Washington, D.C., Medicinal Marijuana Referendum Could be ‘Defining Test’ of Congressional Jurisdiction Over City
The push to include a medical marijuana referendum on the November ballot in the Washington, D.C., is "shaping up as a defining test of congressional control over the federal city," the Washington Post reports. The movement to legalize medicinal marijuana was renewed last week by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan's finding that a congressional mandate prohibiting D.C. residents from voting on the drug's use was an "unconstitutional abridgement of free speech." In 1998, 69% of D.C. residents voted to approve the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, but the referendum results were "quashed" by Congress. Now, buoyed by last week's ruling, marijuana and home-rule advocates are attempting to put the issue on the November ballot. "It's a big case for marijuana legalization across the country because it's in a national media market and because it pushed the issue onto the congressional agenda," Robert Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said. His group, which is based in D.C., has already garnered $9,000 to support the drive to obtain the 15,000 signatures needed by June 8 to get the referendum on the ballot. However, getting Congress to back off of the issue is going to be "very, very tough," especially because of the ramifications for congressional oversight of the city, Anise Jenkins of Stand Up for Democracy, a group that promotes home rule for the District, said. Charles Miller, a justice department spokesperson, said the department is reviewing Sullivan's decision and has not yet determined whether it will appeal (Tucker, Washington Post, 4/4).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.