D.C. Council Passes Legislation Legalizing Marijuana for Medical Use

Press Release May 3, 2010
Media Contact

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

Today, the D.C. Council passed legislation that would make medical marijuana legally available for sale to qualified patients in five to eight District locations, moving the city closer to joining 14 states that allow marijuana for medical purposes. The legislation now heads to the Mayor’s desk where he is expected to sign it into law.

The following is a statement by Bill Piper, Director of National Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance:

The DC Council should be congratulated for exempting AIDS, cancer and other patients from the punitive war on marijuana. No one should face jail for using marijuana, especially patients following their doctor’s recommendation. This has been a long fight, but the voice of DC voters is finally starting to be heard.

In 1998 D.C. residents voted overwhelming to legalize marijuana for medical use — 69% to 31%, still the largest margin in any jurisdiction to legalize medical marijuana. It took more than a decade to get Congress out of the way so that city officials could implement the law. While the Council is heeding the will of voters in important areas, such as allowing the regulated sale of marijuana for medical use, it is ignoring the will of voters in other important areas — most notably by prohibiting patients from growing their own medicine; a key component of the 1998 initiative, and a key component of medical marijuana laws in 13 states.

The legislation also only protects patients from arrest if they use marijuana obtained from a dispensary. Yet experience in other states show that dispensaries routinely face shortages of marijuana. And the federal government could shut down DC’s dispensaries. If either happens, patients will be forced to buy their marijuana from non-dispensary sources. They shouldn’t face arrest for doing so. No patient should face arrest for following their doctor’s recommendation. This is a glaring problem with the legislation; the Council needs to fix it or the health of patients could be undermined.

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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