News Release

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September 30, 1999

DEA Seizes Hemp Seed Products; Threatens Hemp Industry

        Sept. 30, 1999, Detroit, MI:  Based on a new interpretation of the Controlled Substances Act, the Drug Enforcement Administration has directed U.S. Customs to stop the importation of all hemp seed products into the United States.  The first seizure was a 53,000 pound load of sterilized seed headed to a multi-billion dollar broker of birdseed.
        The shipper was Kenex, Ltd., of Pain Court, Ontario, Canada's largest producer of hemp food and fiber products.  Based on this seizure, Customs has now recalled 14 other loads of hemp products that Kenex shipped in the past six months to U.S. distributors, thus requiring distributors to return their stocks to the border.  Jean Laprise, president of Kenex, has been threatened with criminal penalties and $500,000 in civil fines if a full recall is not achieved.
        Leaders of the hemp industry met last week in Canada to discuss a unified strategy for ending this new embargo.  A court case is being prepared for filing this coming week.  A web site and internet campaign are also being designed.  All participants at the meeting agreed this is a life or death issue for the emerging hemp industry.
        The timing of the DEA action was particularly onerous in view of the upcoming Natural Products Expo scheduled for Oct. 21-24 in Baltimore MD.  At least 200 new hemp foods from Canadian and domestic producers were scheduled to be premiered at this show.  The government's action leaves entrepreneurs in the dark as to whether these products are controlled substances, and therefore whether sellers will face criminal penalties.
        "The DEA's action reverses over 60 years of precedent," said Don Wirtshafter, Esq., of the Ohio Hempery.
        The sterilized seeds of the Cannabis plant are specifically exempted from the Controlled Substances Act.  Until now, the DEA has never claimed they are prohibitited by the act.
        "The seeds coming in from Canada are extremely clean, with over 100 times less THC than anything that has entered the country from China previously," said Wirtshafter.  "So why are they now kicking the legs out from this emerging industry?  Is this because the Drug Czar said hemp would never be economical but we were just about to prove him wrong?"
        For more information, please contact Don Wirtshafter, Esq., of the Ohio Hempery at (740) 662-4367 or Tom Dean, Esq., NORML Foundation Litigation Director at (202) 483-8751.

Clinton Vetoes DC Appropriations Bill Including A Ban On Medical Marijuana

        Sept. 30, 1999, Washington, DC:  Citing the rights of DC residents to make "their own decisions about local matters," President Bill Clinton earlier this week vetoed the DC Appropriations Bill which included a congressional ban on medical marijuana.
        Last November, DC residents overwhelmingly approved an initiative legalizing medical marijuana.  Congress initially blocked the counting of the ballots until a U.S. District Court judge ordered the vote be counted, released, and certified.  Sixty-nine percent of DC voters approved the initiative.
        Under the terms of the law granting partial home rule to the District, Congress has 30 work days to override the initiative, or it becomes law.  The Republican controlled Congress is expected to promptly approve an override.  A bill to accomplish that has already been introduced by Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA), who sponsored the earlier legislation prohibiting the vote from being counted.
        The House Appropriations Subcommittee for the District of Columbia, chaired by anti-marijuana zealot Rep. Ernest Istook (R-OK), held hearings yesterday on the impact of the initiative on law enforcement.
        As expected, the Republicans stacked the hearing with several law enforcement officials who oppose medical marijuana use, while the Democrats were only permitted to invite one witness.  Rep. James Moran (D-VA), ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, invited Keith B. Vines, Esq., Assistant District Attorney for the city and county of San Francisco.  Vines has lived both sides of the debate, as he not only prosecutes drug cases, but suffers from AIDS wasting syndrome and has used marijuana for medical reasons.
        Vines testified, "The voters in the District recognize what every nationwide poll has shown -- that Americans recognize that seriously ill persons deserve every medicine, including the politically unpopular as well as the dangerous ones, if those medications will improve the quality of their lives."
        "Please understand that people like me need marijuana to stay alive and to get healthy, not to get high," Vines said.  "Don't let me and people like me be collateral damage in the war on drugs."
        For more information, please contact Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director at (202) 483-5500 and Wayne Turner, Act Up DC, the proponents of the DC medical marijuana initiative, at (202) 547-9404.

Man Found Guilty Of Marijuana Trafficking, Receives One Cent Fine

        Sept. 30, 1999, Bowling Green, KY:  Sometimes the punishment does fit the crime.
        A man charged with trafficking less than eight ounces of marijuana (a misdemeanor in Kentucky) at General Motor's Corvette assembly plant was handed down a fine of one penny by a Warren County Court jury.
        Steven D. Eichholz was arrested in the May 1998 undercover drug sweep at the GM Plant.  On Sept. 17 he was found guilty of trafficking marijuana, but was given a symbolic fine of one cent.
        The jury reprimanded the auto maker on the juror form for what they called GM's "underhanded and nonprofessional" methods of policing its employees.
        The undercover operation occurred when Aset Corp., a private security company hired by GM, placed an attractive woman undercover in the plant.  During the workday she would make occasional comments about wanting to "have a joint."
        Seventeen GM workers in all were arrested in the five-month drug sweep, many of whom have already pled guilty.
        Now, Warren County Attorney Mike Caudill is asking that drug charges against seven other employees caught in the same drug sting be dismissed because of "fundamental fairness and private law enforcement" that did not understand "evidence integrity or constitutional rights."
        "It's heartening to see a jury dispense a penalty that fits the crime," said Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director.  "If more citizens would legally challenge their marijuana arrests rather than cop a plea bargain, more citizen jurors will hear how invasive and excessive the war on marijuana smokers has become."
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director at (202) 483-8751.