Congress allows DC to implement 1998 medical marijuana law

  • by Russ Belville, NORML Outreach Coordinator December 9, 2009

    House and Senate negotiations for the 2010 Appropriations bill have been completed. This is the huge federal budget bill and it just so happens that Washington DC is a federal district and its spending is controlled by Congress.

    In 1998, DC passed a medical marijuana bill overwhelmingly, but Congressional drug warriors led by Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia prevented DC from spending any federal money to count the votes (that’s right, in our democracy’s capital, our leaders conspired to prevent citizens from counting votes in a legal election). When that was deemed unconstitutional, they spent the money to count the votes, showing that 69% of DC supported medical marijuana. So Rep. Barr created the “Barr Amendment” that prevented DC from spending any money to implement the medical marijuana program they had voted in.

    Well, today’s 2010 Appropriations bill changes all that. In addition to removing bans on abortion, domestic partnerships, and needle exchange, Congress has given the go-ahead to begin implementing DC medical marijuana!

    (US Senate) Removing Special Restrictions on the District of Columbia: Eliminates a prohibition on the use of local tax funds for abortion, thereby putting the District in the same position as the 50 states. Also allows the District to implement a referendum on use of marijuana for medical purposes as has been done in other states, allows use of Federal funds for needle exchange programs except in locations considered inappropriate by District authorities, and discontinues a ban on the use of funds in the bill for domestic partnership registration and benefits.

    DC’s medical marijuana bill was written with the same sort of open language as was passed in California… will we be seeing marijuana dispensaries on K Street anytime soon?

    131 Responses to “Congress allows DC to implement 1998 medical marijuana law”

    1. […] Citizens in D.C. run the risk of their initiatives being tampered by not one, but two governmental bodies: the D.C. City Council, and the United States Congress. While the Council has been relatively supportive of the new referendum, and seeks to create a system to regulate and administer the new marijuana regime, the U.S. Congress has been decidedly less enthusiastic. Congress has empowered, through legislation, D.C. to administer its own laws, and in that respect, should theoretically be prevented from directly tampering with the initiative, but in D.C., initiatives don’t go into effect unless Congress fails to override them. Additionally, in D.C., as in Washington, Colorado, Oregon, and Alaska, the drug remains federally illegal and Congress still retains the right to tamper in other ways. It is this powerful Congressional oversight that prevented the original D.C. medical marijuana initiative from going into full effect for over a decade. […]

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