D.C. Council Passes Major Improvements to Medical Marijuana Program
D.C. Council Primaries Bode Well for Marijuana Policy
The District of Columbia held its Democratic primary yesterday, and the results are mostly good news for supporters of marijuana policy reform. Below are the (unofficial) results, along with the grade the council candidates received in MPP’s voter guide:
Ward 2: Jack Evans (A+) won (unopposed)
Ward 4: Incumbent Brandon Todd (F) beat challenger Leon Andrews (A), 49% to 41%
Ward 7: Challenger Vincent Gray (C+) beat incumbent Yvette Alexander (D), 60% to 33%
Ward 8: Challenger Trayon White (C+) beat incumbent LaRuby May (D), 51% to 42%
In the at-large race, all the candidates received an A or A+ from MPP. Challenger Robert White beat incumbent Vincent Orange 40% to 37%.
As the general election on November 8 approaches, MPP plans to update our voter guide to keep you informed on all the candidates’ positions, so stay tuned!
D.C. Voters Want Mayor to Work Around Congressional Ban on Regulating Marijuana Like Alcohol
A survey release this week by Public Policy Polling showed that 66% of voters in the District of Columbia support Mayor Muriel Bowser pursuing legal methods to allow D.C. to regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol despite a Congressional ban.
Voters overwhelming approved Initiative 71 in 2014, which made marijuana legal in the nation’s capital, but Congress passed a budget rider that prevents the implementation of regulated commercial cultivation and retail establishments. Provisions related to personal possession and limited home cultivation were unaffected by the law and are currently legal in D.C.
This poll shows that the vast majority of D.C. voters would support the mayor using reserve funds to implement a system to tax and regulate marijuana. This would not only show that D.C. rejects Congressional interference with the will of the voters, but also bring the illicit marijuana market out of the shadows and reap millions in tax revenue.
In addition, 61% of voters are in favor of giving adults a safe and lawful place to consume marijuana outside their homes. Supporters including MPP met with the mayor last week, and she said she was open to working with us and our allies on the D.C. Council to move forward on a compromise that would end the blanket ban on use outside the home, currently set to expire on April 13. This will help restore the rights that D.C. voters supported when they voted yes on Initiative 71.
D.C. Council Lifts Ban on Private Marijuana Clubs, Reverses Decision Moments Later
Even though marijuana is legal for adults to possess and grow in the nation’s capital, the only legal place to consume it is in a private residence. Public consumption was not made legal by voters when they approved Initiative 71 in 2014, and the D.C. Council passed an emergency measure that also made consumption at any non-residential private event or location illegal. After hearing complaints from business owners who wish to allow marijuana use their private functions and advocates who noted that a lack of options forced low-income consumers to break the law in order to avoid jeopardizing their public housing, the Council decided to lift the emergency ban.
Minutes later, several council members changed their votes.
Washington Post reports:
The D.C. Council briefly opened the door on Tuesday to legalizing the smoking of marijuana in specially designated areas of public restaurants, music venues and private clubs, by failing to extend a ban on such activity that was put in place when pot was legalized in the city last year.
Within minutes, however, the council reopened debate on the measure, and extended the ban on smoking in private clubs for 90 days.
Council members Ruby May (D-Ward) and Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) changed their votes after Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) said he had just heard from Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), who was urging the council to continue the ban because the city would have no ability to license pot clubs that may spring up.
It is too bad that Mayor Bowser does not see how making these private gatherings legal will allow the city to regulate them much more quickly and effectively, and that illegal operations will proliferate in the vacuum created by this ban. Fortunately, there is still time to address the issue.
Advocates Urge D.C. Council to Ease Limits on Where Adults Can Consume Marijuana
Late last week, the D.C. Council Committee on the Judiciary met to consider B21-0107, which would make permanent an expansion of what is considered “open to the public” for purposes of banning marijuana consumption. This legislation is excessively broad and unnecessary.
Should B21-0107 fail, owners and operators of private clubs and event spaces will be allowed to decide for themselves if they want to allow marijuana consumption by adults 21 and older. Currently, District residents are legally allowed to consume marijuana only in private residences. Because of restrictions on public housing and by some landlords, this leaves some District residents with nowhere they can consume cannabis.
District code already prevents marijuana consumption “any place to which the public is invited,” so marijuana could still not be consumed in bars or restaurants if B21-0107 is defeated.
Congress has prevented the Council from taking further action to treat marijuana like alcohol, but that does not mean they have to adopt excessively broad legislation such as B21-0107. If you are a District resident, ask your council members to oppose advancement of B21-0107 thereby allowing social marijuana use in limited, non-residential, private spaces. Marijuana is safer than alcohol; help us continue to shape policy to recognize this.
Marijuana Now Legal In D.C.
Just after midnight last night, a law making marijuana legal for adults quietly went into effect in the Nation’s Capital.
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.”
D.C. Council Members Introduce Marijuana Regulation Bill
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.
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.
Congress Poised to Pass Historic Medical Marijuana Amendment
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.
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.
Incoming Committee Chairmen Discuss Oversight and Making Marijuana Legal in the Nation’s Capital
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.
D.C. Voters Make Their Decision on Initiative 71 Next Week
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!