News Release

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

July 12, 1999

NORML Calls On Congress To Stop Arresting Marijuana Smokers
Urges An End To "Reefer Madness" Marijuana Policy

WHAT:  Hearing: "The Decriminalization of Illegal Drugs"
WHEN:  July 13, 1999: 10 a.m.
WHERE:  2154 Rayburn House Office Building

        Washington, D.C.:  "There is nothing wrong with the responsible use of marijuana by adults and it should be of no interest or concern to the government," NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. will testify before Congress tomorrow.
        Stroup is one of eight panelists who will appear at Congress' second hearing this summer to debate U.S. drug policy.
        "Marijuana prohibition is a dismal and costly failure," Stroup says.  "The debate over marijuana policy in this country needs to expand beyond the current parameters to include an analysis of (1) decriminalizing the marijuana smoker and (2) legalizing and regulating the sale of marijuana to eliminate the black market.
        "Congress must move beyond the 'reefer madness' phase of this debate.  For too long elected officials have attempted to frighten Americans into supporting harsh criminal penalties by exaggerating marijuana's potential harms.  It is time for Congress to end their crusade against marijuana and marijuana smokers, and deal with this public health issue on a rational basis."
        Stroup noted that marijuana decriminalization saves law enforcement resources without increasing marijuana use in the ten states that have enacted such a policy.  "Today, approximately 30 percent of the American population live under some type of marijuana decriminalization law, and their experience has been favorable," he said.  Stroup added the only U.S. federal study ever to compare marijuana use patterns among decriminalized and non-decriminalized states found, "Decriminalization has had virtually no effect on either marijuana use or on related attitudes about marijuana use among young people."  Most recently, the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine reaffirmed in March that, "There is little evidence that decriminalization of marijuana use necessarily leads to a substantial increase in marijuana use."
        Stroup concluded: "Arresting and jailing otherwise law-abiding citizens who smoke marijuana is a wasteful and incredibly destructive policy.  It wastes valuable law enforcement resources that should be focused on violent and serious crime, it invites government into areas of our private lives that are inappropriate, and it frequently destroys the lives, careers, and families of productive citizens.  It is time to end marijuana prohibition."
        For more information, please contact Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500 or Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.