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Washington, DC Medical Marijuana Initiative Fails to Get Enough Signature; New Signature-Gathering Efforts Planned


January 1998

Despite delivering hundreds of pages of signatures to Washington, DC's Board of Elections and Ethics, campaigners for a medical marijuana measure fell short by at least 800 names, according to Steve Michael of ACT UP Washington, which was heading the effort. ACT UP had until December 8 to gather the signatures of 17,070 registered D.C. voters to get Initiative 57 placed on the September 1998 mayoral primary ballot. Michael said ACT UP will gather signatures for the measure a second time (Julie Makinen Bowles, "More Petition Drives Planned for D.C. Marijuana Initiative," December 29, 1997, p. C4).

Board of Elections and Ethics Executive Director Alice Miller confirmed that ACT-UP has refiled the initiative. The measure would legalize the possession, use, distribution and cultivation of marijuana if recommended by a physician for illnesses such as AIDS, cancer and glaucoma. "Our folks are excited. They're geared up to go at this again," Michael said. To get the measure on the September ballot, they would have to turn in signatures by May 15.

Americans for Medical Rights (AMR), a California group that successfully campaigned for California's medical marijuana measure Proposition 215 in 1996, is launching its own ballot initiative in the nation's capital. AMR has filed a measure with the elections board and hired a D.C. lawyer and a professional organizer to lead the campaign. Dave Fratello, a spokesman for the group, said AMR plans to spend at least $40,000 and perhaps as much as $500,000 to get its initiative passed.

However, ACT-UP staunchly opposed a provision in AMR's initiative that would require medical marijuana users to register with the D.C. government and carry identification cards. In addition, ACT-UP is accusing AMR of trying to capitalize on its grass-roots work. Michael said, "If the [elections] board allows both of us to gather signatures, voters are going to be confused. Everyone agrees on that."

According to ACT-UP, AMR's attorney failed to move to consolidate the hearings for the AMR medical marijuana initiative, which will delay the start of their signature gathering until April. Michael expects the D.C. Board of Elections to approve the petition sheet for the new ACT-UP sponsored measure, Initiative 59, on February 4.

AMR - Tel: (310) 394-2952, Fax: (310) 451-7494.

ACT-UP - 825 5th Street, NE, Suite A, Washington, DC 20002, Tel: (202) 547-9404.