Congressional House Committee Votes To Lift District’s Ban On Medical Marijuana

Washington, DC: Members of the US House Appropriations Committee voted last night to remove a decade-long federal ban forbidding the District of Columbia from legalizing the physician-supervised use of cannabis.

The Committee voted to remove the language from the House version of the District’s 2010 budget bill. Since 1998, Congress has annually included a provision in the District’s annual appropriation bill forbidding Washington, DC from reducing any penalties pertaining to the city’s marijuana laws. Congress initially enacted the provision – known as the ‘Barr amendment‘ – in response to a pending citywide ballot initiative that sought to legalize the medicinal possession and use of cannabis.

Nearly 70 percent of District voters ultimately approved the medical marijuana initiative, which has never been implemented.

Both the House of Representatives and the Senate must still vote on the District’s appropriations bill.

If Congress approves D.C.’s budget bill without the amendment it remains unclear whether District officials will be able to legally implement the 1998 ballot measure or whether D.C. voters would need to vote again on a similar measure before the proposal could become law.

For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500.