NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR THE REFORM OF
1001 CONNECTICUT AVENUE NW
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20036
TEL 202-483-5500 * FAX 202-483-0057
... a weekly service for the media on news items related to Marijuana Prohibition.
March 7, 1996
NORML Testifies Before
Executive Director Keith Stroup Tells Subcommittee That "Far More Harm Is Caused By Marijuana Prohibition Than By Marijuana Itself"
March 6,1996, Washington, DC: In a
step forward for the marijuana reform movement, Congress invited NORML
Executive Director Keith Stroup and two other reform advocates to testify
on the subject of marijuana policy. Wednesday's
congressional hearing marked the first time that Congress has
made such overtures in more than six years.
Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee: Congressional Subcommittee on Crime, Stroup urged the committee to put an end to federal policies that continue to arrest hundreds of thousands of adult marijuana users every year while, at the same time, maintaining NORML's opposition to adolescent drug use. "Marijuana smokers in this country are no different from their non-smoking peers, except for their marijuana use. Like most Americans, they are responsible citizens who work hard, raise families, contribute to their communities, and want a safe, crime-free neighborhood in which to live," he stated. "It's time we ended marijuana prohibition and stopped arresting and jailing hundreds of thousands of average Americans whose only 'crime' is that they smoke marijuana. This is a tragic and senseless war against our own citizens; it must be ended.
Stroup also spoke in favor of amending federal law to allow patients access to medical marijuana with a doctor's prescription and urged the members of the crime subcommittee to promptly approve HR 2618 -- a federal bill currently before the subcommittee that would permit the medical use of cannabis. "Whatever you may feel about the war on drugs," Stroup summarized, "denying medical marijuana to seriously ill people should not be a part of it."
Also appearing before the subcommittee to attest to marijuana's medical utility was Richard Brookhiser, Senior Editor for the National Review. In impassioned testimony, Brookhiser told of his own use of marijuana, with the full knowledge of his physicians, as a way to alleviate the violent nausea he suffered as the result of cancer chemotherapy treatments. "Because of ... marijuana, my last two courses of chemotherapy were almost nausea-free," Brookhiser recounted. "There was only one problem -- I had to become a criminal to do this."
Representing the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) was Attorney Jeralyn E. Merritt of Denver, Colorado. Merritt testified in favor of changes recently enacted by the U.S. Sentencing Commission and approved by Congress adopting a universal plant/weight ratio of 100 grams be used in marijuana sentencing. Merritt argued that efforts by some members of Congress to re-enact a 1000 gram per plant ratio for marijuana plants were not justified. "For Congress to step in now," she testified, "in the absence of new and compelling evidence that the [current law] is scientifically unsound or otherwise irrational, flies in the face of the authority granted to the [U.S.] Sentencing Commission."
Appearing before the committee on an opposing panel were Stephanie Haynes, President of Drug Watch International, Dr. Eric A. Voth of the International Drug Strategy Institute, D.A.R.E. officer Donald Hayes of the Alexandria Virginia Police Department, and Tom Hedrick, Vice Chairman of the Partnership for a Drug Free America. All four speakers testified in favor of continuing to maintain strict penalties for the use of marijuana and encouraged Congress to strengthen their anti-drug efforts. In addition, both Ms. Haynes and Dr. Voth voiced their disapproval over the efficacy of medical marijuana and the introduction of HR 2618. Ignoring the fact that thousands of seriously ill patients risk arrest daily to acquire marijuana as a therapeutic agent for a variety of serious illnesses including glaucoma, cancer, and the wasting syndrome associated with AIDS, Voth testified that only "the pro-marijuana forces [continue to] drive the medical marijuana issue."
Although NORML was encouraged by the opportunity to testify before the congressional subcommittee, the organization expressed concern that Subcommittee Chairman, Bill McCollum -- a former two-time co-sponsor of medical marijuana legislation himself -- refused to hear testimony from Harvard Medical School Professor and international authority on medical marijuana, Dr. Lester Grinspoon, M.D. "Because of the importance [NORML] place[s] on the need for medical marijuana, we had asked if we might have ... [Dr.] Lester Grinspoon ... present our testimony here today, but [we] were told by the committee that would not be possible," Stroup explained. "[However,] Dr. Grinspoon remains available should this committee elect to hear from him at some point."
"The fact that the subcommittee allowed a medical doctor testify to the purported dangers of marijuana, but denied NORML the opportunity to present expert medical testimony on the therapeutic effectiveness of cannabis is truly unfortunate, said NORML's Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre. "Since the Subcommittee on Crime may be voting on proposed medical marijuana legislation in the near future, one can only hope that they will hold additional hearings at which time expert medical testimony on both sides of the issue will be accepted."
For more information of the March 6 hearings before Congress, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500. A Transcript of NORML's testimony is currently available on the Internet @ http://www.norml.org/
New Drug Czar Sworn In; Clinton Proposes Massive Expansion Of White House Anti-Drug Efforts
March 6, 1996, Washington, DC: In a
move that signifies a 180 degree departure from the President's
previous decisions to downsize the Office of National Drug
Control Policy, President Clinton recently asked Congress for
$3.4 million in supplemental spending to expand the staff of the
ONDCP from 25 to 150 individuals. This money would be in
addition to the extra $250 million dollars already appropriated
by the White House to beef up anti-drug efforts.
"The general wants some troops to command," explained one White House official to the Washington Post on Clinton's sudden move to increase the ONDCP staff, "and Clinton wanted the general." Newly appointed drug czar, retired General Barry R. McCaffrey was sworn in to office yesterday.
In addition to his title as drug czar, McCaffrey was granted a slot on the National Security Council. The former general was also given approval from the White House to carry over 30 former Pentagon staffers to his new operation.
"According to the most recent FBI statistics, the federal government's war on drugs is primarily a war against marijuana users," explained NORML's Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre. "Clinton's latest effort to drastically increase the 'war' effort is yet another step in the wrong direction and a wasteful expenditure of valuable taxpayers dollars."
For copies of retired General McCaffrey's resume and related articles, contact Allen St. Pierre of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.
NOTICE! NORML DEPUTY DIRECTOR WILL BE APPEARING LIVE ON AMERICA ON-LINE (AOL) THIS SUNDAY AT 10 P.M. EST. TO DISCUSS HOW CAMPUS ORGANIZATIONS CAN RALLY TO EFFECTIVELY REFORM MARIJUANA LAWS. THE 2 HOUR FORUM IS BEING SPONSORED BY THE ACLU AND MAY BE ACCESSED ON AOL BY ENTERING THE KEYWORD: "ACLU." INTERESTED PARTIES MUST THEN GO IN TO THE SECTION "ACLU LIVE" AND ENTER "FREEDOM HALL."
MORE THAN 10 MILLION MARIJUANA ARRESTS SINCE 1965 ... ANOTHER EVERY 65 SECONDS!