Americans for Hope, Growth, and Opportunity (AHGO), a political advocacy organization headed by former Republican presidential hopeful Steve Forbes, announced that it will fund a campaign opposing a Washington D.C. medical marijuana initiative.
"[District] children are being targeted by twisted drug predators," Forbes claimed, referring to backers of a proposal to permit seriously ill patients to use marijuana with a doctor's recommendation. "AHGO is launching [a] radio campaign, issuing a memo to Congressional leaders, and working with local leaders and anti-drug coalitions to mobilize public opinion against this very serious threat," he said.
The district's Initiative 57 would legalize the possession and cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes under a physician's supervision. Members of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT-UP), a national AIDS advocacy organization, filed the initiative earlier this year after interim Council Chair Charlene Drew Jarvis and U.S. Attorney Eric Holder proposed legislation to stiffen penalties for the possession of marijuana. "We should not make criminals out of sick and dying people who are simply trying to improve the quality and quantity of their lives," ACT-UP spokesman Steve Michael explained. Presently, thousands of AIDS patients in the district use marijuana medicinally to combat the effects of the wasting syndrome and nausea.
The language of the initiative is based upon a successful California campaign exempting medical marijuana patients who possess a doctor's recommendation from state prosecution for marijuana possession or cultivation. Federal law currently forbids any physician from legally prescribing marijuana for any illness, including glaucoma, cancer chemotherapy, spasticity disorders, or AIDS wasting syndrome.
"This s a shockingly misguided effort by Mr. Forbes that reflects a total lack of compassion for those less fortunate," said NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup. "Whatever one may feel about the 'War on Drugs,' denying an effective medication to seriously ill and dying patients should never be part of it. Mr. Forbes' conduct is shameful."
Backers of Initiative 57 must gather 16,763 valid signatures by December 8, 1997, to qualify for the September 1998 ballot. Proponents are hoping to gather the bulk of the signatures on July 22 when district residents vote in a special election for Council Chair.
For more information, please contact either R. Keith Stroup of NORML at (202) 483-5500 or Steve Michael of ACT-UP at (202) 547-9404 for more information.