Court Ruling hailed as a 'Victory' for Medical Marijuana Initiative 59
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Democracy Held Hostage: Day 319

Court Ruling hailed as a 'Victory' for Medical Marijuana Initiative 59

September 17, 1999
Contact: Wayne Turner at (202) 547-9404

Washington, DC - US District court Judge Richard Roberts issued a ruling today allowing the count, release, certification, and transmission of the results of DC's medical marijuana Initiative 59. The ballots have remained impounded and the results kept secret since last November, due to Rep. Bob Barr's (R-GA) amendment on the District's FY 99 Budget, which prohibits local officials from 'conducting an election' on any ballot measure which lessens the penalties for marijuana.

Initiative 59, if passed, would allow seriously and terminally ill patients such as persons with cancer, or AIDS, to use marijuana for medicinal purposes, such as the treatment of nausea, and appetite loss associated wih AIDS wasting syndrome.

The court case, filed last October by the ACLU National Capital Area, has been pending since final arguments were presented last December.

Activists hailed the ruling as a long overdue victory for patients, and the democratic rights of District residents. "This is a real victory, but it's been such a long, painful struggle," states AIDS activist Wayne Turner, who lead the Initiative 59 campaign after its original sponsor, Steve Michael, died from AIDS.

A local coalition of AIDS activists, environmentalists, and citizens gathered over 32,000 petition signatures in order to place Initiative 59 on the November 3, 1998 election. Though District voters cast their ballots both 'For' and 'Against,' local election officials were threatened with arrest if they counted and announced the results.

The Board of Elections and Ethics will then to have to offically certify the outcome.

Even if Initiative 59 was approved by voters, the measure would still be subject to a 30-day congressional review period. A 'resolution of disapproval' would have to be passed by a majority in both the House and the Senate, and then signed by the President, in order to overturn a DC law.

"We still have a lot of work to do, so we can implement the will of the people of DC," Turner adds. "This has always been about protecting patients."

For more information, check out the ACT UP Washington website at

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