News Release

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September 2, 1999

Swiss Government Promises Marijuana Decriminalization

        Sept. 2, 1999, Switzerland:  Switzerland's marijuana prohibition may be a thing of the past as government officials have promised to decriminalize marijuana use and possession.  Drug use will remain illegal for children under 18 years of age.
        A Swiss government study shows 27 percent of 15-35 year olds in the country use cannabis.
        "We remain in the lead for the innovative approaches addressing drug-related issues," said Thomas Zeltner, director of Switzerland's Federal Department for Health.
        "The consumption of cannabis can't be avoided through prohibition," the Swiss Department of the Interior said in its proposal.  "We aim to adapt legislation to reality in the area of drug consumption."
        The proposal stated cannabis, "does relatively little damage to health," and under certain circumstances "can have a therapeutic effect."
        The Swiss Government has also suggested criminal penalties for the use of harder drugs such as cocaine be eliminated as well.  In June, voters approved legislation to legally provide heroin to addicts if they have a prescription.
        "It's amazing to see just how isolated the United States is becoming on the issue of marijuana," said Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director.  "While European countries and Canada are crafting meaningful legal reforms -- reflecting modern mores in a rational public policy -- America is increasingly relying on expanding the budgets and power of the 'three Ps': police, prosecutors, and prisons."
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre NORML Foundation Executive Director at (202) 483-8751.

Kentucky Supreme Court To Hear Harrelson's Hemp Case in October

        Sept. 2, 1999, Frankfort, KY:  Actor Woody Harrelson's Kentucky industrial hemp challenge will reach the state Supreme Court at 11 a.m., on Oct. 14, 1999 in Louisville.
        The Kentucky Supreme Court will review a decision by the state Circuit Court of Appeals which earlier denied review of a June 1996 order by the trial court to dismiss the case against Harrelson and declare the legality of hemp prohibition in the state of Kentucky.
        In a highly publicized event, Harrelson planted four industrial hemp seeds in June of 1996, and was cited by state officials for marijuana possession.  The Lee County Court dismissed the charge, finding the state law outlawing marijuana was overly broad by including industrial hemp.  The dismissal was appealed by the government in November and the state Court of Appeals, in a purely procedural ruling, said the prosecutor could not appeal the dismissal.  Both sides have asked the state Supreme Court to make a decision on the merits regarding the validity of hemp prohibition.
        "It's unlikely the court will go that far," said Tom Dean, Esq., NORML Foundation Litigation Director.  "If anything the state supreme court will send the case back to the court of appeal for further review."
        Harrelson argued that the statute outlawing marijuana possession was unconstitutional because it does not differentiate between marijuana and industrial hemp.
        "The express purpose of these laws has been to prevent the people from ingesting what has been deemed a dangerous psychoactive substance," Dean said.  "Pointing out that industrial hemp is incapable of producing a psychoactive effect, Harrelson is arguing that hemp has been inappropriately lumped in with the drug marijuana, the intended object of prohibition."
        For more information, please contact Tom Dean, Esq., NORML Foundation Litigation Director at (202) 483-8751 or Burl McCoy, Esq., attorney for Woody Harrelson at (606) 254-6363.

Committee To Tell Maine Medical Association To Oppose Medical Marijuana Referendum

        Sept. 2, 1999, Augusta, ME:  The public health committee of the Maine Medical Association will recommend that the organization opposes the November referendum on the legalization of medical marijuana.
        Included among the committee's complaints against the referendum were that the list of diseases approved for medical use was too long, and that marijuana was a "gateway drug leading users to frequently use stronger illicit or harmful drugs."
        "It's precisely that marijuana is so helpful for so many ailments that the MMA should be looking at the safety and utility of medical marijuana, rather than adopting the federal government's 'flat earth' anti-marijuana stance," said Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director.  "Further, the MMA should read the recently released Institute of Medicine report on the health effects of marijuana.
        In the IOM report researchers put to rest the myth that marijuana is a gateway drug."
        NORML Foundation's Chair Lester Grinspoon, MD, of Harvard Medical School will present a lecture to the MMA's annual meeting in two weeks.
        "It's our hope that Dr. Grinspoon can impress upon the other physicians in attendance the need for them to support -- not oppose -- the current medical marijuana law reform efforts in Maine."
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of NORML Foundation at (202) 483-8751 or Lester Grinspoon, MD, NORML Foundation Chair at (617)277-3621.  To view the IOM Report:

Scottish Parliament Member Submits Motion To Examine Cannabis Legalization

        Sept. 2, 1999, Scotland:  A member of the Scottish Parliament has submitted a motion that calls for a panel of experts and citizens to examine cannabis legalization.
        Eleven additional members of Scottish Parliament are needed to support the motion before the first debates would begin.
        "The time is right for the issue to be debated," said Margo MacDonald, the parliament member who initiated the motion.  "It's nothing to do with political parties, and I hope it will be discussed before Christmas."
        MacDonald is a former member of the Scotland Against Drugs organization but said she left after the group passed up the chance to change things when the Church of Scotland's social committee suggested a Royal Commission on the issue of cannabis.
        "This is hopefully another promising step in the succession of cannabis decriminalization in Europe," said Scott Colvin, Publications Director of NORML.
        For more information, please contact Scott Colvin, Publications Director of NORML at (202) 483-5500.