Now that the vote results of the District's medical marijuana initiative have finally been released (321 days late, thanks to Congress's legislative gag order, a k a the Barr Amendment), the country knows that D.C. voters overwhelmingly support full patient choice regarding medication for people seriously ill with AIDS and cancer ["Marijuana Measure Approved," front page, Sept. 21].

As they have in the past, D.C. residents have demonstrated far more compassion than many members of Congress, who are determined not to let the popular will get in the way of their own demagoguery. Reps. Bob Barr, Tom Davis, Ernest Istook and others have vowed to continue their heavy-handed pummeling of democracy in the District and to keep this voter initiative from becoming law.

Rep. James Moran characterized the lack of fortitude demonstrated by his colleagues when he said that, while most members of Congress are "reticent to override a democratic referendum," they also fear being subjected to "30-second ads claiming they voted to legalize drugs."

Heaven forbid that elected officials should place rational thinking and the democratic principles they are supposed to uphold ahead of their desire for political cover against uninformed personal attacks.

I don't know what's more offensive -- the chronic mischaracterization of medical marijuana by grandstanding politicians or the wholesale attack on democracy in our nation's capital by these same grandstanders. Once again, Congress claims to be stepping in to save us from ourselves, yet in doing that, it is prolonging the suffering of thousands of seriously ill patients.

STEVEN G. DONKIN

Washington

National Drug Policy Director Barry McCaffrey says he opposes the D.C. medical marijuana initiative because it " `flies in the face' of findings by the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine." His statement is untrue.

The executive summary of the report speaks for itself:

"The combination of cannabinoid drug effects (anxiety reduction, appetite stimulation, nausea reduction, and pain relief) suggests that cannabinoids would be moderately well suited for particular conditions, such as chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and AIDS wasting. The psychological effects of cannabinoids, such as anxiety reduction, sedation, and euphoria can influence their potential therapeutic value.

"Until a nonsmoked rapid-onset cannabinoid drug delivery system becomes available, we acknowledge that there is no clear alternative for people suffering from chronic conditions that might be relieved by smoking marijuana, such as pain or AIDS wasting. One possible approach is to treat patients as [single-patient trials involving] an oversight strategy comparable to an institutional review board process that could provide guidance within 24 hours of a submission by a physician to provide marijuana to a patient for a specified use."

The Office of National Drug Control Policy's latest wave in its $1 billion advertising campaign has the theme "Honesty: The Anti-Drug." Perhaps Director McCaffrey should follow the advice of his own copywriters.

PETER McWILLIAMS

Los Angeles