ACT UP DC: Congress blocks DC clean needle exchange, medical marijuana again
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ACT UP DC: Congress blocks DC clean needle exchange, medical marijuana again

For immediate release

December 5, 2001

contact Wayne Turner at ACT UP/DC (202) 547-9404


Washington, DC -- AIDS activists and pro-democracy supporters strongly condemn the renewal of several budget riders attached to the DC Appropriations Bill, approved by a Congressional conference committee late Wednesday, December 4.

Over two months since the Fiscal Year 2002 began on October 1, the conferees from both the Senate and the House of Representatives agreed to renew prohibitions on local funding for DC's clean needle exchange program, and once again approved the Barr amendment which prohibits the District of Columbia from implementing its medical marijuana Initiative 59, which was approved in 1998 by 69% of DC voters.

"The people of DC have decided we want a locally funded clean needle exchange program to help stop the spread of HIV. The people of DC decided at the ballot box that seriously ill patients should have safe legal access to medical marijuana," states ACT UP/DC organizer and Initiative 59 sponsor Wayne Turner. "This congressional appropriations process is illegitimate, anti-democratic, and hazardous to the health of District residents," noting that 95% of the revenue in the DC Appropriations Bill, one of thirteen spending bills passed annually by Congress, is raised through local tax dollars.

After another year of organizing and lobbying, DC activists did win an historic victory. Congress removed a long standing rider, finally permitting the District to implement its Domestic Partnership Law, which was passed by the DC Council in 1992. The 'Health Benefits Expansion Act' allows both Gay and straight couples to register as domestic partners, allowing familial recognition for such things as hospital visits, and allows the partners of DC government employees to purchase private health insurance.

Activists say the win on domestic partnership is an encouraging sign, "This sets an important precedent as we continue to work in removing the Barr amendment on medical marijuana, and the clean needles prohibition," adds Turner.

Early next year, the District's non-voting Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton is expected to introduce a bill that would grant local control over locally raised tax revenue. "Budget autonomy for DC will mean we won't have to keep fighting these battles year after year on Capitol Hill. These members of Congress aren't elected by the residents of the District of Columbia. It's time they respect democracy in the nation's capital," Turner concludes.

For more information of the District's medical marijuana Initiative 59, visit

For more information on the Stand Up for Democracy Coalition efforts to Free DC's budget, visit