http://www.cannabisnews.com/news/thread12390.shtml Posted by FoM on March 29, 2002 at 08:30:41 PT By Mary Shaffrey and Jon Ward, Washington Times Source: Washington Times A U.S. District Court judge yesterday declared unconstitutional a federal law that barred D.C. residents from legalizing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. "The United States' suggestion that this Court should ignore the clear constitutional concerns raised by the federal law in deference to Congress' plenary power to legislate is wholly without merit," U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan said in his 52-page ruling. The U.S. Department of Justice, which is handling the case, has 60 days to appeal to the Supreme Court. "We are reviewing the decision, and we have made no determination on further steps," said Justice spokesman Mark Corallo. The law — known as the Barr Amendment, after U.S. Rep. Bob Barr, Georgia Republican and chief sponsor of the legislation — was enacted in 1998 and renewed each year since. The law banned the District from spending federal funds on any law that reduced criminal penalties for possession or use of marijuana and other controlled substances. The Barr Amendment blocked the implementation of a 1998 D.C. referendum that legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes. About 69 percent of D.C. voters had voted for the legalization. Opponents of the law — including the Marijuana Policy Project, which brought the lawsuit — argued the Barr Amendment was unconstitutional and violated D.C. residents' rights to petition the government for change and allow for referendums. "We are delighted, but we are not surprised," said Bruce Mirken, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project. "We have believed all along that it was an outrageous violation of the First Amendment, and we feel completely vindicated." Mr. Barr called the ruling "misguided." He said he would continue the fight against the legalization of marijuana for any reason, and said he has asked U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft to appeal the ruling. "Clearly the court today has ignored the constitutional right and responsibility of Congress to pass laws protecting citizens from dangerous and addictive narcotics, and the right of Congress to exert legislative control over the District of Columbia as the nation's capital," Mr. Barr said. "This backdoor effort to usurp federal law, endanger the health and safety of citizens, and to use hard-earned tax dollars to do so will not succeed." Judge Sullivan said the Barr Amendment violated the basic tenets of the Constitution. "The Barr Amendment effectively prohibits plaintiffs from circulating a board-approved petition for signatures in an attempt to submit an initiative for placement on the ballot at the next general election," the judge said. "There can be no doubt that the Barr Amendment restricts plaintiffs' First Amendment right to engage in political speech." The office of Mayor Anthony A. Williams praised the decision. "We are elated by the court's ruling because it supports the basic principle of home rule," said Tony Bullock, Mr. Williams' spokesman. "We're trying to get Congress to stop trying to micromanage the District. Congressman Barr seems to have a special penchant for inserting his personal and political views on our District-elected officials, and frankly we're tired of this. It's grotesquely un-American." Eight states — Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington — allow terminally ill residents to grow their own marijuana for private use with prior approval from a physician. Supporters of the D.C. law are planning to hold another referendum in November to give D.C. residents similar privileges should Judge Sullivan's decision stand.