GLAA To Congress: Let Initiative 59 Stand
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GLAA To Congress: Let Initiative 59 Stand

October 1999

Dear Member of Congress:

As a non-partisan organization defending the equal rights of gay men and lesbians in the District of Columbia since 1971, we urge you to oppose any measure overturning Initiative 59, "The Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative of 1998." This ballot initiative was approved in November 1998 by sixty-nine percent of District voters, posting large margins in every precinct in the city.

Attempts in Congress to nullify this initiative strike against the fundamental right of Americans to vote. Because of an amendment to the District's FY 1999 Budget by Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia, our Board of Elections and Ethics was not even permitted to tabulate, certify, and announce the results of the Initiative until U.S. District Court Judge Richard Roberts issued a ruling on September 17 allowing it to do so. Surely there is something wrong when American citizens have to take their government to court just to win the right to have their votes count.

Initiative 59 is not a "soft on drugs" measure. It would simply allow seriously and terminally ill patients to use marijuana for medicinal purposes, such as the treatment of nausea and appetite loss associated wih AIDS wasting syndrome, upon the recommendation of a physician. There is no basis for the claim that this carefully-tailored measure would undermine enforcement of drug laws in the District, or send the wrong message to our youth. As precedent, we point to various other controlled substances that have long been used for medical purposes under clearly delineated conditions. The overwhelming support shown by District voters for Initiative 59 was clearly inspired by a deeply-felt compassion for the seriously ill.

Voters in Alaska, Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington have already passed medical marijuana initiatives similar to Initiative 59. Far from being out of step with the rest of the country, District voters have joined a growing national trend reflecting a caring and compassionate response by American voters to pleas from patients suffering with cancer, AIDS, and other serious illnesses. Whatever your view on the issue itself, we urge you to defend the right of District voters to determine their own local policies, just as the residents in any state are able to do.


Craig Howell
Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, DC