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  •   Key Dates in Medical Marijuana Dispute

    Tuesday, September 21, 1999; Page A8

    Dec. 5, 1996: Activists announce plans to push for an initiative on the D.C. ballot that would legalize the use of marijuana for medical reasons.

    Dec. 8, 1997: The initiative fails when supporters are unable to muster enough signatures.

    July 1998: Backers submit 32,000 signatures to the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics.

    Aug. 6, 1998: Elections officials say the issue cannot appear on the ballot because of a dispute involving the validity of thousands of signatures. The initiative's proponents challenge the ruling in D.C. Superior Court.

    Sept. 3, 1998: D.C. Superior Court Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle says elections officials erred in rejecting thousands of signatures. Officials announce that Initiative 59 will be on the Nov. 3 ballot.

    Oct. 21, 1998: Rep. Robert L. Barr Jr. (R-Ga.) attaches an amendment to the fiscal 1999 D.C. appropriations bill. The so-called Barr amendment would prohibit the District from spending money on any initiative that would legalize or reduce the penalties for users of marijuana. The measure passes along with the D.C. spending bill. As a result, elections officials say they cannot release or certify the results of the Initiative 59 vote.

    Oct. 30, 1998: The initiative's supporters join with the American Civil Liberties Union and file suit in U.S. District Court.

    Nov. 3, 1998: D.C. residents vote on Initiative 59. The outcome remains a secret; meanwhile, voters in five states pass similar initiatives.

    Nov. 6, 1998: The D.C. government seeks to overturn the Barr amendment.

    Dec. 17, 1998: U.S. District Judge Richard W. Roberts hears more than two hours of legal arguments on the issue, with the Justice Department arguing the case for Congress.

    July 29, 1999: Barr proposes an amendment to the fiscal 2000 D.C. appropriations bill to prohibit the District from using any money to legalize or reduce the penalty for the possession, use or distribution of marijuana and other drugs. The House passes the bill, and Barr declares that the medical marijuana law will not take effect no matter how D.C. residents had voted.

    Sept. 16, 1999: The Senate passes the D.C. appropriations bill, containing Barr's amendment. The White House threatens to veto the package.

    Sept. 17, 1999: Roberts rules that the vote count can be released and certified. Barr says the results are irrelevant, but initiative supporters celebrate what they called "Day 319 of Democracy Held Hostage."

    Sept. 20, 1999: D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics releases the vote total, showing the initiative passed by an overwhelming margin. Both sides begin girding for more battles in Congress.

    © 1999 The Washington Post Company

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