A three-member panel of the U.S. court of appeals for the District of Columbia on Thursday overturned a lower court ruling that would have allowed a November vote on a ballot initiative on permitting the use of medical marijuana in the district, The Washington Post reports. Supporters of the initiative, including the Marijuana Policy Project, announced earlier this week that they had collected enough signatures to put the initiative on the November 5 ballot.
The appellate court's decision stems from a congressional rider to the D.C. appropriations bill that prevents public funds from being used to address the initiative, even in collecting signatures to support placing the issue on the ballot. The rider was sponsored by Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.) and first passed in 1999. Congress has approved it each year since then.
A lower court ruled in March that the rider violated the Constitution's protections of free speech, which opened the door to the collection of signatures, but the U.S. Department of Justice appealed the ruling. The decision by the appellate court panel came just one day before ballots that listed the medical marijuana initiative were to go to the printer. The appellate court panel did not comment on its ruling, citing the urgency of issuing its decision before the printing deadline, but said a full opinion will be filed at a later date.