Almost a year after the fact, a federal judge ruled this fall that Congress cannot suppress the results of Washington, D.C.'s Proposition 59, a 1998 ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana in the District. Last November, exit polls showed the initiative winning with two-thirds of the vote. That potential outcome irked Congress and the president so much that they passed legislation preventing the vote from being counted and certified. But now the vote has been properly tallied. The polls were right: Prop. 59 passed with a whopping 69 percent of the vote.
That's not to say Congress and the president will be bowing to the electorate's wishes any time soon. Because of the District's charter, the federal government retains the ability to overturn ballot initiatives and is expected to do so in this case. In fact, as of press time, the House of Representatives had already passed a bill to that effect.
Such an action would highlight the national government's indifference to voters' wishes and its conflict with state governments. California, Arizona, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska have already passed initiatives allowing marijuana or other controlled substances to be used in certain medical situations. This November, Maine will become the first state on the East Coast to vote on such an initiative; support for Question 2 there was hovering around 59 percent in early polls, and most observers assume it will pass easily. In 2000, Coloradans will vote on a medical marijuana initiative that has been held up by a court challenge. Also next year, Nevada will decide on a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana (voters have already approved the measure once; under Nevada's constitution, amendments must be ratified twice).