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June 6, 1996

"Cheers" Star Plants Hemp In Kentucky ... And Pays The Price
Harrelson Hopes To Challenge Federal Law By Act Of Civil Disobedience

June 1, 1996, Lexington, KY: Hemp activist and noted Hollywood actor Woody Harrelson was arrested and charged with cultivation of fewer than five marijuana plants after he brazenly planted four seeds of industrial hemp in full view of Lee County Sheriff William Kilburn. The planting and subsequent arrest are part of an orchestrated protest by Harrelson to challenge the continued prohibition of industrial hemp. Harrelson expects to be found guilty of the misdemeanor charge and intends to appeal because current law makes no distinction between marijuana and industrial hemp.

"The [law prohibiting hemp cultivation] is overly broad," explained Burl McCoy, a Lexington attorney who was on hand to represent the actor. "There is no rational basis for the statute."

In a June 5 press release, the famed actor of both television and film explained his actions.

"I am not one to go out of my way to get arrested. But in this case, I thought it was important for me to take that step in order to demonstrate the difference between industrial hemp and marijuana.

"Industrial hemp, like the four certified seeds I planted, was first grown in Kentucky two hundred and fifty years ago. It is currently grown in other countries across the globe, including France, England, Canada, Australia, China, Hungary, and the Ukraine. Industrial hemp has very little THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. [Therefore,] it cannot be used as a drug. None of the countries that allow industrial hemp production have experienced any problems relating to the crop.

"Industrial hemp is very clean and easy to grow. It is one of the most environmentally sound sources of industrial fiber in the world. ... Environmentally friendly detergents, plastics, paints, varnishes, cosmetics, and textiles are already being made from it in Europe. ... Industrial hemp can meet our fiber needs while also revitalizing our struggling rural economies.

"Congress never intended to make legitimate industrial hemp farming the same as marijuana cultivation. I planted industrial hemp and got arrested because someone must highlight this difference and in order to truly know the law, one must test the law. I think it is time for all of us to make a stand ... for environmentally friendly, rural economic development. If the people lead the leaders will follow."

Harrelson, who is part owner of The Hempstead Company - one of the largest hemp clothing companies in the nation - notes that he intends to plant hemp in additional states to further challenge the laws.

For more information, please contact the office of Simon Halls at (212) 957-0707 or the Colorado Hemp Initiative Project (CO-HIP) at (303) 784-5632. Press releases regarding Harrelson's arrest are available on the Internet at The Hempstead Company Web site. Their Web site may be linked from the Hemp Industries Association homepage at:

Majority Of Police Chiefs Admit That War On Drugs Is Unsuccessful

June 1996, Washington, D.C.: Sixty percent of police chiefs nationwide admit that police and other law enforcement agencies have been unsuccessful in reducing the drug problem in the United States and an overwhelming majority (85 percent) call for major changes in the way America deals with drug use, according to a joint study conducted by the Police Foundation and Drug Strategies - a Washington D.C. based organization that advocates a more balanced approach to fighting drugs.

"Police Chiefs want to see a balanced approach," Police Foundation President Hubert Williams recently told the Law Enforcement News in response to the report. "They recognize that a narrow strategy directed down a single corridor will not work." More than 300 police chiefs from around the country participated in the study.

The report's key findings are as follows:

  • Only 15 percent of the police chiefs polled say punishment would be more effective than education, interdiction, or treatment in controlling drug problems; only 10 percent of chiefs who have served in a narcotics division choose punishment over the other options.

  • Nearly three-fourths say that mandatory minimum sentences for drug possession have been only somewhat effective or not really the answer to drug trafficking in their communities; only 21 percent say mandatory sentences have been very or fairly effective.

  • Only 28 percent regard low conviction rates, either for dealers or users, as key limitations in their ability to deal with drugs in their communities.

  • By two to one, police chiefs say that putting drug users in court-supervised treatment programs (59 percent) is more effective than prison or jail time (28 percent).

  • Only three percent believe that current efforts by law enforcement have been very successful in reducing the drug problem in the United States.

    "The findings of the Police Foundation and Drug Strategies demonstrate that the majority of our nation's police chiefs who are on the front lines of the 'War on Drugs' do not favor the 'get-tough' approaches against drug users that are so often heralded by our political leaders and supported by the American public," said NORML Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre.

    For more information, please contact Drug Strategies at (202) 663-6090.

    Small Town Mayor Claims She Was Unaware That Growing Marijuana Was Illegal

    May 29, 1996, Copperhill, TN: Copperhill Mayor Janelle Kimsey admits that she grew marijuana, but argues that she was unaware that growing marijuana for "educational purposes" was illegal. The rural-town mayor was recently found growing ten marijuana plants on her porch and may be indicted on charges of marijuana cultivation.

    "There may be a perfectly good explanation for this, but at this point we haven't found it," stated Polk County Sheriff Bill Davis.

    In her defense, the two-term mayor claims she was guilty of nothing more than ignorance. "We made a drug bust a couple of months ago, and the citizens wanted to know what [marijuana] looked like," said the mayor, adding that she planned to take the full grown plants to the police department to be used as a display. "I didn't know it was illegal to grow it for educational purposes."

    Kimsey also maintains that she intended to use the plants to train the city's drug sniffing dog to sniff out cannabis. When asked why she was growing so many plants, the mayor responded that she thought several plants were needed so that she could choose the best quality.

    "I know ignorance is no excuse, but in my case, it was ignorance," she remarked.

    Although Kimsey has not been arrested, her case will be taken before the Polk County grand jury on July 1. The 10 marijuana plants were confiscated by police.

    Charges Dropped Against California Medical Marijuana User

    June 5, 1996, Toulomne County, CA: Marijuana possession charges were dropped yesterday against Barbara Sloniker, a cancer patient who uses cannabis medicinally to ease her pain. "The six-month battle was hurtful and draining at times ... but I am not angry at anyone," says Sloniker, who was informed in 1994 that she had at best a 20 percent chance of living through the chemotherapy and radiation treatments. "Anger would kill me."

    An activist as well as a patient, Sloniker intends to spend the summer educating California voters about the need for medical marijuana and encouraging citizens to vote "yes" this November for an initiative to allow patients to use marijuana as a medicine without fear of repercussion from law enforcement. "All of us who can need to speak up now," she said.



    Regional and other news

    Body Count

    Only four of 22 felons sentenced to jail or prison terms by Multnomah County courts in the most recent week were controlled-substance violators, according to the "Portland" zoned section of
    The Oregonian, delivered to subscribers in the central metropolitan area. (June 6, 1996, p. 9, 3M-MP-SE). That brings the total so far this year to 157 out of 290, or 54.13 percent.

    What Multnomah County Voters Bought - But Weren't Sold

    According to a Multnomah County document obtained from the office of Commissioner Tanya Collier, the success of the new-jail-bond measure in the May 21 election will cost taxpayers, with interest, $208.5 million over 30 years for a total of 544 new beds. (The success of the $89 million three-year operating levy for jails means voters approved a total of $297.5 million for jails. However, the exact cost of the jail bonds won't be known until they go on the market in August.) The $208.5 million tab is almost $75 million more than the most accurate estimate reported by the mass media or proponents before the election - or later, for that matter. The last time The Oregonian reported the interest cost of the bonds, for example, was Feb. 29 ("Keep jail measure lean," p. B10). At that time it said the $79.7 million in bonds would cost $134 million with interest over 20 years. Interest costs were not subsequently reported by The Oregonian or other media, as far as known. The figure of 544 beds is also 64 more than the 480 reported before the election. You read it here first. And probably last, unless someone sues the mass media for election fraud. (Yeah, right.)

    OCTA Signature Count Apology

    An explanation and apology are due for the recent confusion over the number of signatures collected for the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act of 1997. As recently as three weeks ago, organizers cited a count of 65,000 signatures (out of 73,261 required), as noted in National NORML's May 16 weekly news release. The official unofficial count was downgraded on May 19 to 31,000 signatures - about the same number last reported by the Oregon Citizens Alliance for its anti-gay-rights initiative. In a matter of days, in other words, OCTA went from being an almost sure thing to a long shot. The tally now stands at 35,000, and of course a significant portion of those signatures are probably invalid due to out-of-date addresses and other less-than-obvious reasons.

    Organizers were not acting in bad faith, but rather without enough volunteers to make a complete and effective count of signatures. So far OCTA is an all-volunteer effort, and its total budget to date is about $6,000. Chief Petitioner Paul Stanford and coordinator Floyd Ferris Landrath have consistently stated that their estimates were based on extrapolating the numbers from a relative few signature sheets to a huge pile of entirely uncounted sheets.

    That should have been emphasized in the weekly news release, but wasn't.

    Organizers issued numerous calls for volunteers to do a thorough count of signatures, but not enough people came forward to do so until the weekend of May 18-19. At that time, volunteers went over each petition sheet, blacked out the signatures that were obviously invalid (due to illegible handwriting, the use of post office box-addresses instead of legal residences, ditto marks and so forth), and came up with only 31,000 signatures.

    OCTA supporters' morale remains high and the campaign to collect signatures is actually more active than ever. Signature-gatherers have been working every day at the Portland Rose Festival, and individual petitioners are still working all around the state. The general feeling seems to be that success this year is still within the realm of possibility, even with less than 30 days to go before the July 5 deadline. As Portland NORML Director T.D. Miller and OCTA Chief Petitioner Paul Stanford have both said, even if OCTA fails to gain enough signatures, the closer supporters come to 73,261, the more impetus exists for the next campaign.

    If OCTA fails to gain enough signatures to make the November 1996 ballot, considerable consensus seems to exist among supporters that they would just refile the same initiative, perhaps with a few minor changes, and start a new two-year campaign with a much better organizational base.

    Escort Services Thriving Industry In Portland Area

    According to an article in The Oregonian on June 7, 1996 (p. B1), "...more than 200 escort services continue to thrive in the Portland area, mostly, police say, because of long investigations required to close them and few officers to investigate them." "In some shape or form, they all are operating some sort of prostitution organization," said Sgt. Ed Brumfield, who supervises the vice unit that investigates escort services and gambling." Mark McDonnell, [a senior deputy district attorney for Multnomah County], admits that cases involving escort services rarely reach his office. He estimates that the office prosecutes one case against an escort service every six months. ...

    [End excerpts]

    Portland NORML would appreciate a similar benign neglect toward victimless marijuana offenders.

    Portland Public Schools - $22,000 For DARE

    After two months of requests to the Portland public school system, a representative has responded, saying the Portland NORML weekly news release of March 28 was incorrect in its item, Portland Public Schools - $3 Million for DARE. That item reported, "Amid the intensive and widespread news coverage about the funding crisis facing Portland and Oregon schools (see Portland NORML's constantly evolving page of articles on this at, KOIN Channel 6 News, the local CBS affiliate, reported last week that the Portland Public Schools have budgeted $3 million dollars next year for DARE. Oddly, this figure is nowhere to be found in the proposed 1996-1997 budget posted in the Portland Public Schools' Web pages at" (A lengthy discussion of the studies showing that DARE increased marijuana-use rates in students followed. Those studies, and/or news reports about them, are now linked to the Web version of the March 28 news release at

    According to a phone message from Lew Frederick, an assistant to Superintendent Jack Bierwirth, "I have checked with the chief of police, the school police. He informs me that the DARE program costs about $22,000 a year, but that's not a firm figure because a lot of things are donated. The main cost of the DARE program is about one or two days a week, one of the school police officers going and talking with students during the school year. The rest of the time she's acting as a regular school police officer. That's the total cost to the district at this point of the DARE program."

    If $22,000 covers the cost of putting every student in the Portland Public Schools through the DARE program, it would seem DARE educators have figured out a cure for the public schools' money woes. (The figure of $22,000 seems more like what DARE spends just on gasoline and Turtle Wax for its fleet of confiscated vehicles.) As the March 28 news release noted, Oakland, California, spent $600,000 a year on its DARE program before defunding it in 1995. However, that money came from the Oakland City Council, not the school district. So stay tuned for more details on how many Portland students go through the DARE program, how many hours, days or weeks it takes to complete the program, the total cost of funding DARE in Portland Public Schools, and who pays for what (as time and cooperative sources allow). Maybe even DARE's budget for bumper stickers and T-shirts is available somewhere.

    Comparative Addictiveness Of Licit And Illicit Drugs

    Here are some interesting numbers on the relative addictiveness of cannabis and a few other psychoactive substances. This study is from the In Health magazine of Jan. 22, 1992, published in Toronto's Globe and Mail, the national newspaper of Canada (with a deserved reputation for a small c conservative editorial perspective):

    "Experts on addiction were asked by In Health magazine to rate various substances for their ability to get people hooked and the difficulty they cause when people try to quit them. The ratings show only addictive potential. On a scale from 1 to 100.

    Nicotine    100
    crack        97.66
    Valium       85.68
    alcohol      81.85
    heroin       81.80
    cocaine      73.13
    caffeine     72.01
    marijuana    21.16
    L.S.D.       16.72"
    Note that cocaine and caffeine, when the group's responses are averaged, are on a par. (The Coca-Cola people knew what they were doing when they made the switch.) And crack is up almost to cigarettes in addictive potential. These seem the only subjective responses among a group of "addiction experts." The article didn't expand on what that meant, nor apparently on how "addictive potential" was defined, but it can be assumed that respondents had first-hand experience with numerous users of the abovementioned substances.

    [Based on a DRCTalk post by Chris Donald]

    Alaskans For Christian Tolerance

    A group of Alaskans has formed a PAC to finance a campaign to pass a ballot initiative in 1998. The PAC, known as Alaskans for Christian Tolerance (ACT), is organized for the purpose of legalizing hemp/marijuana in Alaska for all uses: industrial, medicinal and recreational. In addition to legalizing hemp/marijuana in Alaska again, ACT aspires to the further progressive step of establishing its taxed commercial sale. ACT does not encourage, suggest, recommend or advocate the recreational use of hemp/marijuana. A statement from ACT Chairman H. T. Prentzel, III, states that "We feel strongly that Christian ethics mandate society's tolerance of the tens of thousands of recreational users of hemp/marijuana in Alaska."

    "We believe that our current prohibition of hemp/marijuana is a costly failure. We question the wisdom of criminalizing victimless consensual behavior in our free society. We believe the law should cease to create criminals from otherwise law-abiding citizens merely because they use hemp/marijuana. The time has come for us to supplant our failed and costly prohibitive practice of criminalization and incarceration with legalization and taxation.

    ACT is currently in the process of reviewing pending ballot initiatives in Washington, Oregon and California. We intend to go public when we submit our proposed legislation to the State Division of Elections later this summer. In the meantime, we are seeking "seed" money in order to finance office equipment and all other campaign expenses. To send a contribution, make inquiries or receive a bumper sticker saying "Tolerate and Tax Hemp" (minimum $5 donation requested), write to ACT at P.O. Box 73446, Fairbanks, Alaska 99707-3446, or call (907) 479-8588.

    "Smoke And Mirrors - The War On Drugs And The Politics Of Failure"

    Dan Baum, a former reporter for the Wall Street Journal and the Atlanta Constitution has just published a new book through Little, Brown & Co. It received a favorable review in The New York Times on Monday, May 27. You can probably find it in local bookstores.

    An excerpt: "As wars will do, the War on Drugs escalated piecemeal, a product of the hopes, fears, and ambitions of people with varying motives and disparate points of view. Some Drug War hawks have labored cynically, others with the best of intentions. 'Smoke and Mirrors' is the story of how they kindled Drug War fever and led the country into the intractable mess we call the 'War on Drugs.'"

    "Canadian Facing Execution Over Drug Charges"

    SINGAPORE (AP), June 4, 1996 - A Canadian arrested on drug smuggling charges was ordered yesterday to stand trial June 21 on charges that carry a mandatory death penalty if he is convicted.

    Ronald Wilson McCulloch, 43, was among 25 people arrested Feb. 9 by Singaporean and Malaysian police, who said they seized 33.4 kilograms of marijuana.

    McCulloch faces two marijuana trafficking charges, both of which carry a mandatory death sentence on conviction. ...

    Eight kilograms of marijuana allegedly found in house

    [End excerpts - Full text at The Toronto Star Web site,]

    "War On Drugs Kills US Marine"

    From The Zychik Chronicle, June 5, 1996,
    (Los Angeles Times June 4th, Pg. A3) In Angeles National Forest, 6 "Marines fell about 200 feet as they tried to cross a steeply angled concrete drainage channel." Saving them required a "seven-hour rescue" that involved paramedics, sheriff's deputies and a search and rescue team. One of the Marines died. The five others have been hospitalized, with one in serious condition, two fair, two good.

    They were in the forest for a "combination mountaineering exercise and marijuana farm search."

  • Lesson 1: Don't send Real Men out to do a pothead's job.
  • Lesson 2: The Marines are looking for a few good buds.
  • Lesson 3: The war on drugs is being militarized. This week the Marines invaded the forest. One of these weeks, they'll invade your home. Legalize all drugs now. Or watch your liberties go up in smoke.
  • [Verbatim]

    "Maverick Italian Politician To Face Drugs Trial"

    ROME (Reuter) - Former European parliamentarian Marco Pannella, Italy's best known civil rights campaigner, was sent to trial Tuesday charged with distributing drugs.

    "I'm very happy, a trial is just what I wanted," the 66-year old leader of the Reformist movement told reporters after an examining magistrate decided to press charges.

    Pannella was arrested last December after he handed out small bags of hashish to passers-by in central Rome while seeking signatures for a petition to legalize soft drugs.

    The maverick campaigner, who failed to win election to parliament at the last elections in April, was briefly jailed in Rome for a similar protest in July 1975 after being arrested and then refusing bail.

    Pannella, who was an election ally of Silvio Berlusconi's center-right Freedom Alliance, said he gave out 0.1 ounces of hashish as part of a publicity stunt.

    Italy tolerates possession of only a small quantity of hashish for personal use.

    The white-haired politician has a formidable record of publicity stunts over the years, the most notorious being his participation in the 1987 election of porn star Cicciolina to the lower house of parliament as a member of his now defunct Radical Party.

    "War On Drugs Floods Hospitals"

    From the Zychik Chronicle, May 13, 1996,
    (Los Angeles Times) "100 violently delirious junkies" swamped hospitals in Philadelphia on Friday. The drug they had used was dubbed "'Super Buick" and/or "'Homicide." Emergency rooms were swamped and one hospital "refused admissions for four hours." You might have heard about it over the weekend. Here's a little goodie the network news left out: .... [S]ays Dr. Larry Brilliant, 'You have fights between drug lords, and sometimes one will try to poison the clients of another out of revenge.' ...

    The War on Drugs is Alcohol Prohibition - and worse. During Prohibition deaths due to alcohol poisoning were 40 per million. After Prohibition was repealed, deaths due to alcohol poisoning dropped to 4 per million. A 96% drop!

    It couldn't have had anything to do with the free market, could it? Nah. If drugs were legalized we couldn't expect to see the same drop in death by so-called overdose, could we? Nah. ...

    [End excerpts]

    Defend Chronic Pain Treatment

    From the Drug Reform Coordination Network (DRCNet) Rapid Response Team:
    One of the saddest and least noticed consequences of the war on drugs is the under-treatment and non-treatment of chronic pain. Literally hundreds of thousands of patients endure needless agony - in some cases turning to suicide as the only available form of relief - because they could not find a doctor willing to prescribe adequate doses of narcotics for them.

    The problem is two-fold: widespread ignorance on the part of physicians on chronic pain treatment; and a threatening law enforcement bureaucracy that can ruin or even incarcerate doctors whom they see as being too liberal with their prescriptions. These two factors play into each other to perpetuate a situation in which denial of pain relief is standard practice.

    On September 17, 1991, agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration and a local narcotics officer visited Dr. William Hurwitz in his Washington, DC office, stripping him of his licenses to prescribe narcotics and practice medicine. Hurwitz got his medical license back six days later, but it took nine months and $55,000 in legal fees before he could once again prescribe narcotics. The DEA moved against Hurwitz because he prescribed up to 500 milligrams a day of oxycodone, a strong opioid painkiller, to treat the severe, chronic pain of a patient suffering from bone deterioration in his hips. The standard dose of oxycodone advised at that time was only 20 milligrams, but when patients suffer from long-term, intolerable levels of pain, tolerance to the drug builds up quickly and very high doses are not only necessary for pain relief, but are also safe: addiction is extremely rare among pain patients, and after a short time period, the drugs no longer get the patients "high," but rather allow them to function normally.

    The drug police are again trying to take down Dr. Hurwitz. This time it's the Virginia Medical Board, which has suspended his license in that state and is holding hearings in late June, based on the claim that Dr. Hurwitz's continued practice of medicine "constitutes a substantial danger to the public health and safety." (The DEA is almost certainly involved behind the scenes.) Hurwitz can still practice in Washington, DC, for now, but the Virginia pharmacies that had served his patients nationwide cannot fill his prescriptions. These patients are frightened that they will be unable to get pain medication; even worse, the action, if it stands, will bring the progress of chronic pain treatment to a virtual halt. As one of Hurwitz's patients, a prominent attorney, wrote: "The chilling effect this type of action has on the willingness of *any* physician to provide legitimate treatment for persons with chronic pain cannot be overstated. We will essentially be orphan patients given the right to unobstructed assisted suicide by the federal courts, but no right to a decent quality of life by any as-yet recognized body of law. These stark choices are familiar to many of us, and we must take action - now - before the Board itself visits upon us a `substantial danger' to *our* health and safety."

    The consequences for physicians can go far beyond loss of career. In 1990, a Dr. William Polan was sent to prison after an old friend of his, George Wehner, had recruited 14 people to fake illnesses to Dr. Polan so that George could sell the drug he prescribed them, oxcydone, on the street. George testified against Dr. Polan, in order to plea bargain his sentence down to six months, while Dr. Polan, who had no one to testify against, received a mandatory minimum sentence of 12 years in prison without the possibility of parole. The sentence was determined based not only on the weight of the oxcydone, but also on the weight of the carrier mixture, aspirin or Tylenol, which was several times greater.

    Requiring doctors to act as police over their patients dramatically compromises the quality of treatment of chronic pain. The Virginia Medical Board and the DEA are interfering with proper medical care and are ruining lives. You can help in any of the following ways:

    1) Write the Board to protest their reckless actions. You don't have to live in Virginia to write them. Address your correspondence to:

    Warren W. Koontz, M.D.
    Executive Director, Board of Medicine
    6606 West Broad St., 4th Floor
    Richmond, VA 23230-1717
    (804) 662-9943 (fax)

    2) Attend Dr. Hurwitz's hearing. It is scheduled to take place on Thursday and Friday, June 20 & 21, 1996, beginning at 9:30 AM each day. The hearing could be postponed or canceled, so you should call the Board at (804) 662-9908 for verification.

    3) A fund has been established for Dr. Hurwitz's defense. It will cost him $35,000 just to begin, and the total cost could run as high as $250,000. If you wish to contribute, make checks payable to his attorneys, Tate & Bywater, 2740 Chain Bridge Rd., Vienna, VA 22181, and make sure to indicate on the check that it is for the Dr. William E. Hurwitz Legal Defense Fund.

    4) Distribute this bulletin to people you know, especially doctors and patients.

    Dr. Hurwitz has been interviewed for the CBS Evening News. We don't yet know what day he will be featured, but it could be as soon as Thursday, June 6. DRCNet Director David Borden appeared on local television with Dr. Hurwitz and three patients/activists in Williamsburg, VA last Memorial Day weekend. The tape will be made available in the near future, and is the right length to be distributable by other local access cable stations, most of which are eager for new material. You can help get the word out by getting the video to your local access cable station, and by letting people you know about the CBS feature.

    More information on the pain issue is available from the National Chronic Pain Outreach Association (NCPOA), 7979 Old Georgetown Rd., Suite 100, Bethesda, MD 20814, (301) 652-4948, (301) 907-0745 (fax), You can get involved with the pain issue online by subscribing to the mailing list of the American Society for Action on Pain (ASAP); send e-mail to with the line "subscribe ASAP your name" in the message.

    Drug Reform Coordination Network (DRCNet)
    4455 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite B-500 Washington, DC 20008-2302
    Phone: (202) 362-0030 Fax: (202) 362-0032
    E-mail: WWW:

    Marijuana Task Force, 1995 Annual Report Follow-Up

    Some information not available for
    last week's Portland NORML news release is now at hand. In addition, Sgt. Jim Hudson, a member of the task force, spoke with the editor and made persuasive arguments that some of the statements printed here last week were inaccurate. (He was less persuasive on other matters, but more on that later.)

    Last week's report discussed the possible number of marijuana-growers in the jurisdiction of the task force, and how much of a dent the task force's 302 arrests in 1995 might be making in Oregon's largest industry. Information was lacking about several factors, however. It turns out the five-member task force's jurisdiction includes Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties in Oregon and Clark and Skamania counties in Washington state, or one task force officer for each county.

    How many marijuana cultivators are there in this area? Most educated estimates put the number of cultivators at about 10 percent of all marijuana consumers. Nationwide, the U.S. government has cited the figure 500,000 in the past. Usually, a phone call to the federal Clearinghouse and Data Center for Drugs and Crime at 1-800-666-3332 would quickly yield a current estimate, but a promised response has not yet been received. However, the government has every reason to minimize this number, and lacks credibility among (non-government) professional researchers anyway.

    According to an interview with the owner of one of Amsterdam's most popular "coffeeshops" in the May 1996 High Times, Arjan: An Insider's Look at Amsterdam's Coffeeshops, "The Government says there are 50,000 growers in Holland, so you can imagine how many growers there are" (p. 59). The same interview includes Arjan's estimate that there are "700,000 to 800,000" cannabis users in Holland, but official Dutch statistics for 1993 put the number of marijuana smokers at 50,000 fewer, that is, 650,000 (out of a population of 16 million) according to the National NORML news release of July 6, 1995. That would mean only about 7.7 percent of Dutch cannabis consumers also cultivate marijuana, but cultivation still brings one or two years in a Dutch jail (High Times, ibid., p. 59), so it might be reasonable to expect a smaller percentage of growers, if criminal sanctions for marijuana have any effect at all.

    Another recent, credible estimate for America is included in the article "Reefer Madness," by Eric Schlosser in the August 1994 Atlantic Monthly, posted at (not to be confused with the March 29, 1995 Willamette Week article of the same title, cited last week). Schlosser suggests that "Estimates of how many Americans grow marijuana range from one to three million, of which anywhere from 100,000 to 200,000 are commercial growers." Since even the federal government acknowledges at least 10 million marijuana smokers in the latest, preliminary 1994 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (, and other researchers estimate 20 million, 30 million or even more cannabis consumers in America, Schlosser's figures would seem consistent with the estimate that around 10 percent of all cannabis consumers also cultivate marijuana.

    The U.S. Census Bureau's Web page showing the population for the five counties in the Marijuana Task Force's jurisdiction is almost two years old, but the Center for Population Research and Census at Portland State University (tel. 503-725-3922, fax 503-725-5199) gives a population estimate for 1995 of 626,500 people in Multnomah County, 370,000 in Washington County, 308,600 in Clackamas County, 291,000 in Clark County and 9,550 in Skamania County - a total of 1,605,650 people.

    Of those, 6.6 percent over 12 would be illegal-drug consumers, according to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (ibid).

    The Census Bureau does not have a figure for the population over age 12. However, Walter Wink, in an article titled "Getting Off Drugs: The Legalization Option," published in the February 1996 Friends Journal, posted on the World Wide Web at, repeats the NHSDA figures in conjunction with a statement that there are 200 million Americans over age 12. Although a "clock" showing the day-to-day U.S. population growth posted in the Census Bureau's Web pages at says there are currently 264,677,062 Americans, it seems most reasonable to use the ratio reported by Wink, which is based on a U.S. population of 260,000,000.

    Assuming then that 10 out of every 13 Americans are over 12 (200/260 = 20/26 = 10/13), the five counties would include 1,605,650 x 10/13 = 1,235,115.3 people over 12. Of those, 6.6 percent, or 81,517.609 would be illegal-drug consumers. Of those, 81 percent or 66,029.263 would be cannabis consumers. Using the 10 percent figure, 6,602.9 would be marijuana cultivators. Even if the percentage of cannabis consumers who cultivate were as low as 5 percent, however, the NHSDA estimates are so low, as admitted by the NHSDA researchers themselves (see the appendix at that 6,602.9 is very likely an underestimate. Based on the 10-percent assumption, however, the task force's eradication of 216 grow operations in 1995 would amount to 3.27 percent of all marijuana grow operations. If only five percent of all marijuana consumers, or 3301.4631, also cultivate, the percentage arrested would be 6.54 (216 of 3301) . In either case, given the government's admitted bias in underreporting the number of illegal-drug consumers, the arrest rate is probably less than the 2 percent at which statisticians begin to invoke the word "insignificant."

    As Sgt. Hudson noted, Oregon may have even more than its share of pot growers, since there are all sorts of reports about Oregon bud turning up everywhere from Florida to Humboldt County, California. The police consider this reason to arrest even more pot growers, but there seem to be far more pot growers than prison beds.

    Sgt. Hudson also said that, based on his interviews with busted growers, the price of marijuana has "almost doubled" in the year since the task force began operating. "The laws of supply and demand work both ways," he commented, and explained that he wanted to drive up the price of marijuana in order to limit demand and make it unavailable to kids in particular. Sgt. Hudson cited the case of one recent busted grower who said he'd received $4,800 a pound for pot that brought $2,400 a year ago. However, the 1995 Annual Report itself, as mentioned last week, placed the value of dried marijuana at $10 per gram, or $4,480 a pound ($10 by 28 grams = $280 per ounce, times 16 = $4,480 per pound), which reflects no such increase, unless the police are saying pot sold for $5 a gram last year. The $10-per-gram figure seems quite accurate. Portland NORML Director T.D. Miller tells the editor that, based on his interviews with hundreds of people, the price of indoor-grown marijuana has been quite constant for three or four years, $250 to $350 an ounce depending on quality, except for a seasonal increase every August. A member of the Portland Cannabis Buyers' Club involved in supply and distribution confirmed the same static price trend. A new site on the World Wide Web, the "Price Report Project" at, also confirms Miller's statement. However, last week's report suggested the local price of pot had "fallen slightly," so perhaps that was an overstatement.

    However, Sgt. Hudson's other comments were quite reasonable. Inasmuch as the goal here is the truth, his input is welcomed.

    For starters, Sgt. Hudson said about 90 percent of all the grows busted by the MTF are commercial operations, averaging perhaps 40 plants. (Commercial growers always grow all they possibly can, he pointed out.) The other 10 percent of busts he considers to be "personal use" operations with just a few plants. Of those, about 2 percent are medicinal-use growers - a total of eight operations he'd encountered in the past year. Since medicinal-use and personal-use growers generally explain their motives to MTF officers right up front, with the evidence right there, Sgt. Hudson's figures seem quite credible.

    Sgt. Hudson also was skeptical about the possibility of there being many grow operations in commercial buildings. Such operations would be very difficult to hide from employees; commercial buildings are inspected regularly by the fire department and other agencies; people would be suspicious of a business with no customers; and such large operations would be very odorous. He cited the case of the one commercial-building grow the police busted a year or more ago, a building on Northeast Columbia Boulevard which was detected by its smell from 30 or 40 feet away. Sgt. Hudson said that, actually, the largest indoor grows were found in barns, body shops and pole barns in rural areas. In Clackamas County, for example, Sgt. Hudson said about 75 percent of the task force's busts took place on farm property and 25 percent in urban residences, compared to a 85 percent-15 percent ratio in Multnomah County. Still, given the task force's obvious focus on such properties, the incentive for growers to move into commercial buildings remains. Since building inspectors usually give advance notice, and many legitimate businesses have little or no foot traffic, the impediments mentioned by Sgt. Hudson may not be insurmountable obstacles to determined growers. On the other hand, one would assume a small percentage of such operations would normally come to light through informers and accidents, so quite likely Sgt. Hudson is correct on this point.

    Finally, Sgt. Hudson also seemed entirely credible in denying that task force members sometimes fudged the rules to obtain 523 "consent searches" in 1995, compared to 206 search warrants. By way of background, he said that about 90 percent of the people the task force seeks consent searches from give their permission. (Of the 10 percent who refuse, the task force is able to obtain "probable cause" warrants for about 70 percent and the remaining 30 percent are left alone, he said.) As Sgt. Hudson stated, task force members generally give suspects a choice. That choice involves either letting officers search a property with as little disturbance as possible, or suffering the destruction entailed in a full search with a warrant, which apparently means having everything torn apart quite destructively but legally. Sgt. Hudson made the excellent point that few or no formal complaints have been filed against task force members for improper consent searches, and that any officer convicted of such improprieties would face serious sanctions.

    The only problem here is that anyone who has attended more than a couple Portland NORML meetings has probably heard such complaints from recent task force prey. While these people also seem credible, Portland NORML has done nothing to encourage them to file formal complaints. Just to get these people to put up or shut up, that would seem to be in order. Portland NORML Director T.D. Miller, when asked about this issue, agreed that would be a good idea, so look for something along those lines in the future. But considering the potential for abuse when several officers come knocking at someone's door, it doesn't seem unreasonable to require one of the officers to carry a tape recorder or video camera to document what transpires.

    [For more details see America's #1 Crop]



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