Here is the Washington Post's cautious reporting of the medical
initiative landslide in Washington D.C. It should be noted that the Post is
one of the most pro-prohibition papers in the nation. You'll note they print
what Drug Czar McCaffrey says without even a basic bit of fact-checking. I'd
like to say, "as usual," but the fact is, for the Post, it is "as
My letter to its editors follow.
RESULTS ARE OUT: MARIJUANA INITIATIVE PASSES
by Bill Miller and Spencer S. Hsu
Hill Republicans, Who Blocked D.C. Vote Tally,
Vow Measure Won't Become Law
September 12, 1999
District voters overwhelmingly approved a measure last fall to legalize
the medical use of marijuana, according to results released yesterday,
but congressional Republicans again vowed that the initiative would not become
Congress had forbidden city officials to even count the votes until a
federal judge intervened last week; the results released yesterday showed
that the initiative was approved 69 percent to 31 percent. Since 1996,
similar measures have been approved in six states and are in effect in
four of them.
Initiative 59 would change D.C. drug laws to permit the possession, use,
cultivation and distribution of marijuana if recommended by a physician
for serious illness. Advocates contend that marijuana can alleviate
symptoms of AIDS, cancer and other illnesses, but opponents maintain that
patients have other alternatives and that legalizing drugs sets a
Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government
Oversight subcommittee on the District, said that Congress is
to reject the legislation, adding that it is so broadly drafted that it
would hamper enforcement of any anti-marijuana laws in the city.
"If Fairfax County voted to allow medical use of marijuana, the state
wouldn't let us, would it? That's the analogy I hear from members," said
Davis, who opposes the measure.
D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) kept up his long-standing support
of the initiative, saying, "I call upon Congress to respect the will of
the electorate of the District of Columbia who have decided on this
For two straight years, members of Congress have endorsed riders to the
D.C. appropriations bill barring marijuana legalization, a move that U.S.
District Judge Richard W. Roberts last week ruled did not extend to
sealing the referendum results.
In September 1998, the full House voted 310 to 93 in favor of a non-
binding resolution opposing marijuana legalization for medicinal use.
One referendum supporter, Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.),
hat D.C. voters probably would "be deprived of the right to exercise
their own judgment."
"Most of the members are rightfully reticent to override a democratic
referendum, but they're also afraid that . . . they will be
to 30-second ads claiming they voted to legalize drugs," said Moran,
senior Democrat on the House Appropriations subcommittee on the District.
The subcommittee chairman, Rep. Ernest J. Istook Jr. (R-Okla.),
provided an idea of what's in store in the initiative battle when he
said the vote results threatened "to reignite the national ridicule of
D.C. that erupted" when then-Mayor Marion Barry was arrested for
possession in a sting operation.
Although D.C. voters cast their ballots on the issue Nov. 3, the
had remained secret because of a congressional amendment last year that
forbade the District to spend money on any initiative that would loosen
laws governing marijuana use. On Friday, Roberts cleared the way for the
tallies to be announced and certified by the D.C. Board of Elections and
Medicinal marijuana laws already are in effect in Alaska, California,
Oregon and Washington state. The only legislature that tried to overturn
a result, the Arizona body, was rebuffed when citizens passed a referendum
a second time, although the measure did not remove criminal penalties.
The results of the D.C. vote showed 75,536 D.C. residents in favor and
34,621 opposed. Supporters commanded 69 percent of the vote, the largest
percentage recorded in any medical marijuana initiative in the country.
It passed in every precinct.
The matter will be sent to Congress, which has 30 working days to either
allow the new law to be enacted or to override it. Because of the city's
unique status, the District's home rule charter makes Congress the
ultimate authority on local laws.
"Yes, this is a victory, but there's a lot of work to do,"
Wayne Turner, an AIDS activist who led the initiative campaign.
Turner was among a crowd of initiative supporters who gathered at the
election board's office yesterday to get the news. He stood beside a
computer as officials pushed a button that printed out the results and
looked over as Alice P. Miller, the election board's executive director,
gave him a thumbs up.
Turner and his partner, Steve Michael, had launched the initiative
campaign in December 1996, working to generate enough signatures to get
it on the ballot. Michael, who had AIDS, died in May 1998, and Turner
vowed to continue the campaign without him. Turner and his friends
brought Michael's ashes with them to election headquarters yesterday.
"We wanted Steve to be here," Turner said.
The 30-day window in Congress isn't the only obstacle. Rep. Robert
Barr Jr. (R-Ga.), who pushed through the amendment thwarting initiative
supporters last year, came up with a new version that has passed in the
House and Senate. Attached to the D.C. appropriations bill, the new
amendment prohibits the District from spending any money to enact any
law that would legalize any drugs or reduce penalties. Under current
law, possession of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six
months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
"Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and it would send a
terrible message to America's young people to allow those laws to be
openly flouted in the same city where they were passed," Barr said.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), who opposed both Barr amend-
ments, issued a statement praising last week's court decision, saying
it "vindicated democratic self-government."
Although the White House has threatened to veto the D.C. appropriations package
and its amendments, the Clinton administration has not embraced the medical use
National Drug Policy Director Barry R. McCaffrey reiterated his
opposition yesterday, saying the initiative "flies in the face" of
findings issued this year by the National Academy of Sciences'
Institute of Medicine. The report detected "little future [for] or
benefit from smoked marijuana as a medically approved medication."
Davis also directed a volley at the White House, saying, "It's hard for
the president to veto a D.C. appropriations bill because we won't allow
legalized marijuana use in the District. That's just a tough sell."
Istook took a tougher position: "If there is a veto, it'll show that
Bill Clinton is as soft on drugs as he is on Puerto Rican terrorists."
The American Civil Liberties Union, which joined with the D.C.
government to wage the recent court challenge, said it was studying
options. Mary Jane DeFrank, executive director of the ACLU of the
National Capital Area, said Congress should not make the District "a
political plaything" when people who are suffering from disease could
"Congress ought not to take any action at all," she said.
[Washington Post sidebar]
KEY DATES IN MEDICAL MARIJUANA DISPUTE
Dec. 5, 1996: Activists announce plans to push for an initiative on
the D.C. ballot that would legalize the use of marijuana for medical
Dec. 8, 1997: The initiative fails when supporters are unable to
muster enough signatures.
July 1998: Backers submit 32,000 signatures to the D.C. Board of
Elections and Ethics.
Aug. 6, 1998: Elections officials say the issue cannot appear on the
ballot because of a dispute involving the validity of thousands of
signatures. The initiative's proponents challenge the ruling in D.C.
Sept. 3, 1998: D.C. Superior Court Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle says
elections officials erred in rejecting thousands of signatures.
Officials announce that Initiative 59 will be on the Nov. 3 ballot.
Oct. 21, 1998: Rep. Robert L. Barr Jr. (R-Ga.) attaches an
amendment to the fiscal 1999 D.C. appropriations bill. The so-called
Barr amendment would prohibit the District from spending money on any
initiative that would legalize or reduce the penalties for users of
marijuana. The measure passes along with the D.C. spending bill. As
a result, elections officials say they cannot release or certify the
results of the Initiative 59 vote.
Oct. 30, 1998: The initiative's supporters join with the American
Civil Liberties Union and file suit in U.S. District Court.
Nov. 3, 1998: D.C. residents vote on Initiative 59. The outcome
remains a secret; meanwhile, voters in five states pass similar
Nov. 6, 1998: The D.C. government seeks to overturn the Barr amendment.
Dec. 17, 1998: U.S. District Judge Richard W. Roberts hears more than
two hours of legal arguments on the issue, with the Justice Department
arguing the case for Congress.
July 29, 1999: Barr proposes an amendment to the fiscal 2000 D.C.
appropriations bill to prohibit the District from using any money to
legalize or reduce the penalty for the possession, use or distribution
of marijuana and other drugs. The House passes the bill, and Barr
declares that the medical marijuana law will not take effect no matter
how D.C. residents had voted.
Sept. 16, 1999: The Senate passes the D.C. appropriations bill,
containing Barr's amendment. The White House threatens to veto the
Sept. 17, 1999: Roberts rules that the vote count can be released
and certified. Barr says the results are irrelevant, but initiative
supporters celebrate what they called "Day 319 of Democracy Held
Sept. 20, 1999: D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics releases the vote
total, showing the initiative passed by an overwhelming margin. Both
sides begin girding for more battles in Congress.
Here's my letter to the Washington Post:
Editors, Washington Post
You quote National Drug Policy Director Barry R. McCaffrey's opposition to
the D.C medical marijuana initiative saying it "'flies in the face' of
findings issued this year by the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of
Medicine." His statement is completely untrue. Let the Executive Summary of
the IOM report speak for itself:
"The combination of cannabinoid drug effects (anxiety reduction, appetite
stimulation, nausea reduction, and pain relief) suggests that cannabinoids
would be moderately well suited for particular conditions, such as
chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and AIDS wasting...The psychological
effects of cannabinoids, such as anxiety reduction, sedation, and euphoria
can influence their potential therapeutic value.
"Until a nonsmoked rapid-onset cannabinoid drug delivery system becomes
available, we acknowledge that there is no clear alternative for people
suffering from chronic conditions that might be relieved by smoking
marijuana, such as pain or AIDS wasting. One possible approach is to treat
patients as n-of-1 clinical trials (single-patient trials)...[involving] an
oversight strategy comparable to an institutional review board process that
could provide guidance within 24 hours of a submission by a physician to
provide marijuana to a patient for a specified use."
The truth, then, is (a) marijuana is medicine; (b) it is "moderately well
suited" for certain illnesses; (c) there is "no clear
"smoking marijuana" for some patients, and (d) that smoked marijuana
available "within 24 hours of a submission by a physician."
The ONDCP's latest wave in its $1 billion advertising campaign is themed,
"HONESTY: The Anti-Drug." Perhaps ONDCP director McCaffrey should
advice of his own copywriters.
8165 Mannix Drive
Los Angeles, California 90046
And here's the final word on the subject from "grandma" Kay Lee. Go, grandma,
go! Take us home.
I just want to point out something to those who don't know enough about
marijuana to support the effort to change the laws.
The two reports above will give you an idea of what subterfuge and
dishonesty people who advocate for the marijuana plant have had to deal with
from the politicians that call us liars.
This fight has gotten very difficult and dangerous because the government is
targeting cannabis users and patients who dare to expose or express the
The opposition has it down to a fine art. Even now, during a height of
patient and advocate arrests, the truth manages to be kept muffled.
In court, if the pain doesn't show, the patient goes to prison. If the
shows too clearly, the court offers such a lenient plea-bargain that the
truth the patient has been trying to tell is never seen or heard by the
The sick person is so relieved to avoid jail time and in many cases, no
urine testing while on probation, that he grabs the plea bargain, accepts
the loss of his stuff, pays the fees, and lives with the criminal record.
But, you the public, never get the opportunity to hear the truth.
Although the effort to cover-up is frantic and ruthless, the proof that
marijuana does not belong in schedule 1 or even 2 or 3 or maybe even 4 does
exist and is being constantly uncovered, despite the government's efforts to
keep us ignorant.
The truth never changes. First we were told marijuana was a violent drug,
causing women to prostitute themselves and men to murder. After WWII we
were told that marijuana made people so laid back that the 'commies' could
come in and take over America. In the 80's they said it was medicine and
still give eight patients a monthly supply, and they even developed an
imitation THC called Marinol. Now in 99 they say there is absolutely no
medicinal use and that all patients are liars.
First they said marijuana caused brain damage, then cancer, then impotence
and infertility, now they are reduced to saying it might hurt your lungs
like cigarettes and that no medicine can be smoked, which isn't true. Many
natural medicines were smoked before the pillpushers perverted the form.
The other argument they have left is that it 'sends the wrong message to the
children.' Here's where the grandmother in me gets angry, because I will
not raise my family in ignorance just so the status quo can be maintained.
The message is perverted. Instead of sticking to a lie, I prefer to tell
grandchildren that almost all medicine came from nature so marijuana is not
unique: That all medicine is to be respected and used responsibility: That
lies should never be tolerated.
The IOM report that says that marijuana is not addictive, not particularly
harmful, and can be used medically.
The National Toxicology Report stated that the group of rats who had lots of
THC for two years had FEWER tumors than the rats who had none. What if
proper testing proves marijuana to be preventative?
The National Highway Department found that you couldn't visually tell a
stoned driver from a straight one. Except the stoner's tended to drive
slower and more cautiously, which everyone should do.
The list goes on: We base our truth on research that has been hidden from
view. We offer this evidence to you the same way it was offered to us - as
a wonderful gift of knowledge and a path to understanding.