News Release

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December 16, 1999

Hawaii Plants First Legal Industrial Hemp Since WWII

        Whitmore Village, HI:  This past Tuesday, the first legal industrial hemp crop was planted on U.S. soil since it was banned after World War II.  Gov. Benjamin Cayetano (D) proclaimed the day "Industrial Hemp Day in Hawaii."
        "This historic event marks the beginning of a change in federal policy, one which I believe will lead to Drug Enforcement Agency 'farmer friendly' regulations within the next year," said Rep. Cynthia Theilen (R-Kailua), sponsor of the legislation legalizing industrial hemp in Hawaii.
        Legislation approving the test project was signed by Cayetano in July.  Hawaii became the third state this year to pass legislation legalizing industrial hemp, but it is the first to receive DEA approval to grow it.  The research project is being funded by a $200,000 grant from hemp shampoo maker Alterna.  The money from Alterna was used to finance construction for the research facility which is secured by fencing and a 24-hour infrared security system.
        "This is a huge step for Hawaii and the U.S. as a whole," said plant geneticist David West, Ph.D., who will be directing the research.  "Once the DEA removes its restrictions on growing industrial hemp freely outside of the test plot trials, the vast economic and ecological benefits of this plant will make themselves known to American farmers."
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director at (202) 483-8751 or Rep. Cynthia Theilen at (808) 586-6480.

Presidential Candidates Begin To Speak-Out On Medical Marijuana

        Derry, NH:  In response to a question from a New Hampshire voter during a televised forum in New Hampshire this past Tuesday, Vice President Al Gore distanced himself from the Clinton administration by stating that doctors "ought to have the option" to prescribe marijuana to seriously ill patients.
        Gore said his late sister was prescribed marijuana in 1984 for her cancer chemotherapy but that it did not work for her.  He added, "If it had worked for her, I think she should have had the ability to get her pain relieved that way."
        Bill Bradley, who is also seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, two weeks ago said he does not support medical marijuana now but added, "I think it's something we have to study more before we decide to do it."
        Gov. George W. Bush (R-TX), who is seeking the Republican nomination was the first candidate to address the issue in October when he said that while he did not personally support the medical use of marijuana, the decision of whether to legalize medical marijuana should be left to the states.
        "This is really an example of grass roots democracy at its best, when ordinary citizens have the opportunity to raise issues that are important to them," said Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director.
        For more information, please contact Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director at (202) 483-5500 or to view the candidates views on marijuana visit the NORML web page at

Senate Passes Bill Making Marijuana Information On The Net Illegal

        Washington, DC:  In the waning hours of the last session of Congress the Senate passed an anti-methamphetamine bill (S.486), sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), that includes language making it a felony to "teach, demonstrate, or distribute any information pertaining to the manufacture of a controlled substance."  This provision would make it a federal crime, for example, to provide to medical marijuana patients information on how to cultivate marijuana, even in those states where it is legal for patients to grow marijuana under state law.
        If passed, websites ranging from major Internet booksellers such as and to NORML's own website could be in violation.
        "Drug law reformers, civil libertarians and the general public need to recognize that Sen. Hatch's bill is a blatant attack on Americans' right to free speech," said Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director. "Citizens must act soon to amend or kill this terrible federal legislation."
        The House will look at their version of the bill (HR.2987) when it returns in late January.  NORML asks citizens who disagree with this obvious violation of free speech to contact their members of Congress and urge them to oppose this bill.
        For more information, please contact Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director at (202) 483-5500.  To view S.486 or HR.2987 visit

NORML Foundation and ACLU Fight For Rastafarian's Religious Rights In Guam

        Washington, DC:  On July 30, a federal trial court dismissed importation of marijuana charges against Rastafarian Ras Iyah Ben Makahna when he argued that the marijuana was for religious use and consistent with his Rastafarian beliefs.  The Guam government subsequently appealed the matter to the Guam Supreme Court.
        On this past Tuesday, the NORML Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a joint amicus curiae brief with the Guam Supreme Court on behalf of Makahna.  In the amicus brief, NORML Foundation and ACLU argue that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) applies to Guam as a federal territory, although the act was declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court as it applies to the states.  Under RFRA the government must demonstrate a compelling interest to overcome a person's right to the free exercise of his or her religion.
        "In light of the current research revealing the relative harmlessness of smoking marijuana, the government simply cannot demonstrate a compelling interest to ban its use for religious purposes," said NORML Foundation Litigation Director Tom Dean, Esq., who drafted the brief.  "If successful, the case would establish persuasive authority for the religious use of marijuana within any federally owned land."
        For more information, please contact Tom Dean, Esq., NORML Foundation Litigation Director at (202) 483-8751.

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