News Release

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December 22, 1999

AZ Supreme Court Rules First Time Drug Offenders Cannot Be Sent To Jail

        Yuma, AZ:  The Arizona State Supreme Court ruled this week that under the terms of voter initiatives passed in 1996 and 1998, persons convicted of possession or use of marijuana (or other illegal drugs) may not be sent to jail or prison for a first offense.
        In 1996, a majority of the voters approved Proposition 200, the Drug Medicalization, Prevention and Control Act, which requires courts to suspend sentencing and impose probation for first-time offenders.  The intent of the initiative was clearly stated to preclude the possibility of incarceration for a first-time offender.  The act directs offenders to participate in an appropriate drug treatment or education program as a condition of probation.
        In 1997, the state legislature adopted a law redefining probation to include the possibility of incarceration up to one year in jail, but that language was then repealed by a citizen referendum in 1998.
        The state Court of Appeals subsequently ruled that there was a distinction between prison and jail, and while upholding the ban on a prison sentence for first offenders, ruled that the courts could impose a jail sentence not exceeding one year as a condition of probation.
        The Supreme Court reviewed the language of Proposition 200 and overruled the court of appeals, finding that "The dictionary definition and common understanding coincide on the meaning of 'probation,' defining it as a 'court-imposed criminal sentence that...releases a convicted person into the community instead of sending the criminal to jail or prison'...[T]he electorate never intended the trial judges to have the discretion to impose jail time as a condition of probation...Neither the text nor the intent of the electorate...supports imposing incarceration as a condition of the required probation for first-time offenders."
        "One would hope that the state legislature, and the lower courts in Arizona, will now finally implement this important new law in the manner it was intended when it was approved by voters in 1996 and again in 1998," said Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director.  "It's time for the drug warriors to accept the will of the majority of Arizona voters."
        For more information, please contact Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director at (202) 483-5500.

MI initiative To Legalize Marijuana For Personal Use And Cultivation

        Lansing, MI:  Voters in Michigan could be presented with the choice of legalizing the cultivation and possession of marijuana for personal use on the November 2000 ballot.
        The proposed Personal Responsibility Amendment to the state constitution, sponsored by Saginaw attorney Gregory Carl Schmid, would allow for anyone 21 or older to grow three mature plants, seedlings and possess three ounces of dried marijuana for personal use.
        Schmid said he already has 1,000 volunteers ready to collect the 302,711 signatures of registered Michigan voters by July 10th for the question to be put on the 2000 ballot.  The campaign will kick off on January 14th.
        "The last straw broke when the federal government refused to honor the lawful medical marijuana vote of the people of Washington D.C. in November, 1998," Schmid said.  "This issue is no longer about drugs...It's about American values and the sanctity of the democratic process."
        For more information, please contact Gregory Carl Schmid at (517) 799-4641.  To view the text of the Personal Responsibility Amendment at

Study Shows Student Marijuana Use Remains At Last Year's Levels

        Ann Arbor, MI:  The annual Monitoring the Future study on drug use and adolescents showed that attitudes about marijuana and its use not only remained at the same level as last year's figures, but that attitudes about marijuana are more permissive as the school grade level advances.
        The survey is conducted annually at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research and funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.  Three sets of students are surveyed: 8th graders; high school sophomores; and seniors.
        The students were asked about the perceived harm of marijuana smoking.  The percentage of students who felt there was a "great risk" in smoking marijuana lowered as the grade level rose. Almost 24 percent of seniors said occasional marijuana use posed a great risk, whereas 33.5 percent of sophomores and 45.7 percent of 8th graders felt there was a great risk in marijuana smoking.
        Almost 40 percent of seniors said they have used marijuana in the past year while 23.1 percent said they smoked marijuana in the last 30 days.  Six percent of seniors said they were daily marijuana smokers.
        Eighty-nine percent of seniors, 78.2 percent of sophomores and 48.4 percent of 8th graders said they felt marijuana was either "fairly easy" or "very easy" to purchase.
        "Despite a perpetual multi-billion dollar tax payer funded anti-marijuana propaganda campaign, children admit that they have more access to marijuana than alcohol," said Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director.  "If society is not feigning its concern for its children -- it will adopt a public policy that controls marijuana distribution in a manner similar to alcohol."
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director at (202) 483-8751.  To view the study go to:

-- NORML and the NORML Foundation would like to extend a special holiday greeting to the 40,000 Americans who are incarcerated due to marijuana prohibition and to their families.  You are in our thoughts as we enter the new millennium.

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