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National Commission On Marijuana Celebrates 35th Anniversary

Congressional commission determined "the criminal law is too harsh a tool"
to apply to pot possession

Decrim message is even more applicable today than it was then
Washington, DC: Recommendations to Congress by the National Commission on Marihuana (sic) and Drug Abuse 35-years-ago today that called for ending the criminal arrest and prosecution of adults who possess or use small amounts of marijuana are more applicable today than they were then, says NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre.

Thirty-five-years ago, the first — and to date, only — US Congressional Commission to address marijuana and public policy recommended the government amend federal law so that the possession and use of small quantities of cannabis by adults would no longer be a criminal offense. That commission, known as National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse (also known as The Shafer Commission) concluded:
<dir> <dir> "[T]he criminal law is too harsh a tool to apply to personal possession even in the effort to discourage use. ... It implies an overwhelming indictment of the behavior which we believe is not appropriate. The actual and potential harm of use of the drug is not great enough to justify intrusion by the criminal law into private behavior, a step which our society takes only with the greatest reluctance."
</dir></dir> The Commission recommended, for the first time, that Congress enact a national policy of marijuana 'decriminalization,' whereby the possession of cannabis for personal use as well as the casual distribution of small amounts of marihuana for little-or-no remuneration would no longer be a criminal offense.

However, then-President Richard Nixon rejected the Commission's determinations — electing instead to launch a so-called "War on Drugs," a federal strategy that still exists today.

"In the years since former President Richard Nixon and Congress rejected the Shafer Commission's recommendations, the US government has spent billions of taxpayers' dollars targeting and arresting minor marijuana offenders without achieving any reduction in marijuana use, availability, or demand," St. Pierre says.
He notes that since 1972:
<dir> <dir> * Approximately 16.5 million Americans have been arrested for marijuana violations[/URL] — more than eighty percent of them on minor possession charges;
* US taxpayers have spent well over $20 billion dollars enforcing criminal marijuana laws, yet marijuana availability and use among the public remains virtually unchanged;
* Nearly one-quarter of a million Americans have been denied federal financial aid for secondary education because of anti-drug provisions to the Higher Education Act. Most of these applicants were convicted of minor marijuana possession offenses.
</dir></dir> "In 1972, the year the Shafer Commission first recommended decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana, the FBI reported that fewer than 300,000 Americans were arrested for pot," St. Pierre says.

"Today, nearly 800,000 Americans are arrested annually on marijuana charges — an increase of more than 150 percent. In addition, nearly 90 percent of those arrested today are charged with simple possession only — the very practice that the Commission demanded Congress end 35 years ago."

St. Pierre concludes: "Currently, one in every eight inmates incarcerated for drug crimes is behind bars for pot, at a cost to taxpayers of more than $1 billion per year. It is apparent that the Commission's 35-year-old common-sense solution to decriminalize cannabis is even more applicable today than it was then. It is time for the new Democrat Congress to revisit this issue and bring an end to the needless arrest and incarceration of otherwise law abiding citizens who consume marijuana in the privacy of their own home."

For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500 or visit: 'Celebrating' 35 Years of Failed Pot Policies - NORML. Additional audio commentary on the Shafer Commission report, including an exclusive interview with former Commission member Dr. Thomas Ungerlieder, is available on Wednesday's and Thursday's episodes of NORML's Daily AudioStash at: NORML 's Daily Audio Stash.

Zogby Poll: Majority Of Americans Back Removing Criminal Penalties For Adult Pot Use

35 Years Later, Half Of All Americans Still Support
Shafer Commission's Recommendations
Washington, DC: A slight majority of Americans support amending federal law to remove "criminal penalties for the personal use of marijuana by adults," according to a national poll of 1,078 likely voters by Zogby International and commissioned by the NORML Foundation.

Forty-nine percent of respondents — including 57 percent of men — said they would support "a law in Congress that would eliminate federal penalties for the personal use of marijuana by adults and allow states to adopt their own policies on marijuana." This proposal, commonly known as 'decriminalization,' was first recommended to Congress by the US National Commission on Marihuana (sic) and Drug Abuse (aka The Shafer Commission) 35 years ago today, on March 22, 1972.

Forty-eight percent of those polled by Zogby said they would oppose such a law. Three percent were undecided.

The poll has a margin of error of +/-3 percentage points.
Respondents' support for marijuana law reform was strongly influenced by age and political affiliation. More than half of Americans (52 percent) between the ages of 30 and 64 supported decriminalizing pot, while only 45 percent of those under age 30 and 43 percent of seniors endorsed it.
Among those who identified themselves as political Independents, 62 percent supported federal decriminalization legislation, as did 51 percent of Democrats. Only 37 percent of Republicans supported eliminating federal penalties for minor marijuana offenses.

Respondents' opinions were also influenced by educational level and ethnicity. Fifty-three percent of those polled who had obtained college degrees said they backed decriminalization versus only 44 percent of those without college diplomas.

A majority of whites (51 percent) and nearly half of African Americans (49 percent) said that they supported decriminalization, while support among Hispanics was only 26 percent.

The poll found little difference in attitudes among parents (48 percent support) and non-parents (50 percent support) on the issue. Americans' views did not vary significantly by region.

Gender and holding a belief in God significantly influenced respondents' opinions. Among those polled, 57 percent of men said they supported removing criminal pot penalties versus only 41 percent of women. Of those who reported having no religious affiliation, 63 percent supported decriminalization legislation.

NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre noted that the poll was one of several recent surveys indicating growing support for ending cannabis prohibition. "This latest poll confirms an 80 percent upward swing in public opinion since 1990 in favor of ending the war on cannabis consumers," he said.

A previous Zogby poll of 1,004 likely voters commissioned last year by the NORML Foundation reported that 46 percent of Americans support allowing states to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol.
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of the NORML Foundation, or Paul Armentano, NORML Senior Policy Analyst, at (202) 483-5500.

Richard Nixon On Pot

Previously Unheard Nixon Recordings To Be Broadcast Exclusively On NORML's Daily AudioStash
Washington, DC: Former President Richard Nixon believed that Americans who advocated for marijuana law reform "weren't good people" and repeatedly warned members of the National Commission on Marihuana (sic) and Drug Abuse not to issue findings that could appear to be "soft on marijuana," according to never-before aired Presidential audio-tapes to be broadcast today on NORML's Daily AudioStash, online at: NORML 's Daily Audio Stash.

The audio, made available to the public for the first time on the NORML AudioStash, captures several conversations between Nixon, his staff, and former Pennsylvania Gov. Raymond P. Shafer — who headed the 1972 Marihuana Commission.

In the recordings, Nixon and Shafer consistently voice their objections to legalizing or regulating marijuana use in a manner similar to alcohol — a proposal that they note was then-favored by several members of Congress. Nixon also warns Shafer about making any recommendations that might appear to run contrary to the administration's anti-drug position.

"The thing that is so terribly important here is not to appear that the Commission [is] frankly just a bunch of do-gooders ... that would come out with something that would run counter to what the Congress feels and ... what we're planning to do," Nixon told Shafer on September 9, 1971.

He added, "On the marijuana thing, I have very strong convictions. ... Just on my own analysis, once you start down that road, the chances of going further down that road are great. I know there's a lot [of experts] who disagree with that ... because of the people that are, frankly, promoting it [but] they're not good people."

Separate recordings taped on March 21, 1972 — the day before the Commission released its findings — indicate that the White House intended to bury the report's findings. Speaking with his domestic policy advisor John Ehrlichman, Nixon affirmed that his administration would not endorse the Commission's recommendations to decriminalize the private possession and use of pot.

President Nixon: What is your feeling about this damned report, this thing?
John D. Ehrlichman: A lousy report.
President Nixon: Can we give an inch on this?
Ehrlichman: No, sir. No, sir. There is no place–
President Nixon: How was he able to sell all that [inaudible].
Ehrlichman: Well, I'll never understand what went on in that commission, 'cause this guy, for instance, from Rockford is a –
President Nixon: John Howard [inaudible].
Ehrlichman: –rock-ribbed conservative.
President Nixon: Well, what do you think about legalizing the use and possession of marijuana?
Ehrlichman: It's a crazy rule. What they've done is they've come half way. It's this, it's like liquor. There would be no law against consuming liquor at home, but there'd be a law against selling it. Now how the hell can you make that work?
President Nixon: Well, I made it clear enough to him that I don't endorse it.
Ehrlichman: He's not [under] any illusions, ... and I made it very clear to him before he came in here so that he's not under [any] misapprehensions.

To hear these and other audio transcripts, please visit NORML 's Daily Audio Stash.

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