The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

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 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.

The Drug Policy Alliance is the nation's leading organization promoting drug policies grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights.

(212) 613-8020