Marijuana Now Legal In D.C.


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Just after midnight last night, a law making marijuana legal for adults quietly went into effect in the Nation’s Capital.2015.02.25 - Front page - DC Takes Effect copy

Initiative 71, which was approved 70-30 by D.C. voters in November, allows adults 21 years of age or older to possess up to two ounces of marijuana; grow up to six marijuana plants in their homes (of which no more than three can be flowering at a time) and possess the yield of those plants in the location where it was grown; and transfer without payment (but not sell) up to one ounce of marijuana to other adults 21 years of age or older. It will remain illegal to use marijuana in public.

Certain members of Congress attempted to halt implementation of this law, even going so far as to threaten D.C. leaders with arrest. Others offered their support, asserting that the District is well within its legal rights to stop punishing adults for using a substance that is safer than alcohol.

MPP will continue to work with the D.C. Council to pass legislation regulating marijuana similarly to alcohol.

“We are hopeful that Congress will not stand in the way of D.C.’s efforts to regulate and tax marijuana,” said Robert Capecchi, MPP’s Deputy Director of State Policies. “Members of the District Council are clearly interested in adopting such a system, and they appear ready to move forward if Congress doesn’t interfere.”

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D.C. Council Members Introduce Marijuana Regulation Bill


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Last week, District of Columbia Council Member David Grosso and three of his colleagues made it clear that Congressional bullying wasn’t going to stop them from considering a more rational approach to marijuana. On January 6, they quietly introduced legislation to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol.

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Councilmember David Grosso

This sensible proposal comes on the heels of voters’ overwhelming vote for Initiative 71, which will make marijuana possession and limited cultivation legal for adults 21 and older when it becomes effective. It also comes just four weeks after Congress approved a spending bill that prohibits the District from spending any money to enact a law to legalize “recreational marijuana” until at least through this summer.

The Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Act of 2015 would create a framework for a legal and responsible marijuana industry, complete with licensed cultivators, product manufacturers, retail stores, and testing labs. Allowing licensed businesses to grow and sell marijuana to adults 21 and older will create jobs, increase tax revenues, and allow D.C.’s law enforcement to direct their focus on more serious matters. Regulating these businesses means D.C. will know who is selling marijuana, under what conditions, where, and to whom.

If you are a resident of the District of Columbia, please email your council members today and ask them to support B21-0023! Let them know that D.C.’s elected lawmakers, not Congress, should decide District policy. Then, please pass this on to other District residents.

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Congress Poised to Pass Historic Medical Marijuana Amendment


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After 11 years of MPP lobbying and attending receptions on Capitol Hill, Congress is finally poised to pass an amendment that would prohibit the U.S. Justice Department — which includes the DEA — from interfering with state-level medical marijuana laws.Capitol

The U.S. House rejected the amendment in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2012. Finally, in May of this year, the House passed the amendment, which was introduced by Congressmen Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Sam Farr (D-CA).

Last night, the amendment was included in the annual spending bill that Congress is expected to pass today or tomorrow. It will then be the law through September 30, at which time it would need to be renewed each fall.

Unfortunately, a bad amendment to block local legalization in D.C. was also included in the spending bill. The D.C. mayor and council had been planning to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol in our nation’s capital, which they’ll no longer be allowed to do.

That said, the medical marijuana and decriminalization laws in D.C. will remain in effect.

And it is MPP’s opinion that the ballot initiative that 70% of D.C. voters passed on November 4 will be allowed to move forward. This initiative — which removes penalties for adult possession and home cultivation — would take effect in approximately March (unless Congress affirmatively blocks the initiative).

The federal spending bill also prohibits the U.S. Justice Department from interfering with state-level hemp laws.

Finally, marijuana has become a big issue on Capitol Hill, which is a precursor to ending federal prohibition.

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Incoming Committee Chairmen Discuss Oversight and Making Marijuana Legal in the Nation’s Capital


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After the passage of Initiative 71 in November, which made small amounts of marijuana legal for adults in the nation’s capital, D.C. residents are awaiting approval from Congress when the new session resumes in January. Despite limited opposition, statements by the new chairs of two key committees are making advocates hopeful that Congress will not interfere.

According to Roll Call:

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, won a four-way contest for the Oversight and Government Reform Committee on November 18. Two days later, he met with Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., to lay the groundwork for a working relationship.

In a statement, Norton expressed optimism that Chaffetz would continue the tradition of staying out of D.C. affairs. The Utah Republican acknowledged that members of Congress “have a role to play” in oversight over the District, though he said he does not expect the committee to interfere unless in an unusual circumstance.

In the Senate, the likely coming chairman of the committee with authority over D.C. shares Chaffetz’s hands-off philosophy.

“I’m somebody who really thinks the federal government should be very limited and where governing is best close to the governed,” Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., who is expected to take the role of chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said Nov. 19. “You know, I really look for local control as much as possible so I’ll try and – unless there’s some real massive imperative—let D.C. governance take care of itself.”

One of the first District issues Chaffetz and Johnson will confront as chairmen is how to address making marijuana legal in the D.C., since voters overwhelmingly supported a ballot initiative to make the possession and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana legal.

Both Chaffetz and Johnson are personally against the adult use of marijuana, but Johnson indicated that he would be open to holding a hearing to examine how legal marijuana is playing out in the four states that passed similar measures.

Given the successful implementation of legal marijuana markets in Colorado and Washington and the overwhelming support from voters, Congress should enable D.C. to move forward as well.

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D.C. Voters Make Their Decision on Initiative 71 Next Week


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With the November 4 midterm elections less than a week away, voters in the nation’s capital are gearing up to vote on Initiative 71. If passed, it would allow D.C. adults 21 and over to possess up to two ounces of marijuana for personal use, grow up to six marijuana plants at home, and give or trade marijuana amongst other adults 21 and over.

Initiative 71, however, does not regulate, tax, or make marijuana sales legal because the capital’s election law does not allow D.C. voter initiatives to have a direct say or impact on the city’s local budget, meaning the initiative would only make the personal possession and cultivation of marijuana legal.

Even so, the measure is a strong step in the right direction towards implementing a more sensible marijuana policy in the nation’s capital. If you would like to get involved, the DC Cannabis Campaign is looking for as many volunteers as possible to work the polls to ensure that the initiative passes. Their goal is at least 286 volunteers — two per precinct. Please fill out this form to help the cause!

Here’s a list of all the state and local marijuana-related ballot measures voters will be considering on Election Day.

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D.C. Committee Votes To Seal Marijuana Possession Records


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Last week, the D.C. Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety voted unanimously to support B20-467, legislation that would allow individuals to file a motion to seal records relating to offenses that were subsequently decriminalized or legalized. This would allow individuals who were arrested for simple possession of marijuana to have their records sealed. If Initiative 71 passes this November (and, with 65% support, it seems likely), this bill will allow even more individuals with nonviolent marijuana charges to have those sealed as well.

If you are a D.C. resident, please email your councilmember and urge him or her to support this bill. Enactment of B20-467 will help curtail the life-altering collateral consequences a marijuana arrest carries with it. Criminal records are often used to keep otherwise qualified candidates from obtaining employment or even housing. Please raise your voice so that District residents aren’t marked for life for having used a substance that most Americans believe should be legal.

 

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D.C. Marijuana Initiative Qualifies for November Ballot


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The D.C. Board of Elections has officially certified Ballot Initiative 71 for November’s general election. If passed by a majority of D.C. voters, Initiative 71 will repeal all criminal and civil penalties for the personal possession and limited, private cultivation of marijuana. Passage of this initiative will be yet another step towards sensible marijuana policies in our nation’s capital, so make sure your voter registration is current if you are a D.C. resident so you can vote “yes” on November 4.

Initiative 71 will allow adults 21 and older to possess up to two ounces of marijuana and cultivate up to six plants — with no more than three being mature — in their private residences. Adults will also be allowed to give away up to an ounce of marijuana, but any sales would still be criminal. The initiative would also remove penalties for using and selling marijuana paraphernalia.

D.C. law forbids imposing a tax via the ballot initiative process, so Initiative 71 does not set up a Colorado like system of taxing and regulating the production and adult retail sales of marijuana. MPP will continue to work with D.C. Council, the mayor’s office, and our allies to see to it that marijuana is treated like alcohol.

Adults should be allowed to use and consume marijuana – which is safer than alcohol – free from penalty, and responsible businesses and the community at large — not criminals — should benefit from the sale and distribution.

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D.C. Mayor Signs Bill to Expand Medical Marijuana Program


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On July 29, D.C. Mayor Vince Gray signed the Medical Marijuana Expansion Emergency Amendment Act of 2014. The ordinance takes effect immediately, but it is only temporary, so another measure and Congressional approval are needed to make the compassionate changes permanent.

This temporary law allows physicians to recommend marijuana for any debilitating condition they think would respond favorably to the therapeutic use of marijuana and increases the number of plants D.C.’s licensed cultivators may possess from 95 to 500. This new law will automatically expire on October 27 unless the Council makes passes new legislation.

D.C. physicians participating in the medical marijuana program may now recommend medical marijuana to those suffering from PTSD, chronic pain, and a host of other conditions that were not previously included on a list of qualifying conditions, but whose symptoms have been shown to relent with marijuana use. Increasing the number of plants that cultivators may possess ensures that our seriously ill friends and neighbors have access to the medicine their physicians think will work best for them.

Enactment of temporary legislation gave the Council the time it needs to debate and pass a permanent fix. If you are a District resident, please ask your councilmember to continue to support compassionate legislation and then send this to our fellow Washingtonians who support medical marijuana.

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Marijuana Decriminalization Takes Effect In Nation’s Capital


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As of midnight Wednesday, D.C.’s marijuana decriminalization law is officially in effect. The new law — approved by the D.C. Council, signed by Mayor Gray,

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Mayor Vincent Gray

and submitted to Congress for a 60-day review — replaces misdemeanor criminal charges for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana with a civil violation, costing the offender $25. Now D.C. has the third-least punitive marijuana laws in the country, behind Colorado and Washington State.

It is important to note that this is only a change in District law, not federal law. Marijuana possession on federal lands, including the National Mall, is still a criminal offense and violators may be arrested and prosecuted. Public use is still illegal as well. Please see our summary of this new law for more information.

Thank you so much to all the individuals and organizations that took part in reforming the previously outdated law. Further reform is still needed, however. If you are a District resident, please contact your council members and urge them to treat marijuana like alcohol.

 

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D.C. Decriminalizes Marijuana


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Moments ago, the Washington, D.C. City Council voted to decriminalize marijuana possession!alert_sidebar_dc_decrim

The measure removes criminal penalties for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for individuals 18 years of age and older and replaces them with a civil fine of $25, similar to a parking ticket. It also removes penalties for possession of paraphernalia in conjunction with small amounts of marijuana, and it specifies that individuals cannot be searched or detained based solely on an officer’s suspicion of marijuana possession. Public use of marijuana would remain a criminal offense punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. Currently, possession of any amount of marijuana is a criminal offense punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

The bill goes into effect this summer.

This means that, outside of Washington and Colorado, marijuana penalties are now less punitive in our nation’s capital than anywhere else in the country.

Washington, D.C. has the nation’s highest arrest rate for marijuana possession, according to a report released in June by the American Civil Liberties Union. Blacks accounted for 91% of marijuana possession arrests in the District, and they were eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, despite using marijuana at similar rates. The ACLU’s analysis concluded that enforcing marijuana possession laws, which make up nearly half of all drug offenses, costs the District more than $26.5 million per year. Hopefully, this new bill will have an immediate impact on this injustice.

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