Pubdate: Fri, 20 Sep 2002
Source: Washington Times (DC)
Copyright: 2002 News World Communications, Inc.
Author: Steve Fox


In a recent article about the struggle to place a medical marijuana 
initiative on the ballot in the District ("Medical pot awaits decision," 
Metro, Wednesday), I was described as "infuriated" with the D.C. Board of 
Elections and Ethics. This certainly is true, but the article failed to 
convey the precise source of my anger.

When we were informed by the board that Initiative 63 - the Medical 
Marijuana Initiative of 2002 - had qualified for the Nov. 5 ballot, we 
asked the board to consider holding a special session to certify the 
initiative immediately.

The reason we asked for immediate action is straightforward. If the U.S. 
Court of Appeals reverses an earlier U.S. District Court decision - which 
in March declared unconstitutional the Barr appropriations amendment 
forbidding the use of District funds for any initiative to lessen criminal 
penalties for marijuana - the board will be unable to spend money to place 
the initiative on the ballot. If, however, the board prints the ballots 
before the Court of Appeals rules, the initiative will appear on the ballot 
no matter what the court decides.

When I raised this issue with Kenneth J. McGhie, general counsel for the 
board, he said the board would not consider certifying the initiative until 
its regularly scheduled meeting next Wednesday. He added that the board did 
not care how or when the Court of Appeals ruled because the board is 
"impartial" and acts without regard to outside events.

I later discovered that the board was planning to wait as long as possible 
for the Court of Appeals to rule before placing us on the ballot (as 
reported in the article). This not only ran counter to what Mr. McGhie had 
told me, but also demonstrated that the board is abandoning standard 
procedure in order to stymie our initiative.

The District will incur additional costs if the ballot is sent to the 
printer after today. One can be certain, therefore, that the ballot 
normally would be finalized by that time. Given the absence of legal 
barriers to printing the ballots after today, the only reason to delay is 
pure bias against our cause.

Given the city's $323 million deficit, it is outrageous - and, to me, 
infuriating - that the board is planning to spend additional funds on these 
ballots in an effort to deny District residents the right to vote on a 
broadly supported initiative.

STEVE FOX Director of government relations

Marijuana Policy Project Washington
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MAP posted-by: Larry Stevens