Blocked Vote in Nation's Capital Finally Counted
medical marijuana


Results were announced despite congressional efforts to block their release

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics released the results of the November 1998 vote on the District's medicinal marijuana ballot initiative, revealing that it passed with 69% of the vote.

Directors of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), which co-ran the D.C. Initiative 59 campaign last fall, are elated. "Voters nationwide are supporting these initiatives because patients should not be arrested and imprisoned for using marijuana if their doctors approve," said Chuck Thomas, MPP's director of communications. MPP is a non- profit, Washington, D.C.-based advocacy organization that lobbies Congress and state legislatures to remove criminal penalties for the medical use of marijuana.

"MPP is currently lobbying state legislatures to pass similar laws," added Thomas. "Our ultimate goal is to force Congress to change federal law so that medicinal marijuana users nationwide no longer have to live in fear of being arrested." Currently, the federal penalty for possessing even one medicinal marijuana cigarette is up to a year in prison. The laws are similar in most states. Initiative 59 permits patients to grow and use their own medicinal marijuana if approved by their doctors.


In October 1998, just 13 days before Election Day, Congress passed a law that prohibited the D.C. city government from spending any money to count the votes on Initiative 59. Advocates filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking the release and implementation of the vote. Judge Richard Roberts agreed, ruling last Friday that the results should be counted and certified.

Unfortunately, Congress now has 30 working days to prevent the new medicinal marijuana law from taking effect, as per its usual authority to review new D.C. laws. If that happens, then -- for the first time in U.S. history -- Congress would be overturning the results of a democratically held election.

"Congress seems intent on thwarting democracy and making sure that hundreds of seriously ill people in the District of Columbia remain subject to arrest and imprisonment for using medicinal marijuana," said Thomas. "MPP is lobbying to prevent this grave injustice."


Since 1996, the voters of Alaska, Arizona, California, the District of Columbia, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington state have passed favorable medicinal marijuana initiatives. To date, these initiatives have passed in every state in which they have appeared on the ballot. This confirms what every scientific public opinion poll has found since 1995: 60-80% of the American people support legal access to medicinal marijuana. Said Thomas, "Who else but a Republican member of Congress could think that it's a good idea to arrest patients for using their medicine?"


Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), P.O. Box 77492, Washington, D.C. 20013
FAX 202-232-0442

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