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ACLU Files Medical Marijuana Suit

October 31, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A medical marijuana initiative for the nation’s capital has wound up in federal court before voters get the chance to weigh in on the measure.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a suit Friday in U.S. District Court here contending that a law blocking the referendum violates First Amendment rights.

The measure prohibiting the use of any local or federal government funds to conduct the initiative in the District of Columbia was included in a $520 billion spending bill passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton last week.

``They can’t do that in the other states but they’re trying to do that in D.C.,‴ said Graham Boyd, the ACLU’s special counsel.

As the nation’s capital, Congress has the final say on the city’s budget. But ballots including the initiative were printed before Congress took final action on the federal budget bill.

Ken McGhie, counsel for the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics, said district employees will make no efforts to avoid tabulating the results. ``Counting the ballots on the district’s medical marijuana issue will take about 30 seconds of computer time,″ he said.

Five states _ Alaska, Arizona, Nevada, Washington and Oregon _ also have medical marijuana initiatives on Tuesday’s ballots.

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