to their local doctor.  Patients in the survey reported using marijuana to treat conditions like nausea, chronic pain, muscle spasms, digestive disorders, glaucoma, AIDS wasting syndrome, depression, and pre-menstrual tension.
        A previous survey of AIDS specialists conducted by South Australia Drug and Alcohol Services Council found that 85 percent of them were aware of their patients medical marijuana use.
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

Congress Spends $349,000 Building, Opening DEA Museum

        May 6, 1999, Washington, D.C.:   Next week marks the grand opening of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Museum and Visitor Center, located in Arlington, Virginia.  DEA officials say that the museum, paid for by a $349,000 Congressional appropriations, will provide an overview of "one of our nations worst problems, ... illegal drugs."
        NORML Foundation Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre called the exhibit a waste of taxpayer's dollars.  "I encourage all citizens concerned about excessive government spending to urge their members of Congress to defund this fleecing of America," he said.
        Adam Smith, President of the Drug Reform Coordination Network (DRCNet), said his organization will hold a small rally in front of the museum on opening day to protest the exhibit, which he called "a monument to 25 years of taxpayer financed failure."
        DEA officials said that it will be open to the public by appointment only by calling (202) 307-3463.
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751 or Adam Smith of DRCNet @ (202) 293-8340.

THE DPF @ (202) 537-5005