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July 17, 2009
3:55 PM

CONTACT: Drug Policy Alliance

Bill Piper 202-669-6430 or Tony Newman 646-335-5384

U.S. House Repeals Provision Prohibiting Washington, D.C. from Enacting Medical Marijuana; Nation’s Capital Could Soon Join 13 States That Have Legalized Marijuana for Medical Use

1998 Provision of Federal Law Overturned Voter-Passed Medical Marijuana Law and Banned the City from Ever Lowering Penalties for Marijuana

The Congressional Action on Medical Marijuana is Latest in Rapidly Increasing Momentum to Change U.S. Marijuana Laws

WASHINGTON - July 17 -  

The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation today removing a federal provision that bars the nation’s capital from legalizing marijuana for medical use. The provision, nicknamed the Barr Amendment after its author, former Republican Congressman Bob Barr, who now supports repealing the amendment, was passed in 1998 in response to a medical marijuana initiative approved by 69% of Washington, D.C. voters. The Barr Amendment overturned the medical marijuana law and prohibited the city from ever reducing penalties for marijuana or other Schedule I drugs - even for medical use. The provision is so broad that legal experts believe it even prohibits the city from passing treatment-instead-of-incarceration legislation diverting people arrested for marijuana, heroin or other Schedule I drugs to drug treatment instead of jail.

“D.C. residents voted for medical marijuana, cancer and AIDS patients deserve access to medicine, and it’s a disgrace that Congress ever passed the Barr Amendment,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Congress can bring some sanity to federal marijuana laws and support the will of D.C. voters by overturning this undemocratic law.”

If adopted by both branches of Congress, D.C. will be free to once again enact medical marijuana legislation. Already 13 states have legalized marijuana for medical use. The congressional action on medical marijuana is only the latest in growing momentum in favor of reforming U.S. marijuana laws. Rhode Island legislators expanded their state’s medical marijuana law earlier this year, establishing compassion centers to distribute marijuana directly to patients. The New Jersey Assembly passed medical marijuana legislation earlier this year and the state’s Senate will take up the issue later this year. Minnesota and New Hampshire legislatures recently passed legislation legalizing marijuana for medical use, but the bills were vetoed by each state’s governor.


DPA Network is the nation's leading organization working to end the war on drugs. We envision new drug policies based on science, compassion, health and human rights and a just society in which the fears, prejudices and punitive prohibitions of today are no more.


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