Congress Ends Ban On Medical Marijuana In D.C.

By Steve Elliott in Legislation, Medical, News
Sunday, Dec. 13 2009 @ 12:36PM
Congress respecting the will of the people? What’s next, democracy?
​Eleven years later, it’s about time: The U.S. Senate today passed historic legislation to end the decade long ban on implementation of the medical marijuana law Washington, D.C., voters passed with 69 percent of the vote in 1998.

“This marks the first time in history that Congress has changed a marijuana law for the better,” said Aaron Houston, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), based in D.C.

The “Barr Amendment,” a rider attached to appropriations for the District of Columbia, has forbidden D.C. from extending legal protection to qualified medical marijuana patients. The amendment has long been derided as an unconscionable intrusion by the federal government into the District’s affairs, according to MPP.

The House voted 221-202 and the Senate voted 57-35 to approve the measure.

The omnibus spending bill now approved by both chambers of Congress removes this onerous provision, allowing the District to finally implement its voter-approved law.

President Obama is expected to sign the bill shortly.

MPP’s Aaron Houston: “This is the first time Congress has ever given its assent to a state or local law that permits medical use of marijuana.”
​ “This is not only a huge victory for medical marijuana patients and for D.C. self-government; it marks a history-making shift on the medical marijuana issue,” Houston said. “This is the first time Congress has ever given its assent to a state or local law that permits medical use of marijuana.

“It shows that Congress is listening to voters, who have supported protection for medical marijuana patients for well over a decade,” Houston said, “as well as to the medical community’s growing recognition of marijuana’s medical value.

“Coming on top of the announcement that the Department of Justice will not interfere with state medical marijuana laws, this shows that the ground has fundamentally shifted,” Houston said. “It’s time for the federal government to take the logical next step as the American Medical Association just suggested, and reconsider marijuana’s classification as a Schedule I drug, which bars medical use.”

Ironically, MPP in 2007 hired former Congressman Bob Barr (R-Ga.) — the original author of the amendment — to lobby to overturn it. (Barr now calls himself a Libertarian, and says he has repented from his former drug prohibitionist ways. Unfortunately, now he has no power.)

MPP’s Rob Kampia: “Today’s vote represents a victory not just for medical marijuana patients, but for all Americans”
​ “Our lobbyists have worked directly with members of the House and Senate and their staffs since 2006 to eliminate this democracy-unfriendly law,” said Rob Kampia, executive director of MPP.

“In fact, senior appropriators in Congress sought out MPP staff to work through specifics and to help better understand D.C.’s medical marijuana law and the complicated legal maneuverings that led to the blocking of its implementation,” Kampia said.

“MPP would like to thank Congressmen Jose Serrano and Dave Obey, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) for their strong and abiding support of allowing D.C. to implement its medical marijuana law,” Kampia added. “Today’s vote represents a victory not just for medical marijuana patients, but for all Americans.”

Congressman Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.) originally removed the ban from the D.C. appropriations bill back in July after years of working to protect patients in the District. Congressman David Obey (D-Wis.) helped ensure that the change made it through the legislative process and into the omnibus spending bill Congress passed today.

Medical marijuana is legal under the laws of 13 states. Bills are under consideration in several additional states, including New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and Wisconsin.

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