Drug Policy

D.C. Allowed to Implement Medical Marijuana Law


Law Enforcement Against Prohibition reports that the final version of the 2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act lifts the restriction that prevented the District of Columbia from implementing a medical marijuana law approved by voters in 1998. The restriction, which prohibited D.C. from using any money to put the law into effect, was originally known as the Barr Amendment, after Bob Barr, then a Republican congressman from Georgia. Whatever happened to him?

The appropriations bill also "allows use of Federal funds for needle exchange programs," a development that will be welcomed by most drug policy reformers. My own view is that such programs, which help reduce the spread of blood-borne diseases such as AIDS and hepatitis B among intravenous drug users, certainly should be legal, but that using taxpayer money for them is needlessly provocative and sends the wrong message about the direction in which drug policy should move—i.e., toward less government involvement and more individual responsibility. By contrast, the message sent by government-funded needle exchange programs is that reform means forcing taxpayers to subsidize people's heroin habits.

Finally, in a move that libertarians, reform-minded liberals, and fiscal conservatives should all welcome, Congress is cutting the appropriation for the federal government's ridiculous, ineffectual anti-drug propaganda campaign by one-third.

I followed Barr's evolving views on drug policy here, here, and here. As an L.P. official and the party's 2008 presidential nominee, he staked out a federalist position on medical marijuana and called for lifting federal barriers to research on the drug's therapeutic uses. But I don't know if he ever directly addressed the question of whether he regretted overriding the decision that D.C. voters made in this area—which is not, strictly speaking, a federalist issue, since D.C. was created by the national government and is under the direct control of Congress. If you've seen any relevant comments by Barr on this question, let us know in the comments.

Addendum: Commenter Boston points out that Barr welcomed a House vote to repeal the Barr Amendment last July, calling it "an important step in the direction of individual freedom and properly limiting the power of the federal government." He added:

While I in fact sponsored the initial appropriations limitation in 1998, the years since then have witnessed such a dramatic increase in federal government power and an unprecedented decrease in individual liberty, especially since 2001, that I have come to realize that such limitations as the so-called "Barr Amendment" are not and cannot be justified. It has become necessary to reevaluate the power of the federal government that I and others once were able or willing to justify, and do what we can to roll back the tide of government control.

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  1. Has Barr truly seen the light? Or did he just come to his senses when the LP basically made him or else…?

    1. I’m trying really hard to come up with anything the LP can threaten anyone with.

      1. “We’ll make you as irrelevant as us, OR ELSE.”

        Wait, nm, that’s the outcome regardless of his choice.

  2. One-third? Why not 100%?

    Oh well… baby steps.

    1. The program would be successful, if only they would spend a little less on it…waitaminute…

  3. It is important to note the original instances that created our current problem. A racist push for department finances and special interests were the original reasons for marijuana prohibition. Alcohol prohibition had ended. The head of what equaled the DEA 70 odd years ago, needed tax revenue.. This is the original mindset and process that criminalized marijuana…

    Harry J. Anslinger – most direct founder of marijuana prohibition:

    “There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz, and swing, result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and any others.”
    “…the primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races.”
    “Marijuana is an addictive drug which produces in its users insanity, criminality, and death.”
    “Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”
    “Marihuana leads to pacifism and communist brainwashing”
    “You smoke a joint and you’re likely to kill your brother.”
    “Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind.”

    William Randolf Hearst – H.J.Anslinger’s Yellow Journalism partner, San Francisco Examiner:

    “Marihuana makes fiends of boys in thirty days – Hashish goads users to bloodlust.”
    “By the tons it is coming into this country – the deadly, dreadful poison that racks and tears not only the body, but the very heart and soul of every human being who once becomes a slave to it in any of its cruel and devastating forms…. Marihuana is a short cut to the insane asylum. Smoke marihuana cigarettes for a month and what was once your brain will be nothing but a storehouse of horrid specters. Hasheesh makes a murderer who kills for the love of killing out of the mildest mannered man who ever laughed at the idea that any habit could ever get him….”

    Other nationwide columns:

    “Users of marijuana become STIMULATED as they inhale the drug and are LIKELY TO DO ANYTHING. Most crimes of violence in this section, especially in country districts are laid to users of that drug.”
    “Was it marijuana, the new Mexican drug, that nerved the murderous arm of Clara Phillips when she hammered out her victim’s life in Los Angeles?… THREE-FOURTHS OF THE CRIMES of violence in this country today are committed by DOPE SLAVES – that is a matter of cold record.”


    “Hearst and Anslinger were then supported by DuPont chemical company and various pharmaceutical companies in the effort to outlaw cannabis. DuPont had patented nylon, and wanted hemp removed as competition. The pharmaceutical companies could neither identify nor standardize cannabis dosages, and besides, with cannabis, folks could grow their own medicine and not have to purchase it from large companies. ”

    After completing a two year plan to brainwash society using these sensationalist reports fostered by racist ideology and funded by special intrest, all these guys needed was evidence.. They of course did find their evidence – A two year campaign of manipulated media-opinion coverage was presented as documented evidence to a government committee..

    The committee passed the legislation on. And on the floor of the house, the entire discussion was:

    Member from upstate New York: “Mr. Speaker, what is this bill about?”
    Speaker Rayburn: “I don’t know. It has something to do with a thing called marihuana. I think it’s a narcotic of some kind.”
    “Mr. Speaker, does the American Medical Association support this bill?”
    Member on the committee jumps up and says: “Their Doctor Wentworth came down here. They support this bill 100 percent.”

    And on the basis of that lie, on August 2, 1937, marijuana became illegal at the federal level.

    At this point the enforcement bodies are using similar tactics to maintain negative opinion on marijuana… Current public remarks, ads, and press releases do not contain the same racist sentiment – that is true.. usually… unless indirect… Although… the use of marijuana among users of all races here in the USA are proportionate, but for some strange reason arrests for possession is considerably varied when viewed by race…

    No, it is FEAR they still publicly use… Disjointed ads that depict someone neglecting a child or whatever horribly bad imagery they can muster to hold your moral fiber hostage.. Tools of fear, these things are not directly related with marijuana use. There are plenty of people that neglect children with no influence of marijuana. Those are the same people whether they excessively watch TV, play some mmorpg, drink alcohol, abuse steroids, coach a high school football team – what ever – eat pizza every weekend.. the correlation might as well be any of that… Fact is, you would not want intoxication and care of a child together… General opinion supporting this is twisted into acceptance that marijuana makes this happen… Irresponsibility is the fiend, and marijuana did not create the irresponsibility. Imagine the same message blaming beer for causing the child neglect… Excluding propaganda, a seemingly more plausible scenario anyhow, blame seems naturally assigned to the drinker and not the drink… The changing factor is the shroud of “Reefer Madness”. Just as in the start.. same old “Earth will plunge into Hell” fear mongering arguments… Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

    Of course, there are entities that benefit from marijuana prohibition and are also sworn to uphold it as part of their very job description.

    To quote the DEA, the last time I was at their site:

    “The short term effects of marijuana use include:
    Memory loss, distorted perception, trouble with thinking and problem solving, loss of motor skills, decrease in muscle strength, increased heart rate, and anxiety.”

    Now lets look at short term effects with alcohol, only briefly though because the list just goes on and on:

    The short term effects of alcohol use include but not nearly limited to:
    Reduced Inhibitions,Loss of Muscle Control, Memory Loss and/or Blackouts, Trouble with Thinking and Problem Solving, Nausea, Vomiting ,Headaches, Hangovers, Stupor, Distorted Perception, Decrease in Heart Rate, decrease in Muscle Strength, Suicidal Tendencies, Anxiety, and Coma.

    To put it mildly ..I personally do not think marijuana is addictive. Sources supporting otherwise say marijuana is addictive on a psychological level and not a physical level… So, you think you need it, but your body, including the brain, is not truly addicted.. Negative effects of detoxing for marijuana are as bad as anxious behavior/less patience.. Negative effects of detoxing for alcohol are as bad as death…

    Rational individuals, who are agenda free, can not deny the dangers of alcohol.

    With further investigation, the prohibition on marijuana is much worse for society than that of its legalization.

    Suggest, if you will… Normal everyday citizen… They go to work, balance their check book, pay for things, raise children.. you know, live a normal life with one exception.. they ingest marijuana.. Barring any excessive usage/abuse, (which is clearly the same case as with many already legal substances), these people function fine… except respiratory issues when smoked… Do I need mention it is legal to “smoke”! Now lets look at when that same normal everyday citizen gets arrested for possession:

    Prohibition can cause in short:

    1) job loss
    2) criminal charges
    3) loss of children
    4) denial of federal aid
    5) financial downfall
    6) life endangerment
    7) loss of freedom

    The cruel and unusual punishment list goes on… Point is, again, marijuana prohibition is worse for the individual/society than legalization… and not for a moment should we accept this “gateway drug” propaganda… Those whom do, think this plant is essentially the stepping stone to harder drugs.. This bothers me, the marijuana plant is really the first step of drug abuse, and punished as the worst class of drug? Seems to me, these already invalid arguments contradict themselves anyway… This is cruel and unusual punishment at its finest… You get caught with the first step, and you get punished as if you were on the last step.. Yes, the broad arm of enforcement claims it is favorable in the struggle to discourage usage of marijuana… so it wont draw you in, suck you up into a crazy world of drug culture, and expose you to other harder illegal drugs.. Even pretending this is real.. People still end up paying the exaggerated punishment while campaign results are grim. Prohibition is the fiend, and marijuana did not create the prohibition. Eliminate the black market distribution and good people will no longer need to be exposed to the black market.. Eradication and prohibition efforts have not accomplished this, and I dare say will not.. You have to give it up to the enforcement agencies though .. They are charged with upholding this law and to do anything they can that will accomplish that. It is our job to change the laws.. then enforcement will be sworn to uphold the new ones.

    In conclusion it appears to me there is big money at work – alcohol, textile, oil, enforcement agencies, drug cartels, etc, all benefit. The rest of us seem to be the pawns who pay… that is:

    Unless we speak up and let our voice be heard for change in the current law, and against any individual that would have you believe “A law is a law – it does not matter if it is wrong or right!”.

    The latter happens to be against a founding principle of this great country. Stop wasting resources on this plant. Record eradication every year – as well as – record growth and availability. This is a money pit for something that is no worse than alcohol.

    To those whom are against marijuana – free your mind of arguments attached to fear mongering please.

    This is something I wrote from the heart. I am a real person? there is no activist group of people behind this article, and I am not even a member of any pro marijuana group. Just a regular “Joe” that is fed up and who knows he is not a bad person because a law is wrong. Please spread this to as many outlets as you can. It is time for removal of this marijuana prohibition policy once and for all!

    1. To long to read, maybe you should highlight main points, particularly less commonly used arguments

    2. Why do you think they call it dope?

      And on the basis of that lie, on August 2, 1937, marijuana became illegal at the federal level.

      You left out the part where it was signed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
      That New Deal Congress sent him a lot of Progressive legislation.

    3. Thank you for the Information. What’s really too long is how long the Government has waged this war against people for what they do to them selves. Talk about conspiracies.

  4. Why the fuck do so many people have commenters diahhria today? Fuckin A. Post a link or some goddamned thing. I might have gone to a link. I sure as fuck won’t read a book in the comments section.

  5. Well, at least when the country goes through an ugly bankruptcy we can all be high as a mutha.

  6. The restriction, which prohibited D.C. from using any money to put the law into effect, was originally known as the Barr Amendment, after Bob Barr, then a Republican congressman from Georgia. Whatever happened to him?

    He’s still committed to fucking America. He was last seen perverting a small and ineffective organization of patriots.

    1. They were perverted a long time ago.

  7. Leave Hearst and Anslinger alone, they were just reporting on the scientific consensus about marijuana at the time.

    1. Consensuslicious!

  8. This is what annoys me about conservatives. They’re all “No government mandated health care!” on one hand and then they’re “More drug laws because drugs are bad for you!” on the other.

    Which is it? Do you favor letting people make their own choices regarding their personal health or not?

  9. Users of marijuana become STIMULATED as they inhale the drug and are LIKELY TO DO ANYTHING. Most crimes of violence in this section, especially in country districts are laid to users of that drug.

    Cheetos everywhere cowered in fear.

  10. http://www.bobbarr.org/default…..mp;RI=1171

    Atlanta, GA, July 20, 2009 ? Former U.S. Representative Bob Barr (7th Dist. GA, 1995-2003)) today issued the following statement in response to the action last Thursday, July 16th, by the House of Representatives repealing the appropriations rider that, since 1998, had prohibited the District of Columbia from implementing a marijuana legalization referendum. The amendment was passed initially in 1998 and reinstated each year since, and was commonly known as the “Barr Amendment” because Barr had been its prime sponsor. Barr’s statement follows:

    Last week’s vote by the House of Representatives lifting the 11-year old prohibition on the District of Columbia from taking steps to pass and implement any measure decriminalizing or legalizing the sale or use of marijuana in the District, represents an important step in the direction of individual freedom and properly limiting the power of the federal government.

  11. The appropriations bill also “allows use of Federal funds for needle exchange programs,” a development that will be welcomed by most drug policy reformers.

    And that’s why fuck them. They’re on the other side.

    I used to give a friend of mine who loved the speedballs half the needles I got for my diabetic cat, because otherwise he had to join an exchange and get monitored ridiculously, save up his used needles (safe!), and conform to the exchange’s schedule. It was open for like five minutes a year, one Sunday morning at dawn, with a line around the block?a very, very slow-moving line of withdrawing or high-as-fuck street nuts with huge fistfuls of AIDSy spikes, of which they could only exchange only three or so. Where do the rest go? Sidewalk, or into someone who looked at ’em wrong on their way out.

    Funding that kind of evil shit federally can only make it worse. Selling needles in a store works. The ones I buy for my cat don’t even cost a dollar. Problem solved, “drug policy reformers” out of a job. All win.

    1. True in that case, but there are others in which unfortunately the only doors open for drugs reform lead in the direction of gov’t programs.

      Also, strangely enough, there are some jurisdictions in which both needle exchange and OTC syringe and needle sales were implemented. I wonder what needle exchange programs in those places do.

  12. It’s great to hear that citizens of DC will no longer have to fear jail time for using marijuana on the advice of their doctor.

    Both the American College of Physicians and American Medical Association have expressed support for investigation of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Marijuana in various forms, not necessarily smoked, has been used therapeutically for centuries in many parts of the world. Marijuana appears to provide relief from pain, nausea, and other symptoms, with fewer ill effects and a greater margin of safety than the narcotic drugs commonly administered for pain, and safer even than the non-narcotic drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen and related compounds that are responsible for a few hundred deaths each year (http://www.acponline.org/journals/annals/15sep97/nsaid.htm).

    In 2008, the American College of Physicians stated: “Evidence not only supports the use of medical marijuana in certain conditions but also suggests numerous indications for cannabinoids. Additional research is needed to further clarify the therapeutic value of cannabinoids and determine optimal routes of administration. The science on medical marijuana should not be obscured or hindered by the debate surrounding the legalization of marijuana for general use.” (http://www.acponline.org/advocacy/where_we_stand/other_issues/medmarijuana.pdf)

    The American Medical Association position is available at http://www.ama-assn.org/assets/meetin…..comm-k.pdf (the Medical Marijuana section begins on page 12 of the 27 page document).

    I hope that anyone who can benefit from the medical use of marijuana is allowed to do so safely, without having to go to a criminal drug dealer and without fear of prison for himself or herself.

  13. The idea that “using taxpayer money for them [projects to reduce disease among drug users] is needlessly provocative and sends the wrong message” misses the point. Its another example of using ideology instead of using good sense. Tax dollars are my dollars and your dollars. I expect them to be used effectively. If a private organization claims better results, then lets look at the data and compare private efforts versus publicly funded efforts. If there is no private organization getting results on a wide scale, then the only relevant question is whether D.C.s program is effective versus other public uses for funds. I would like to see a lot less dogmatic ideology and a lot more pragmatic data-rich problem solving.

    1. Yeah, if we’re stuck paying for all sorts of public health measures, this is one of the most cost-effective ones we could dream up. I’m not saying we should be subsidizing this stuff — I’d prefer just allowing drug stores to legally sell needles, like others have said — but there are plenty of ways to waste public funds with much meeker results than we see with needle exchanges.

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