News Release

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June 24, 1999

Judge Places Gag Order On Convicted Medical Marijuana Patient

        June 24, 1999, Venice, CA:  An arthritis patient may smoke marijuana legally at his home while on probation, but faces two years in jail if he advocates the drug's use to others, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled earlier this week.
        "This is a case of misguided judicial activism," said NORML Foundation Litigation Director Tom Dean.  "This case involves a patient who demonstrated full compliance with the law, yet was convicted of a criminal offense.  No wonder the judge is concerned about word getting out."
        A jury found patient Joe Kidwell guilty of cultivating 14 marijuana plants to treat arthritis and chronic pain.  Kidwell possessed recommendations to use the drug from several area physicians, two of whom testified at his trial. Kidwell's attorneys are appealing his conviction, stating that the jury misunderstood the state's medical marijuana law, and that the judge's terms of probation violate the First Amendment.
        "This was an illegal conviction," charged Ron Richards, one of Kidwell's attorneys.  "A medical patient with a written doctor's recommendation is exempt from the ... laws that he was charged under.  He has four written doctor recommendations and two [doctors] who testified on his behalf."
        NORML Foundation's Dean agreed.  "The jury decided to ignore the law and unlawfully substitute its judgment for that of the expert medical doctors who testified at trial," he said.  "The judge's actions allowing Mr. Kidwell to be convicted of using marijuana while simultaneously giving him permission to use marijuana are irreconcilable."
        Judge Albert Matthews also ordered Kidwell to cease all operations at the First Hemp Bank Distribution Network, a Venice "buyers' club" that distributes medical marijuana to patients who possess a doctor's recommendation.
        For more information, please contact Tom Dean, Esq. of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

New Mexico Governor Mulls Marijuana Decriminalization

        June 24, 1999, Santa Fe, NM:  Republican Gov. Gary Johnson is asking Party leaders to consider decriminalizing marijuana and other drugs, The Albuquerque Times reported this week.
        "What I do know is our present course is not working," Johnson said.  "Our war on drugs is a real failure.  ... [Decriminalization] needs to get talked about.  We really need to put all options on the table."
        The Times reported that informal discussions between Johnson and other state officials have centered on decriminalizing marijuana.
        "He wants us to be open to consider that [option] as one possibility," Republican Party Chairman John Dendahl said.  Dendahl added that the national GOP platform is "strongly anti-drug, pro-law enforcement and pro-stiff penalties."
        Johnson said that he did not consider recreational drug users "criminals," The Albuquerque Journal reported.
        Political analysts speculate that Johnson may recommend changes to the state's drug policies next year.  Currently, possession of marijuana for personal use is a fine-only offense in ten states.
        For more information, please contact R. Keith Stroup, Esq. of NORML @ (202) 483-5500 or Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

Scotland: Medical Association Backs Legalizing Marijuana

        June 24, 1999, Lanarkshire, Scotland:  Leading doctors from the British Medical Association's (BMA) Scottish committee for public health are pushing to remove criminal penalties for the recreational use of marijuana.
        "We want to encourage public debate on this issue and examine the evidence, rather than [have] people leaping to prejudice," committee chairman Dr. George Venters said.  "I think more than half the population would support legalization if you laid out the evidence."
        The doctors' group argues that separating marijuana from the illegal drug market would effectively dissuade users from graduating to harder drugs.  "Marijuana is in the same boat as heroin and cocaine [under the law] and that's entirely anomalous," Venters said. "Cannabis has been around a long time.  It's not addictive; it's not in the same league as these other drugs."
        Venter's said that improperly categorizing marijuana with hard drugs like heroin and cocaine costs anti-drug proponents credibility with adolescents.  "If we want to be listened to about drugs, we cannot talk a lot of nonsense.  Young people know exactly what is going on."
        The committee will bring their legalization motion before the BMA at next month's annual conference.  The BMA backs the use of cannabinoids, compounds in marijuana, as medicine, but does not endorse relaxing penalties for the drug's recreational use.
        At least two international medical societies, the Canadian Medical Association and the Australian Medical Association, oppose criminal penalties for marijuana possession.  The American Medical Association takes no current position on marijuana decriminalization, but supports clinical trials to better determine its medicinal qualities.
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

NBC Affiliate Preempts Network News Special Criticizing Drug War For Prohibitionist Propaganda Video

        June 24, 1999, Boise, ID:  While NBC viewers nationwide tuned in last Sunday to see Geraldo Rivera's special report: "Drug Bust: The Longest War," those who watched network affiliate KTVB in Boise, Idaho, instead got a dose of pro-drug war propaganda.  Rather than airing the Rivera special, which criticized several aspects of drug criminalization, the station substituted a pre-taped feature of U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue advocating in favor of stronger drug prohibition policies.
        "It is hard not to imagine that KTVB's decision not to air the Rivera special wasn't influenced by the station's sponsorship of local anti-drug campaigns," NORML Foundation Executive Director Allen St. Pierre said.
        KTVB spokesman Doug Armstrong called the preemption a coincidence that was not based on the content of the Rivera special.  Armstrong said that the station had received several complaints from viewers about the scheduling change.
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.  KTVB may be contacted @ (208) 375-7770.