NORML news

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by RMJL, Mar 3, 2001.


    Medical Marijuana Legislation Advances in Several States
    Maryland, New Mexico, Texas Hold Hearings; Massachusetts, Vermont

    Annapolis, MD: NORML Executive Director Keith Stroup testified
    before the Maryland House and Senate this week in support of
    legislation that would allow qualified patients to possess and
    marijuana for medicinal purposes.

    "While NORML's ultimate goal is to amend federal law so physicians
    may prescribe marijuana legally, we whole-heartedly support the efforts

    of states like Maryland to protect its most vulnerable citizens - the
    seriously ill and dying - as best it can under state law," Stroup said.
    "The scientific and historical record support the use of marijuana as a
    medicine, and many patients find it to be the most effective way they
    alleviate their pain and suffering. We must not in good conscious
    deny them that medication."

    Maryland Senate Bill 705, introduced by Sen. Ulysses Currie
    (D-Prince George's County), is similar to laws recently passed
    in nine
    states which exempt medical marijuana patients and their
    caregivers from state arrest and criminal prosecution. The
    proposal would
    also establish a state-run patient registry that would
    issue identification cards to qualifying patients. Kelly Paige,
    manager of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program - that state's
    confidential patient registry - testified that their system is working
    as voters intended and does not conflict with federal law. "With a
    larger than expected patient registration and physician participation,

    and with no wide-scale criminal abuses, it would be safe to deem the
    program quite successful," she said. "[We are] pleased that Oregon's
    initiative and registration system are serving as models for other

    While Stroup applauded the legislature's decision to hold hearings
    on the use of medicinal marijuana, he admitted that both S.B. 705 and
    its companion bill, H.B. 940, introduced by Del. Donald Murphy
    (R-Baltimore County) and 28 co-sponsors, face an uphill battle. "We've
    clearly gained support in the House, but face a significant hurdle in
    the Senate," Stroup said, noting that Judicial Proceedings Committee
    Chair Walter Baker (D-Cecil County) warned colleagues that "this bill
    isn't going anywhere."

    Maryland's proposal was one of several medical marijuana bills
    debated in recent days. Last week, a pair of New Mexico bills
    legalizing the possession of marijuana for medical purposes passed
    committees in the House and Senate with bi-partisan support. Both
    bills now await action before their house's respective judiciary

    Texas lawmakers also debated legislation this week that
    would allow
    qualified medical marijuana patients an "affirmative defense of medical
    necessity" against state criminal prosecution. House Bill 513,
    introduced by Rep. Terry Keel (R-Austin), a sheriff and former
    prosecutor, is the first of its kind to be debated by the legislature.
    Texas NORML State Coordinator Rick D. Day testified in support of bill,
    and said that he anticipates the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee

    will approve it next week. "The wording of the bill avoids conflict
    with federal law, and the background of the sponsor cuts through the
    skepticism of individuals in law enforcement," he said.

    Earlier this week, legislators in Massachusetts and Vermont
    introduced proposals to aid medical marijuana patients. In
    Massachusetts, lawmakers have endorsed a pair of proposals to extend
    legal protections to patients who possess and/or cultivate medical
    marijuana to treat a debilitating illness. In Vermont, Rep. Fred
    Maslack (R-Poultney), is leading a bi-partisan coalition of more than
    20 lawmakers in support H.B. 364, which seeks to exempt medical
    marijuana patients from arrest and prosecution under state law,
    as well
    as establish a state-sanctioned, non-profit corporation to
    distribute medical marijuana.

    For more information on these bills and other pending marijuana-law
    reform legislation, visit: .

    Bill to Repeal Financial Aid Ban for Marijuana Smokers, Other Drug
    Offenders Introduced in Congress

    Washington, DC: Congressman Barney Frank reintroduced legislation
    yesterday to repeal federal provisions that currently ban federal
    aid to students who have been convicted of any federal or
    state drug offense, including smoking marijuana.

    "Someone who commits murder or armed robbery is not automatically
    barred from financial aid eligibility," Frank said, "but if you have
    even one non-violent drug conviction you can't get any aid for a year.

    Authorities previously had the discretion to bar aid to people based on
    the severity of their crimes and whether they are taking steps to
    rehabilitate themselves. My bill would simply restore that discretion."

    Twenty-three co-sponsors have signed on to Frank's bill, and more
    than 70 civil and national education groups have endorsed it.
    Proponents include the National Association for the Advancement of
    Colored People (NAACP), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the
    National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA)

    "All students caught using or selling drugs already pay a penalty
    through the local, state or federal law enforcement system," said
    George Miller (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House
    Education and the Workforce Committee. "But only low-income students
    will face a double penalty of being denied financial aid. That is
    unfair. Denying students access to financial aid on top of that
    will only undermine our national goal of creating hope and
    opportunity for our youth through a quality education."

    According to the Department of Education statistics, more than
    8,100 students were denied aid during the 2000-2001 school year
    of the ban, which became part of the Higher Education Act in
    1998, but only took effect last July.

    For more information, please
    contact R. Keith Stroup, NORML
    Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500. To send a letter to your member
    of Congress in support of Frank's bill, visit:

    Support NORML's efforts to change marijuana policy and educate the
    public to alternatives to marijuana prohibition. You can join or
    online at:

    << END >>


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