News Release

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September 23, 1999

Federal Court Orders DC Government To Count, Release And Certify Last November's Medical Marijuana Vote

        Sept. 23, 1999, Washington, DC:  In a decision announced on Friday, Sept. 17, U.S. District Judge Richard W. Roberts found that the Congressional ban on counting or announcing the District of Columbia initiative vote on the medical use of marijuana is invalid and ordered the DC Board of Elections to count, announce and certify the vote.  On the following Monday, the Board of Elections announced that the voters of the District gave the initiative 69 percent approval.
        The U.S. District Court decision said if the amendment to the DC appropriations bill was intended to block such action, it would have been an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment's protection of political speech.  However, the court found that the language banning DC funds "to conduct any ballot initiative" only pertained to the activities on election day, thus avoiding a constitutional ruling.
        "(The) court decision is a clear and decisive win for self-government in the District of Columbia," said DC Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D).  "The court recognized that our citizens, like citizens in every other state with a referendum, have a right to determine their own laws and set their future.  At long last the voters will be heard on this public health issue."
        Under the terms of the law granting partial home rule to the District, Congress now has 30 work days to override the initiative, or it becomes law.  The Republican controlled Congress is expected to promptly approve an override.
        "Voiding and overriding a democratic election is something one might expect from a banana republic, but not the capitol of the free world," said Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director.  "Let's hope they come to their senses and permit this law to take effect."
        For more information, please contact Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director at (202) 483-5500.

Coloradans Will Vote Again For Medical Marijuana

        Sept. 23, 1999, Denver, CO:  Coloradans will vote again on a constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana for medical use in the November 2000 election.  The difference between this vote and the one last November -- this time it will count.
        Amendment 19 appeared on the November 1998 ballot, but then-Secretary of State Vikki Buckley said the initiative fell 2,338 signatures short of the 54,242 needed to put it to a vote.  Coloradans for Medical Rights, the group that sponsored the amendment, claimed they had more than enough valid signatures and sought an emergency ruling days before the election from both a Denver District Court and the State Supreme Court to allow the initiative to proceed.  Both courts refused to order county clerks to tally the votes.
        This summer, Buckley's successor, Donetta Davidson, said a recount of the petition signatures showed there had been more than enough to qualify the amendment for the 1998 ballot.  District Court Judge Connie Peterson agreed with the new secretary of state and on Monday ordered the initiative on the next ballot, without the need to collect new signatures.
        "The proponents of said initiative submitted sufficient signatures to certify the petition to the ballot at the next general election (November 2000)," wrote Judge Peterson in the decision.
        "We are now looking forward to 2000 and are very confident that Colorado's voters will once again pass medical marijuana by a huge margin," said Luther Symons, CMR President.
        Exit polls in Colorado last November showed the Amendment would have passed by a 60 percent margin.
        If approved in 2000, the initiative will allow seriously ill patients who have a doctor's recommendation to possess up to two ounces of marijuana or grow three plants for medical use.
        For more information, please contact Luther Symons, President of Coloradans for Medical Rights at (303) 832-2444.

California Universities To Study Marijuana's Medical Value

        Sept. 23, 1999, Sacramento, CA:  The California Legislature passed a bill on Sept. 13 that will create a University of California program to study marijuana's medical value.
        The Bill (SB 847), authored by Sen. John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara) allocates money in next year's state budget for the research.  The studies will be developed and designed in the meantime.
        "This is a belated and necessary first step on the federal approval of medical marijuana," said Dale Gieringer, State Coordinator of California NORML.
        "Creation of this program will keep California on the cutting edge of the medical marijuana issue," said Dave Fratello, spokesman for Americans for Medical Rights.  "Californians have already moved the issue forward by being the first to demonstrate public support for giving patients access to marijuana.
     We may now begin to contribute to the scientific basis for reclassifying marijuana as medicine under federal law, allowing patients all over America to obtain its benefits."
        For more information, please contact Dale Gieringer, State Coordinator of California NORML at (415) 563-5858 or Dave Fratello of Americans for Medical Rights at (310) 394-2952.  To view SB 847: