News Release

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July 8, 1999

Drug War Priorities Shift From Hard Drugs To Marijuana,
Arrest Figures Reveal

        July 8, 1999, Washington, D.C.:  Marijuana arrests more than doubled since 1990 while, at the same time, the percentage of arrests for the sale and manufacture of cocaine and heroin fell by over 50 percent, a preliminary analysis of drug arrest statistics by The NORML Foundation announced today.
        "These figures affirm that law enforcement priorities have shifted from targeting hard drug users and traffickers to arresting primarily recreational marijuana smokers," NORML Foundation Executive Director Allen St. Pierre said.  "As we enter the new millennium, the drug war is now more than ever a war on marijuana smokers."
        The NORML Foundation examined FBI drug arrest figures between 1990 and 1997, the last year the agency has data available.  NORML found:

* Drug arrests increased 31 percent since the beginning of the decade.  Rising marijuana possession arrests are chiefly responsible for this overall rise in drug arrests.

* Marijuana arrests rose every year since 1991, reaching an all time high of 695,200 in 1997.  Marijuana arrests increased 59 percent during this period.  Conversely, use of marijuana by adults remained unchanged.

* The percentage of arrests for the sale or manufacture of cocaine and heroin fell 51 percent between 1990 and 1997.  The percentage of arrests for all heroin and cocaine violations also fell by 34 percent.

* There have been more than 3.7 million marijuana arrests this decade.  Eighty-three percent of these arrests were for possession only.

        The arrest figures conflict with statements made by White House Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey, who recently announced that America "can not arrest our way out of the [drug] problem."
        "The FBI data show that we are witnessing an unprecedented number of drug arrests in the 1990s, the largest percentage of which are for marijuana possession," St. Pierre said.  "McCaffrey and others need to examine these figures and explain why they run contrary to the administration's stated goals."
        St. Pierre also noted that marijuana use among adolescents has increased despite the law enforcement crackdown.  "Clearly, the figures show that targeting and arresting adult marijuana smokers does not deter adolescent experimentation with the drug."
        St. Pierre labeled marijuana prohibition an expensive and wasteful policy, and called for further analysis of whether the increased emphasis on marijuana enforcement is causing police to neglect enforcement efforts aimed at harder drugs like cocaine and heroin.
        The NORML Foundation will soon issue a full report on its website: <>.
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

Feds Ease Restrictions On United States' Only Legal Marijuana-Based Drug

        July 8, 1999, Washington, D.C.:  Federal drug enforcement officials relaxed restrictions last week on the only legal marijuana-based drug.  The decision reclassifies synthetic THC, marketed as Marinol, as a Schedule III controlled substance and is expected to expand patients' access to the drug.
        "Marinol is a legal alternative to marijuana that has demonstrated safety and varied effectiveness among patients; for those patients who find medical benefits from Marinol, this ruling is a positive step," NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. said.  "However, to those thousands of patients who find Marinol ineffective or less effective when compared to whole smoked marijuana therapy, this reclassification provides little relief."
        Stroup continued, "Marinol is not necessarily an adequate substitute for whole smoked marijuana because it lacks several of the drug's medically valuable compounds, known as cannabinoids.  Therefore, this decision is not a silver bullet for patients or politicians.  Federal law still must be changed to allow those unresponsive to synthetic THC the opportunity to use inhaled marijuana as a legal medical therapy."
        The FDA first approved Marinol in 1986 to treat the nausea associated with cancer therapy.  The agency later approved the drug as an appetite stimulant for AIDS patients.  Last week's reclassification ruling allows doctors greater flexibility to prescribe Marinol and relaxes record keeping requirements on the drug.
        Stroup noted, however, that it raises further questions about the future of medical marijuana.  "This decision by the federal government acknowledges that one of the primary compounds in marijuana, THC, is medically valuable and lacks a high potential for abuse," he said.  "Yet, this same government maintains that marijuana must remain criminally prohibited because it has no medical value and a high abuse potential.  This is the equivalent of the government endorsing Vitamin C but prohibiting orange juice."
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.  Copies of the NORML Foundation white paper, "The Need for Medical Marijuana Despite the Availability of Synthetic THC," are available upon request.

California Panel Likely To Recommend Registering Medical Marijuana Users

        July 8, 1999, San Francisco, CA: A state task force convened by Attorney General Bill Lockyer to explore ways to better implement California's medical marijuana law will likely recommend patients register for ID cards identifying themselves to police, The Los Angeles Times reported.
        Oregon already has similar regulations in place.
        The task force, whose recommendations will be released shortly, is also expected to recommend the state develop regulations allowing marijuana clubs to operate openly.
        Lawmakers are expected to introduce the task force's proposals before the state Legislature.
        For more information, please contact California NORML Coordinator Dale Gieringer, who served on the task force, @ (415) 563-5858.