News Release

1001 Connecticut Ave, NW - Ste 710 - Washington, DC 20036
Tel. 202.483.8751 - Fax 202.483.0057 - E-mail - Internet

December 30, 1999

Federal Court Of Appeals Halts Drug Testing Plan For Elected Officials

        New Orleans, LA:  The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld this past Tuesday a 1998 federal district judge's ruling that a Louisiana law requiring random drug tests for elected officials was unconstitutional.
        The Circuit's three-judge panel affirmed U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon's decision that the drug-testing law violates the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment protection against illegal search and seizure.
        The unanimous decision stated, "[W]e are satisfied that the district court committed no reversible error in applying the pertinent law to the virtually uncontested facts."
        The law, which would have required 10 percent of state and local officials to be randomly drug tested each year, was passed in 1997 but has never been implemented due to the legal challenge.  Under the law, results of the first test would have remained private.  If drugs were detected a second test would have been conducted within six months.  In the case of a second positive test for drugs, the results would have been made public.  Refusal to submit to a drug test would result in a $10,000 fine and censure.  It is expected that Gov. Mike Foster (R), who initiated the legislation, will appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.
        William Rittenberg, Esq., a NORML Legal Committee attorney who challenged the law on behalf of a state legislator, said the U.S. Supreme Court already ruled on the issue in 1997, when it overturned a Georgia law requiring political candidates to be drug-tested.
        "Case law is clear that the act of urination is a private act, and the act of requiring somebody to give a urine sample is a search," Rittenberg said.  "Only in exceptional circumstances can you conduct warrantless searches."
        For more information, please contact William Rittenberg, Esq., at (504) 524-5555.

Mayor Hinders Opening Of North Coast NORML Hemp Store

        Ravenna, OH:  North Coast NORML's attempt to open a hemp store in Ravenna's historic downtown district has been sidelined by the city's mayor, who has admitted he "may be infringing on [NORML's] Constitutional rights."
        Ravenna Mayor Paul Jones said he is "doing this for the safety of Ravenna."  The shop would be selling hemp clothing, jewelry, NORML logo products and books.
        The mayor is forcing North Coast NORML Director John Hartman to seek approval from both the zoning and planning commissions.  The planning commission, which is headed by the mayor, can hold-up the approval process for up to six months if they choose, Hartman said.  North Coast NORML has rented the store front since September.
        Hartman said he is unaware of any laws or regulations which would preclude a hemp product store from opening in the historic district which already features a diverse array of businesses.  Since there was previously a business at the same location, Hartman says they should not have to obtain zoning commission approval, and because they did not change the physical structure of the building, they should not have to obtain the planning commission's approval.
        In another move to block the store's opening, the mayor is also asking for the social security number of anyone involved in the store.  As the city's safety director, he is asserting the right to obtain background checks on potential retailers.  Jones has also tabled North Coast NORML's request for an occupancy permit and a second sign proposal.
        "We are being singled-out by the mayor based on the politics of marijuana legalization," Hartman said.  "We are obviously considering legal action."
        For more information, please contact John Hartman of North Coast NORML at (216) 521-9333.

Long-Time Voice For Drug Law Reform Is Silenced

        Washington, DC: Rufus King, Sr., age 82, died of cancer this Tuesday at his home in Washington, DC.  He was a friend of drug law reform who traveled in the most establishment of circles.
        Many will remember Rufus from his attendance at Drug Policy Foundation and NORML conferences over the years.  He was a life-long advocate for decriminalizing all drugs.  His book, "The Drug Hangup," published in 1973, argued for treatment rather than incarceration.  He helped create a joint committee on narcotics of the American Bar Association and the American Medical Association in the 1950s; was a past chairman of the criminal justice section of the ABA; and was a founding member of the ABA section on individual rights and responsibilities.
        He used all of these forums to advocate for decriminalizing drugs.  His most recent publication was an article in the "My Turn" section of Newsweek in April of this year.  He served for a time on the NORML board, was on the advisory board of the DPF, and was honored by both organizations for his work.
        For those in the Washington, DC area, a memorial service will be held at 10 am, on Friday morning, December 31, at the St. Alban's church at 3001 Wisconsin Avenue, NW.
        "All who knew Rufus will miss him and his voice for reform," said Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director.  "During his latter years, Rufus became somewhat the conscience of the reform movement, reminding us to avoid the tendency to become comfortable with the struggle, and warning against the creation of a drug reform industrial complex that would have a life of its own.  He wanted us to travel lightly, keep our focus on the goal, and finish the job."

- End -