Measure Finally Implements 1998 Initiative Supported by 69 Percent of District Voters; Adds D.C. to List of Medical Marijuana Jurisdictions
WASHINGTON — Today, by a unanimous vote, the D.C. Council approved amendments to a medical marijuana law first passed in 1998 by 69 percent of District voters. Congress had blocked implementation of Initiative 59 for more than a decade, until it lifted its ban last year. With today’s vote, the District of Columbia joins 14 states across the country in allowing qualified patients to use medical marijuana without fear of arrest.
“Today marks a long overdue victory for D.C. voters and potentially thousands of chronically ill residents who will benefit from legal access to medical marijuana,” said Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project. “It has taken nearly 12 years, but the District will at last have a law that recognizes the mounting scientific consensus that, for many conditions, marijuana can be safe and effective medicine.
“A well-working medical marijuana program in the nation’s capital will also provide members of Congress who have never seen such programs up close with a unique opportunity to do so,” O’Keefe said. “Once they see for themselves that these laws do nothing but provide compassionate care for seriously ill patients, hopefully they will understand the need to create a federal policy that no longer criminalizes patients in any state who could benefit from this legitimate treatment option.”
Under the District’s law, physicians will be able to give medical marijuana recommendations to patients suffering from HIV/AIDS, cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, and other serious conditions that can be alleviated through marijuana. Qualified patients will have safe access to their medicine through a limited number of dispensaries within the District.
Currently, 14 states have effective medical marijuana laws and more than a dozen others are considering them. In November, South Dakotans will vote on a medical marijuana ballot initiative, and Arizona is expected to have one on the ballot as well. Eighty-one percent of Americans support medical marijuana laws, according to a January ABC News/Washington Post poll.