Blocked Vote in Nation's Capital May Be Counted
And The Winner Is...
by Adam J. SmithThis week the nation holds its breath as it waits to hear the results of Election Day, 1998. What is that you say? The election was held more than 250 days ago! True. But while most of the nation learned the results of the races that they voted in on Election Night, the citizens of Washington, DC, capital of the free world, have been prevented by law from hearing whether or not they and their neighbors passed or defeated initiative 59, which would make it legal for sick and dying DC residents to use marijuana with a doctor's recommendation.
Prevented by law? Yes. Thanks in large measure to Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA), who added a rider to last year's DC Appropriations Bill forbidding the District from spending any money to count or certify the results of any initiative which would reduce penalties for the use or possession of marijuana. The DC Board of Elections reluctantly followed the law, and has yet to spend the estimated $1.64 that it would cost to tally and print out the results by computer.
ACTUP DC, a sponsor of the initiative, and the ACLU, brought the issue to federal court right after the election, claiming that it is unconstitutional to bar Americans from learning the results of a free election in which they had taken part. The suit further claims that passing a law to prevent Americans from voting a certain way -- the amendment does not prevent an initiative on increasing penalties for the use of medicinal marijuana, for instance -- is also unconstitutional. Strangely, no decision has been handed down.
But this week, Representative Barr and his duly elected confederacy of anti-democracy dunces failed to get a similar amendment attached to the new appropriations measure in committee. Without such a renewal, the results will be counted -- with or without a decision of the court -- on October 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year.
There is little risk that the medical marijuana law will ever go into effect, of course, as Congress has thirty working days after certification to simply overturn any initiative passed by the voters of the District of Columbia. This fight then, is not over whether AIDS and cancer patients who have the additional misfortune of living in the capital of our great nation will be able to find relief without risking getting thrown in jail -- hint: they won't - - but whether or not the people of the District will have their voices heard, before they are ignored.
Exit polls show that the people of the District of Colombia voted in favor of initiative 59 by an overwhelming majority. National polls show that Americans on the whole favor access to marijuana for seriously ill and dying patients as well. The existence of Bob Barr, who in addition to being responsible for the first suppression of election results in American history, also recently suggested that those advocating drug policy reform should be criminally prosecuted, shows that just because a person is elected to Congress, doesn't mean that they have even the slightest conception of the principles on which the nation was founded.
Let us hope that the DC Appropriations bill gets final approval this week unencumbered by the anti-American Barr Amendment. There is really nothing to fear, as our elected leaders will most certainly insure that even if the initiative passed, not a single whining, pothead, good-for- nothing, wanna-get-high 73 lbs. AIDS patient will be able to use his or her condition as a convenient excuse to avoid criminal prosecution under our drug laws. Heaven forbid. No, they'll still have to force down food through waves of nausea, or face prosecution, just like Congress wants them to. It's just that on October 1, after almost a year of waiting for Congressional leave to spend $1.64 of tax money, it will be nice to finally put Election Night 1998 to bed.
Adam Smith is Associate Director of the Drug Reform Coordination Network. http://www.drcnet.org/
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