WASHINGTON, DC --- In less than 75 days, the DC Cannabis Campaign has collected more than twice the number signatures required to place Initiative 71 on November's General Election ballot. However, the Campaign is alarmed that members of Congress may prevent District voters from being able to vote on the ballot initiative due to policy riders that were added to the District of Columbia's 2015 appropriation budget.
"We are proud of our petition circulators who braved the heat to further democracy in the District of Columbia," said Campaign chairman Adam Eidinger, "but I am very concerned that members of Congress will use their power to stop District of Columbia voters from being able to fully participate in the democratic process. We deserve the right to vote on Initiative 71."
With the citizens of Colorado and Washington state voting to legalize marijuana in 2012, the Campaign believes that voters of the District of Columbia should be afforded the same right to vote on marijuana legalization. The appropriations rider introduced by Congressman Andy Harris (R, MD-1) on June 25, 2014 could prevent the District of Columbia Board of Elections from using its funds to print the ballots that include Initiative #71. Worse, the policy rider may impede the District of Columbia's decriminalization of marijuana law set to take effect mid-July and prevent any changes to the District's medical marijuana program.
"Petition circulators are the unsung heroes of democracy across America," says Eidinger. Throughout the last two months the Campaign enlisted over 250 volunteer and paid petition circulators to canvass the District of Columbia. Proposers of ballot initiatives in the District of Columbia are allowed 180 days to circulate petitions, but in order for Initiative #71 to qualify for November's general election ballot, the Campaign was afforded only 76 days to circulate petitions.
After the circulating petitions are submitted to the DC Board of Elections on Monday, July 7, they will be reviewed by the agency's staff to ensure the Campaign collected at least 22,373 valid signatures from registered DC voters. Once certified by the Board of Elections, and as long as the Congressional policy riders are removed, District of Columbia voters will have the opportunity to approve or reject the Initiative #71 on November 4, 2014.
"The decision of House Republicans in the Appropriations Committee to prevent the ballot initiative from going forward is an affront to the core of Republican belief against big government interferring in the lives of citizens," says Dr. Malik Burnett, the DC Policy Manager for the Drug Policy Alliance. "By attempting to keep in place the criminal penalties for possession of marijuana, Congress is saying that they want more people of color to go to jail."
The District of Columbia has the highest per capita, marijuana arrest rates for people of color in America. Although studies show that both white and black people of the District of Columbia use marijuana equally, people of color are disproportionately arrested and subject to all the collateral consequences a criminal record creates. The aim of the Campaign's ballot initiative is to expand freedoms to District citizens and to help end the discrimination affecting all marijuana users.
The Campaign will submit over 55,000 signatures at 10am on Monday, July 7 at the DC Board of Elections, 441 4th St. NW, Room 250N. Members of the Campaign will be available for interview at the Board of Elections. The campaign will be honoring its petition circulators from 7pm to 10pm on Tuesday, July 1 at Patty Boom Boom, located at 1357 U Street NW. The text of the ballot initiative can be found at http://www.DCMJ.org