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July 8, 1996

License Suspension In Drug Cases Upheld By Ohio Supreme Court

July 1996, Columbus, OH: Ohio's highest court upheld legislation that imposes a mandatory license suspension against individuals convicted of drug crimes, regardless of whether the offense is driving related.

In a unanimous opinion, the Ohio Supreme Court declared that the penalty did not violate the due process or equal protection amendments of the Ohio or United States constitutions.

Writing the opinion for the court, Justice Francis Sweeney declared: "All drug offenders are treated equally under these statutes. The laws simply impose a penalty on persons who have been convicted of a drug crime.

"... These laws serve to punish drug offenders, to deter the future use of drugs, and to protect the health and welfare of society."

The opinion upheld the 2nd District Ohio Court of Appeals in 33 cases which were consolidated after a lower court refused to suspend licenses.

"Laws passed by virtue of police power will be upheld if they bear a real and substantial relation to the objective sought to be obtained, namely the health, safety, morals or general welfare of the public, and are not arbitrary, discriminatory, capricious or unreasonable," the court summarized.

The court did not address the question of whether the suspension constituted "double jeopardy" because it was a second punishment for a single criminal action. Earlier this year, the Iowa Supreme Court struck down similar license suspension legislation because it found "no direct connection between the possession of controlled substances, driving, and public safety." Therefore, the court ruled that, "The amended statute authorizing ... license revocation was aimed essentially at enhancing punishment for controlled substance possession."

For more information, contact John Hartman of Northcoast NORML at (216) 521-9333.

American Farm Bureau Pens Article In Support Of Hemp

June 17, 1996, Washington, D.C.: Calling it "one of the most promising crops in half a century," a recent issue of Farm Bureau News sings the praises of the hemp plant. The publication is the weekly newspaper of the American Farm Bureau Federation - the largest farming organization in the United States.

Written by Debora Hood, the article declares that, "Legislation is needed to establish a recognized research area for [hemp,] according to local, state and federal regulations." It explores the potential economic viability domestic hemp cultivation holds for the American farmers and criticizes the Drug Enforcement Administration's role in killing a Colorado bill that would have allowed the state to grow test plots for research purposes. The essay also recounts hemp's long and prosperous history as an agricultural commodity.

Also included is an editorial by Bob Winter, president of the Weld County Farm Bureau in Colorado. Winter worked closely with hemp activists earlier this year and offered five acres of his land for the proposed state test plot. "Industrial hemp provides a window of opportunity for U.S. agricultural producers to take advantage of a highly profitable fiber crop [with] many uses ...," he writes.

"International trade agreements (e.g., GATT and NAFTA) recognize the designation of 0.3 percent ... THC as the distinction between industrial hemp and marijuana. [Yet,] current U.S. law[s] do not differentiate between hemp and marijuana. Thanks to these laws, the United States lags behind other world powers in hemp production and must import raw hemp pulp for manufacture here. [In addition,] U.S. farmers are prohibited from growing a highly profitable crop without government subsidy."

The American Farm Bureau Federation passed a resolution at its annual convention in January calling for research into the viability of economic potential of industrial hemp production in the United States.

For more information, please contact Laura Kriho of the Colorado Hemp Initiative Project (CO-HIP) at (303) 784-5632. The organization may be browsed on the Internet at the following address:

California Congressman Signs On To Federal Medical Marijuana Bill

July 1, 1996, Washington, D.C.: A bill currently in Congress that would amend the federal law to allow a physician to prescribe marijuana as a therapeutic agent for seriously ill patients has gained another co-sponsor, Rep. Julian Dixon (D-Calif.). Unfortunately, proponents recently lost the backing of Rep. Louise Slaughter who withdrew her support for the measure on June 18. The total number of co-sponsors remains seventeen.

H.R. 2618 was introduced in Congress last fall by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) to amend federal law to allow seriously ill patients to have legal access to marijuana for medicinal purposes. If passed, the bill would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana to individuals suffering from "glaucoma, AIDS wasting syndrome, muscle spasms from certain spastic disorders including multiple sclerosis, paraplegia, and quadriplegia, or the nausea associated with cancer chemotherapy or radiology." Presently, only eight patients are allowed to receive marijuana legally from the federal government.

The effectiveness of medicinal marijuana has been endorsed by a number of scientific and medical associations including the American Public Health Association, the Federation of American Scientists, the Australian Commonwealth Department of Human Services and Health, the National Academy of Sciences, and the National Nurses Society on Addiction.

For more information about H.R. 2618 or medical marijuana, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of NORML at (202) 483-5500.

Religious Organization Endorses California Medical Marijuana Proposal

June 24, 1996, Santa Monica, CA: The California-Pacific Annual Conference of United Methodists endorsed a California initiative that will allow patients to use marijuana as a medicine without fear of prosecution from state law enforcement. The group's resolution 104 supports the rights of patients to use marijuana as a therapeutic agent and specifically endorses the California Medical Marijuana Initiative.

The United Methodists' organization represents 400 churches in California, Hawaii, and some sections of the Pacific Rim. Over 113,000 people are represented by the group. Resolution 104 passed a legislative committee by a 74-1 vote and was given unanimous approval by the 1,500 delegates assembled for the conference.

"This initiative is about compassion ...," said initiative proponent and Registered Nurse, Anna Boyce. "[This] newest endorsement from the faith community [is] 100 percent consistent with our cause."

The 1996 initiative has been endorsed by the cities of San Francisco, Oakland, and West Hollywood; the Santa Cruz and Marin Boards of Supervisors; the California Nurses Association; the Los Angeles AIDS Commission; the California Multiple Sclerosis Society; the Orange County Register, and many other health and community leaders and organizations.

For more information, please contact Dave Fratello of Californians for Medical Rights at (310) 451-2522.





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