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On November 3rd

“Medical Use of Marijuana Initiative of 1998”
Don't Believe the Hype!

November 3rd, DC voters will be asked to cast their ballot in support of “Medical Use of Marijuana Initiative of 1998,“ known as “Initiative 59.” If passed, it would require the District Government and the. Department of Health to develop a system that will legalize the possession, use, cultivation and distribution of marijuana for medical purposes by patients in the District of Columbia with “debilitating medical conditions,” and on the recommendation of a licensed physician.


Initiative 59 is similar to ones adopted in California and Arizona which legalize the possession of marijuana for “compassionate medical” use. This debate continues with one side believing that marijuana can have therapeutic benefits for persons who suffer from illnesses such as cancer, AIDS and glaucoma. However, many on the other side of the debate believe the decriminalization even for medical purposes of marijuana sends the wrong message to our youth. Presently, the perception of risk is decreasing, and the rates of experimentation and habitual use are rising among 12 to 17 year olds.

Some Things You Should Know

  • Initiative 59 asks voters to decide what essentially is a medical issue. The voter initiative circumvents the scientific system of checks and balances in which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has responsibility to approve the use of drugs based on sound scientific and medical evidence of their safety and effectiveness. This system has protected Americans for nearly 100 years. Social, economic and political concerns should not play a role in this decision-making process.
  • Safe and effective medical alternatives to smoking marijuana already exist. Currently, the FDA has approved many drugs that are appropriate, safe and effective treatments for the same ailments that marijuana use is being encouraged. In addition, THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) was FDA-approved in 1985 as an anti-nausea agent for patients undergoing cancer chemotherapy, and in 1992 as an appetite stimulant for patients with AIDS. Therefore, THC is already legally available in capsule form by prescription from medical doctors.
  • Medical use of marijuana sends conflicting messages to youth. Initiative 59 would allow for the medical use of marijuana by a minor with parental consent, but marijuana has been associated with many high-risk behaviors among young people. Marijuana use among youth has increased significantly over the past decade.* Adolescents who smoke marijuana are three times as likely to have sex, and are far more likely to have unprotected sex than teens who do not use marijuana.**

Why We Oppose Initiative 59

The D.C. Community Prevention Partnership supports rigorous scientific research to determine the efficacy of smoked marijuana for medical purposes. However, we do not support Initiative 59 because it is too loosely constructed, provides for marijuana use with only a doctor's recommendation and not a written prescription, calls for a burdensome government sponsored distribution system and will complicate the efforts of parents to prevent their children’s drug use.

*University of Michigan Monitoring the Future Survey
**Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

D.C. Community Prevention Partnership
1612 K Street, N.W., #1100
Washington, D.C. 20006

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