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Actor Woody Harrelson Endorses Industrial
Hearings For Colorado Cultivation Bill Begin Today
1996, Denver, CO: Hearings begin today before the
Colorado State Senate Agriculture Committee to determine the fate
of a bill that would allow Colorado to become the first state to
grow industrial hemp in almost 40 years.
The bill, sponsored by Senator Lloyd Casey (D-Northglenn), permits the planting of no more than 40 acres of industrial hemp in Colorado in 1996 for agricultural, commercial, and scientific research. The legislation allows for full scale commercial production of hemp to begin in 1998.
Appearing before the Committee today are a wide assortment of hemp activists, businessmen, farmers, and lobbyists. However, Casey speculates that the bill's most influential endorsement may come from Hollywood actor and businessman, Woody Harrelson. In a fax to the Agriculture Committee, Harrelson stated that he "will personally guarantee that all hemp produced in Colorado will be purchased at fair market prices." Harrelson is a hemp proponent who has commercial interests in both the clothing and paper industry.
"That [endorsement] might do the best for us," notes Casey. In the past, a major concern for the committee was whether there is a legitimate market for industrial hemp. Harrelson's announcement demonstrates that there are buyers willing and waiting, the senator states.
If Casey's legislation is approved by the 7-member Senate Agriculture Committee, the bill will then move on to the Senate floor for a vote.
For more information on this bill, please contact either Colorado State Senator Lloyd Casey @ (303) 866-4865 or the Colorado Hemp Initiative Project at (303) 784-5632. For more information on industrial hemp, please contact Allen St. Pierre @ NORML.
Circuit Court Ruling Allows For Religious Defense In Marijuana Cases
1995, San Francisco, CA: Rastafarians can defend
themselves against charges of marijuana possession on religious
grounds, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled.
Citing the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the three judge appeals panel overturned the lower court convictions of three individuals charged with possessing marijuana. The Circuit Court ruled that a Montana District Court Judge had violated the act by failing to allow the Rastafarian defendants to present evidence demonstrating marijuana's sacred role in their religion. However, the Court upheld additional drug convictions against the defendants.
"The court's decision to negate the marijuana possession charges against these defendants is a significant ruling," stated NORML Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre. "To the best of NORML's knowledge, this decision is the first time that a marijuana conviction has been overturned on the basis of freedom of religion."
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 strengthened protections for religious groups and was intended to curb criminal prosecutions that interfere with religious beliefs. The act requires the government to show a compelling interest for any prosecution that significantly hinders the exercise of religious freedom.
"Under RFRA, ... the government had the obligation, first, to show that the application of the marijuana laws to the defendants was in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest and, second, to show that the application of these laws to these defendants was the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest," Judge John Noonan wrote for the court.
In addition, the court maintained that the government could challenge the defendant's claims that they were, in fact, Rastafarians.
The government should be free to cross-examine [the defendants] on whether they ... are Rastafarians and to introduce evidence negating their assented claims," added Judge Noonan. "It is not enough in order to enjoy the protections of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to claim the name of religion as a protective cloak."
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of NORML @ (202) 483-5500. A copy of the decision is currently available on the Internet at the following address: http://www.law.vill.edu/Fed-Ct/Circuit/9th/opinions/9430073.htm
Iowa Supreme Court "Just Says No" To Controversial License Suspension Law
Des Moines, IA: Iowa's federally mandated "smoke a
joint, lose your license law" has been ruled
unconstitutional by the State Supreme Court. As a result,
hundreds of convicted drug offenders, many found guilty of simple
marijuana possession, will have their driving privileges
restored. In addition, the state stands to lose more than
$16 million annually in federal highway aid.
With its recent decision, the court nullified a 1993 state law that imposes an automatic six-month driver's license suspension upon conviction of any drug offense, regardless of whether the offense is driving related. According to the court, the license suspension constituted "double jeopardy" because it was a second punishment for a single criminal action. "There [is] no direct connection between possession of controlled substances, driving, and public safety," wrote the court. "The amended statute authorizing this license revocation was aimed essentially at enhancing punishment for controlled substance possession."
The Iowa Department of Transportation estimates that nearly 8,500 people had been subject to license suspension since the law took effect two years ago.
"It's the first step in the right direction of common sense," said Attorney Jeff Crispin of Des Moines. "There's no logical connection between these drug offenses and driving privileges. It doesn't make sense to have these penalties."
Despite the recent decision, transportation officials have decided against expunging drug-related suspensions from the driving records of those who have already completed them.
For more information, please contact Attorney Jeff Crispin @ (515) 288-7400.
Medical Marijuana Patients To Rally On State Capitol Steps
1996, San Francisco, CA: Persons who are living with
AIDS and cancer from the Sacramento County area and beyond will
be rallying on the West Steps of the California State Capitol
Building Saturday, February 17 at 2:00 to show their support for
medical marijuana. Sacramento County Director of
Californians for Compassionate Use, Ryan Landers, will present
state lawmakers with signatures gathered in Sacramento during the
first half of the statewide effort to qualify the
"Compassionate Use Act of 1996" for inclusion in the
1996 election ballot and demonstrators will be conducting an all
day sign-up drive.
Medical marijuana proponents need to gather 600,000 signatures from registered voters by April 20 in order to put the Initiative on the ballot for the 1996 election. To date, the all volunteer drive has amassed approximately 125,000 signatures.
California's Medical Marijuana Initiative came about in response to Governor Pete Wilson's decision to veto legislation that would allow for the medical use of marijuana. If the initiative is passed by California voters this fall, the bill will become law immediately and cannot be vetoed.
"The [Medical Marijuana] Initiative will simply set the record and allow patients and their doctors to use marijuana medicinally in California free of the stigmas and terror they have come to accept," explained Dennis Peron, statewide Director of the Compassionate Use Campaign.
For more information, please contact either Dennis Peron @ (415) 621-3986 or Ryan Landers @ (916) 736-3598.
REMINDER: "HIGHER TIMES," THE CNN SPECIAL ON MARIJUANA WILL AIR THIS SUNDAY AT 9:00 P.M. EST. AND NORML DEPUTY DIRECTOR ALLEN ST. PIERRE DEBATES FORMER DRUG CZAR LEE BROWN LIVE ON AMERICA ON-LINE ON FEBRUARY 19!!!
MORE THAN 10 MILLION MARIJUANA ARRESTS SINCE 1965 ... ANOTHER EVERY 65 SECONDS!