Medical Marijuana Advocates File Suit to Place Marijuana Initiative on 2002 Ballot in Washington, D.C.
Advocates of medical marijuana in Washington, D.C., filed suit on Tuesday in U.S. District Court to put back on the ballot in the November 2002 election an initiative to allow the medical use of the drug in the District, the Washington Post reports. The Marijuana Policy Project and the Medical Marijuana Initiative Committee are seeking an injunction against a federal law that prohibits the District from placing the issue on the ballot. Rep. Robert Barr Jr. (R-Ga.) has sponsored an annual rider on the District's appropriations bill that bars public funds from being used to put the medical marijuana issue on any city ballot in the future. Last week, the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics ruled that the amendment prohibits the panel from doing preliminary work toward putting the initiative on next year's ballot. In 1998, 69% of District residents supported the medical use of marijuana in a ballot initiative, but members of Congress immediately passed legislation that bans the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes in the city. Robert Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said that the groups are seeking a temporary injunction against the law so that they can collect the 16,000 signatures needed to place the medical marijuana initiative on the ballot. Proponents of medical marijuana say that the drug helps relieve pain and reverse the loss of appetite associated with AIDS and other diseases, but the White House has said that the benefits of the drug have not been documented enough to merit legalizing it for medicinal purposes (Tucker, Washington Post, 12/19). In addition, the Supreme Court in May ruled in a California case that "medical necessity" is not a valid defense against federal law prohibiting marijuana distribution (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/15).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.