News In Brief

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that marijuana may not be given to patients even if they prove it is medically necessary. The justices ruled that a federal law classifying the drug as illegal has no exception for ill patients. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the court that the act says marijuana has "no currently accepted medical use." The decision was a disappointment to medical-marijuana users, who say the drug helps to combat effects of certain diseases.

The High Court also agreed to decide whether police may prosecute new crimes with evidence seized from homes of criminals who consent to blanket searches as a condition of probation. At issue is whether a probationer waives constitutional protections by giving advance consent. California's attorney general asked the justices to reconsider lower-court rulings that threw out bombmaking supplies and evidence seized during a search of a probationer's home for an unrelated drug crime.

More than 13 tons of cocaine was found on a fishing boat in the Pacific Ocean, the largest cocaine seizure in US maritime history. The Belize-flagged vessel was towed 1,500 miles to San Diego, where the 10-man crew of Russians and Ukrainians was expected to be arraigned on smuggling charges. Antidrug officers were suspicious because the craft didn't have operable fishing equipment. They discovered cocaine in a hidden compartment. The ship was thought to be headed toward Central America where its cargo would be smuggled into the US.

Inventories of unsold goods fell by 0.3 percent in March - a better performance than many analysts expected, the Commerce Department reported. The decline came even as sales slid by 0.3 percent. To reduce inventories, companies have sharply cut production, laid off workers, and deeply discounted merchandise. Economists view reductions as positive because they bring supplies more into line with demand.

Meanwhile, industrial production, which has been especially hard-hit by the economic slowdown, fell in April by 0.3 percent, the seventh straight month of decline, the Federal Reserve reported. The drop in output at factories, mines, and utilities, followed a 0.1 percent drop in March, according to revised figures. The report provides further evidence that the economy has continued to slow.

The Million Mom March organization held rallies, protests, and events across the US Sunday to promote gun control and mark the anniversary of last year's march in Washington that drew as many as 750,000 protesters. This year's scaled-down version aimed to influence local legislation.

President Bush announced a plan to reduce gun violence through tougher prosecution of crimes involving weapons. He promised police and prosecutors $550 million for a two-year program and pledged to hire 113 new assistant US attorneys and 600 state and local prosecutors to handle gun cases.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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