- The Washington Times - Monday, August 21, 2000

The recent City Council decision to increase the penalties for marijuana distribution and Congress' undemocratic blocking of the District's medical marijuana initiative have outraged many District residents. We Libertarian candidates are outraged, too, and a slate of five of us has decided to run for public office to challenge the meddling of Congress and the complacency of the City Council.
The Democrats and Republicans in Congress and on the City Council have failed D.C. residents. Last month, the City Council bowed to pressure by federal prosecutors and passed a law increasing the penalties for marijuana distribution in the city. Ostensibly aimed at reducing crime associated with the marijuana black market, this law increases the risks to medical marijuana patients and invests more taxpayer money in failed drug war tactics. D.C. voters spoke loud and clear when they passed Initiative 59 in 1998, so the City Council should be passing laws to protect patients and their caregivers not making it more dangerous for seriously ill people to get the help they need. Once elected, we will overturn this misguided law.
In 1998, D.C. voters overwhelmingly approved Initiative 59 to allow seriously ill people access to medical marijuana. Congress is in the midst of passing legislation for the third year in a row to overturn the will of the 69 percent of D.C. voters who approved I-59. If elected, our first priority will be to return democracy to the District and allow sick and dying people safe access to their medicine. District voters did the right thing in 1998 by approving I-59 and we are confident they will do the right thing again in 2000.
U.S. Attorney Wilma Lewis says that many of those involved in the drug trade have switched from selling hard drugs to selling marijuana. This is not cause for alarm;it is a drastic improvement for D.C. residents since marijuana does not cause physical addiction or overdose. The City Council has its priorities backwards. It is more concerned with appeasing the U.S. attorney's office than protecting District residents from violent crime and drug abuse. By increasing the marijuana penalties, it wouldn't surprise us if street dealers switch back to selling crack cocaine.
The Democrats and Republicans have used D.C. residents' concerns about crime to justify the recent increase in marijuana penalties. No one is more concerned about violent crime than we Libertarian candidates. However, the crime and open-air marijuana markets in D.C. are a symptom of the war on marijuana, not marijuana itself. The black market creates huge financial incentives for individuals selling drugs. Since the black market is unregulated, it is dangerous for those involved and for those who live in communities nearby. Alcohol is more physically damaging than marijuana, yet it is legal for adults to use. No one is plaguing D.C. neighborhoods selling moonshine and protecting his "alcohol turf" with violence. These problems disappeared when alcohol prohibition was repealed, and they will abate when marijuana prohibition is repealed, too. We will make public safety a top priority by freeing up police resources to pursue dangerous criminals by permitting the legal use of marijuana by adults.
D.C. voters are tired of having their voices ignored. We are committed to upholding the will of the people to allow seriously ill people safe access to medical marijuana. The City Council is committed to making these sick people felons and throwing them in prison. We are committed to restoring order to D.C.s communities by eliminating the criminal marijuana market and allowing adults to use marijuana. The City Council is committed to waging a war on marijuana, thus perpetuating black market violence and incarcerating far too many of our citizens.
The choice is clear: This November, please vote for Rob Kampia for U.S. delegate, Matt Mercurio for at-large City Council, Chad Thevenot for shadow U.S. congressman, Robert Flohr for shadow U.S. senator, and Rebecca Sellers for Ward 2 City Council.

Rob Kampia is executive director of the National Marijuana Policy Project. He is challenging Eleanor Holmes Norton for delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives. Matt Mercurio is a Ph.D. economist.

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