News Release

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July 29, 1999

"Barr-ing" Democracy
House Reinstates Ban On D.C. Medical Marijuana Vote

        July 29, 1999, Washington, D.C.:  The House approved by a voice vote an amendment to the D.C. Appropriations bill today that reinstates a controversial provision barring the D.C. Board of Elections from implementing last November's medical marijuana initiative.
        "Congress is holding democracy hostage and contributing to the needless suffering of seriously ill District residents who could benefit from legal medical marijuana," NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. said.
        The amendment, introduced by Georgia Rep. Bob Barr (R) prohibits D.C. officials from spending any funds "to enact or carry out any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution" of marijuana.  The resolution is aimed at preventing District officials from implementing the District's yet uncounted vote on Initiative 59, which would legalize the use of medical marijuana under a doctor's supervision.
        Congress approved legislation last year barring D.C. officials from counting the results of the I-59 vote.  Barr's new amendment differs from his previous one, which will expire on October 1, because it allows officials to tabulate the vote, but not enact it.
        Exit polls indicate that nearly 70 percent of District voters approved I-57.
        For more information, please contact Keith Stroup @ NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

D.A.R.E. Fails To Influence Teens From Drugs, 10-Year Follow Up Study Shows

        July 29, 1999, Washington, D.C.:  The nations largest, federally funded teen antidrug program, D.A.R.E., has no longterm effect on adolescent drug use, a new study to be published in the August issue of the American Psychological Association's (APA) Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology found.
        "This study joins a growing body of academic research demonstrating D.A.R.E.'s ineffectiveness as a deterrent to youthful drug use," NORML Foundation Executive Director Allen St. Pierre said.  "For this reason, numerous localities, including Houston, Oakland, and Seattle are scrapping the program."
        Researchers tracked over 1,000 students who participated in the D.A.R.E. program in sixth grade.  They re-evaluated the students at age 20, ten years after receiving the drug prevention education.  The study found that the program initially influenced the students' perceptions toward drug use, but concluded that these changes did not persist over time.
        "Some youth will use drugs and this will likely effect their lives in negative ways," said University of Kentucky psychologist Donald Lynam, who led the study.  "We should try to do something for these youth, but D.A.R.E. is probably not the thing to do."
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

Florida Mulls Use Of Controversial Anti-Marijuana Fungus

        July 29, 1999, Miami, FL:  A proposal by Florida's drug czar to unleash a marijuana-eating fungus is receiving sharp criticism from environmentalists and drug law reformers.
        "Florida is not a significant marijuana producing state, and has no business being a guinea pig for a potentially dangerous and unproven fungus," NORML Foundation Director Allen St. Pierre said.  "It is frightening to think that in search of a quick fix, Florida's drug czar is willing to risk even greater long-term ecological and social problems."
        Florida's proposed marijuana eradication plan would enlist the use of a new, marijuana-eating, soil-borne fungus, known as Fusarium oxysporum.  Proponents of the program, spearheaded by state drug czar Jim McDonough, believe that the "mycoherbicide" will target marijuana and ignore other crops.  Critics are uncertain.
        "I believe that if this fungus is unleashed, ... it's going to create its own problems," Bill Graves, a senior biologist at the University of Florida Research Center in Homestead, told The New York Times.  "If it isn't executed effectively, it's going to target rare and endangered plants."
        Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary David Stuhs also warned of the fungus' potential dangers.  "Mutagenicity [the tendency to mutate] is by far the most disturbing factor in attempting to use a Fusarium species as a bio-herbicide," he wrote in a letter to McDonough. "Mutation of the organism would not only threaten Florida's natural environment, but would also put at risk our economically vital agriculture industry."
        Despite such concerns, state officials plan to begin testing the fungus at a research facility outside of Gainesville.
        U.S. officials have previously used fungi to destroy coca plants in South America, but local farmers complained that it spread to banana, tangerine, and other food crops.
        Federal statistics indicate that less than three percent of all marijuana seized in the U.S. is grown in Florida.
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

Jamaica: Lawmakers Consider Decriminalizing Pot, Medical Marijuana Research Facility

        July 29, 1999, Kingston, Jamaica:  The Jamaican Senate is considering legislation that would make the possession of small amounts of marijuana a non-criminal offense and establish a research center to study the drug's medical potential.
        "It cannot be right and it cannot be just to continue to criticize Jamaicans for private, personal use of [marijuana,] while more toxic substances, namely alcohol and cigarettes, used in public in excessive quantities attract no criminal sanction," said Sen. Trevor Munroe (Independent), who is backing both measures.
        A Joint Select Committee of Parliament first recommended Jamaica decriminalize marijuana in 1977.  That committee also endorsed allowing doctors to legally prescribe marijuana.  Parliament failed to enact either recommendation.
        Senator Munroe's motion would establish a similar government committee to study the marijuana issue.
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.