The Marijuana Policy Project ( and the Medical Marijuana Initiative Committee filed suit in US District Court Tuesday seeking to gain the right to place a medical marijuana initiative on the Washington, DC, ballot. The lawsuit comes three years after District residents voted in favor of medical marijuana by a whopping 69-21% margin.

That electoral victory was never implemented, however, because congressional drug warriors used their oversight powers, first to prevent the votes from even being counted -- advocates had to go to court to secure that right -- and then to block the initiative from becoming law. And not only did they block the medical marijuana law from coming into effect, they then passed another amendment to the DC appropriations bill which allowed District voters or elected officials to increase marijuana penalties if they chose, but not to decrease them.

"We're seeking a temporary restraining order that will at least allow us to collect the 16,000 signatures we need for another referendum," said MPP executive director Rob Kampia at a news conference announcing the lawsuit. "To be on the November ballot, everything has to be in place by May," he added.

"This is a First Amendment, free-speech issue," said MPP attorney Alexi Silverman. "DC residents have the right to voice their opinion and their vision of what the laws in their city ought to be."

MPP and the Medical Marijuana Initiative Committee had sought to do the preliminary work to prepare for an initiative campaign, but the DC Board of Elections and Ethics ruled last week that the congressional rider to the annual appropriations bill prohibited the District from spending any funds to prepare for a medical marijuana initiative. Thus, the lawsuit.

The initiative restriction is the brainchild of Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA), a former prosecutor from suburban Atlanta. Barr's office did not return DRCNet calls asking for comment on the lawsuit and an explanation of why District residents should not be able to express their opinions on marijuana policy at the ballot box.

Barr might want to talk to DC resident Candida Fraze, a multiple sclerosis patient who is a plaintiff in the lawsuit. "I have terrible pain in my nerves and joints," she told the news conference. "I would like the opportunity to try marijuana to alleviate some of the symptoms I have," she said. "Congress' position seems to be archaic and lacking any sense of compassion."

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