One Strike and You're Out

March 26- Reuters reports: A unanimous U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that public housing tenants can be evicted for any illegal drug activity by household members or guests, even if they did not know about it.

In an opinion written by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, the high court reinstated the Department of Housing and Urban Development's ``One Strike and You're Out'' policy, which authorized public housing officials to evict innocent tenants.

The ruling was a victory for the Justice Department and the Oakland Housing Authority.

The case began in late 1997 and early 1998 when the housing authority began eviction proceedings against four elderly longtime tenants.

Pearlie Rucker, 63, had been living in public housing since 1985 when she was informed she would be evicted. She lived with her mentally disabled daughter, two grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.

The housing authority alleged Rucker's daughter was found with cocaine and a crack cocaine pipe three blocks from her apartment.

Willie Lee, 71, who has lived in public housing for more than 25 years, received notice of eviction after allegations that her grandson was caught smoking marijuana in the apartment complex parking lot.

The grandson of another tenant, Barbara Hill, 63, who has lived in public housing for more than 30 years, admitted smoking marijuana in the parking lot.

Herman Walker, 75 and disabled, had lived in public housing for 10 years when eviction proceedings began after his caregiver and two others allegedly were found with cocaine in his apartment.

March 26- The Washington Post reports: The Maryland House of Delegates took a first step yesterday toward legalizing the use of marijuana by patients suffering the ravages of cancer, AIDS and other diseases.

The House voted 80 to 56 for bill that would create a court defense for people who use the drug for medicinal purposes.

Under the measure, if defendants can prove to a judge or jury that they used marijuana exclusively for medical reasons, they would be subject to a $100 fine, instead of the current penalty -- a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail.

"This is a huge victory for cancer and AIDS patients, because it will keep them out of jail," said Del. Donald Murphy ( R-Baltimore ). "It's a critical first step."

Eight states have legalized marijuana for medical use, though only Hawaii did so by way of the state legislature. The other states held referendum votes on the issue. Sixty-nine percent of Washington residents supported the medical use of marijuana in a 1998 referendum. But immediately afterward, congressional overseers passed legislation that banned the drug's use for medical purposes in the capital.

March 26- Reuters reports: The acrid scent of cannabis wafted into France's presidential race on Tuesday as Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin stirred controversy by suggesting occasional smokers should be treated with leniency.

Supporters of conservative President Jacques Chirac, his neck-and-neck rival in the April 21 vote, slammed the remarks as irresponsible while the country's pro-legalisation lobby called for a proper debate on reform of France's tough drug laws.

Jospin, who has previously owned up to having smoked cannabis himself twice, started it all by telling an interviewer on Monday: "Smoking a joint at home is certainly less dangerous than drinking and driving."

Some four million French are believed to smoke cannabis, whether in the form of hashish resin or marijuana leaves.

Some European countries are increasingly turning a blind eye to small users as they refocus police efforts on hard drugs such as heroin or cocaine. In France, someone caught in possession of enough cannabis for one joint could face jail as a dealer.

Analysts say French attitudes on soft drugs are linked closely to overall political leanings. They talk about the "joint-smoking left" and the "red-wine-drinking right."

Send tips and comments to Kevin Nelson kcnelson@premier1.net.

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