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. . . a weekly service for the media on news items related to marijuana prohibition.
Backers of Washington Drug Reform Initiative Charge Opponents
Use Of Federal Funds
September 18, 1997, Olympia, WA:
Proponents of a Washington initiative to reform state drug laws filed complaints
with the Public Disclosure Commission and state Ethics Board questioning whether
Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen was misusing federal funds to campaign against Initiative
685, "The Drug Medicalization and Prevention Act of 1997." Owen, who
vocally admits he opposes I-685, alleges that his present $170,000 anti-marijuana effort
is an outgrowth of ten years of anti-drug work and is not an attempt to persuade voters to
reject the initiative this fall.
Tacoma physician Rob Killian, who filed the initiative this spring, thinks otherwise. "Ever since I filed this, I've had the [federal] government running a campaign against me," he told The Seattle Times. "They will break the law anyway they can to ensure there isn't another voice in this war on drugs."
A spokesman for Owen told reporters that the lieutenant governor's staff is aware that current laws prohibit tax dollars from being used to fund a political campaign. However, Owen's advisor on the project -- whose salary is paid with federal funds -- admits that past and present initiatives need to be addressed by the office's current anti-marijuana strategy. "We do take on the drug-legitimizing movement," said program manager Patrick Aaby. Federal moneys also paid for multiple copies of anti-marijuana handbooks and audiovisual material. The handbook includes detailed arguments against the use of marijuana as a medicine, a key platform of the I-685 campaign.
Allen St. Pierre, Deputy Director of The NORML Foundation, blasted Owen's actions as a "naked attempt" to skirt around accepted law. "It is a clear violation of law to use taxpayer's dollars to influence a public election," he said. "These actions clearly jeopardize the democratic process."
Initiative 685 models itself after an Arizona drug-reform initiative passed in November by 65 percent of the voters. The initiative makes the following changes in state drug laws:
* Requires that any person who commits a violent crime under the influence of drugs serve 100 percent of his or her sentence.
* Permits doctors to recommend Schedule I controlled substances such as marijuana to seriously and terminally ill patients.
* Provides that persons convicted of non-violent drug possession crimes successfully undergo court supervised drug treatment programs and probation instead of being sentenced to prison.
* Requires that nonviolent persons currently in prison for personal possession or use of illegal drugs, and not serving a concurrent sentence for another crime, or previously convicted under any habitual criminal statute in any jurisdiction of the United States, be made eligible for immediate parole and drug treatment, education, and community service.
State voters will approve or reject the initiative on November 5.
For more information, please contact either Madeline Johnson of Citizens for Drug Policy Reform @ (206) 781-6795 or Dr. Rob Killian via e-mail at: RKillian@aol.com. Copies of the initiative are available from NORML upon request or on the Internet at: http://www.eventure.com/I685/index.html.
Hawaiian Legislator Calls For Boycott Of Alabama Following Hemp Bust
September 18, 1997, Honolulu, HI:
Hawaiian Legislator Cynthia Thielen (R-Kailua) called for a statewide boycott of
Alabama after learning that state law enforcement officials arrested two shop owners for
selling products made from hemp fiber.
"If the district attorney there in Birmingham is going to equate hemp with marijuana..., then Alabama should be avoided like the plague," Thielen said. Thielen is a staunch proponent of hemp's industrial uses and sponsored legislation this spring to allow for the domestic cultivation of the crop.
"As an alternative material, there is nothing more versatile right now," she said.
Thielen sent a letter to Governor Fob James informing him that she is encouraging hemp-related industries in Hawaii to avoid doing any business in Alabama. "This is a business development issue," she explained.
Business owners Angela Guilford and her husband Jeff Russell were charged with trafficking in marijuana after law enforcement raided her small shop in July and seized hemp-based clothing, jewelry, and sterilized seeds. Jefferson County District Attorney David Barber said the charges are justified because the state's trafficking statutes define marijuana "anything that can be identified as coming from the plant." Federal law allows for the possession and importation of hemp fiber and products.
"Some areas are a little looser about marijuana, and we're not," Barber said.
When told about Rep. Theilen's comments and that she often dons hemp clothing, Barber replied that "she'd have a problem" if she visited Alabama.
Guilford and Russell have a preliminary hearing scheduled for September 23.
For more information, please contact R. Keith Stroup, Esq. of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.
California Legislature To Wait Till Next Year Before Deciding On
Medical Marijuana Research Center
September 18, 1997, Sacramento, CA:
The California Legislature failed to act on legislation to establish a Medical
Marijuana Research Center at a campus of the University of California. The bill,
S.B. 535, would have provided $1 million dollars for the first year of study and recommend
similar financing over the next two years. The legislation will now be held over
NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. called the outcome disappointing. "The Legislature's inaction ignores demands from the public and scientific community to conduct unbiased research on the efficacy and safety of medical marijuana," he said. "This is a golden opportunity missed."
S.B. 535, introduced by Sen. John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara), enjoys broad support from the medical and law enforcement community. Backers of the research proposal include the American Cancer Society, Attorney General Dan Lungren, the California Narcotics Officers Association, the California Medical Association, and the California District Attorney's Association. California NORML Coordinator Dale Gieringer said he remains hopeful that the Legislature will approve the bill next year.
"Rigid scientific studies of medical marijuana are the only way to resolve the current conflict between Prop. 215 and federal law," he said, expressing dismay that such research is still not underway. "It is a remarkable testimony to the failure of our national drug policy leadership that a year after [the] passage of Prop. 215, not a single research study of medical marijuana is taking place. The longer the government delays, the longer it will be necessary for medical marijuana patients to rely on underground cannabis buyers' clubs and voter initiatives like Prop. 215."
For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751 or Dale Gieringer of California NORML @ (415) 563-5858.
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