Pubdate: Fri, 27 Feb 2015
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2015 The Washington Post Company
Authors: Aaron C. Davis and Peter Hermann


Advocates of Legalization Celebrate in Private; Police Report No Arrests

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser on Thursday sent emergency legislation to 
the D.C. Council to prohibit nightclubs, private membership clubs and 
virtually any other city-registered business from providing a venue 
for social marijuana smoking.

The legislation is an attempt to rein in one aspect of the city's 
newly effective marijuana legalization law that Bowser (D) has said 
could produce confusion - and, potentially, more public use of the 
drug then she believes was intended under the ballot measure approved 
by voters.

The law allows those 21 or over to possess up to two ounces of 
marijuana. But Congress blocked the city from adopting laws to 
regulate buying and selling - meaning that those activities are still 
illegal. And current laws that ban smoking pot outdoors or in public 
places remain in effect.

Some advocates for legalization said the language about whether D.C. 
businesses could close for private events and allow marijuana smoking 
was vague. They also said the initiative could allow the formation of 
"cannabis clubs," like those prevalent in Spain, which offer 
membership fees and access to the drug.

Bowser's legislation seeks to make sure none of that happens, mostly 
by defining broadly the public space where smoking will remain 
prohibited. The bill uses the same definition that is part of the 
city's 2014 decriminalization law: anywhere the "public is invited."

It says public space includes "any building, facility, or premise 
used to operate by an organization or association for . . . a 
fraternal, social, educational or recreational purpose."

The legislation, which several council members have said they are 
inclined to support, would give the mayor the power to revoke the 
business license, certificate of occupancy and other city permit of 
any business where marijuana is smoked or consumed. If approved by 
the council, which meets next on Tuesday, it would take effect immediately.

Nikolas Schiller, spokesman for the D.C. Cannabis Campaign, suggested 
that the proposed legislation might be overly broad and added that 
the campaign's attorneys would review it.

In the meantime, the District's first day as a jurisdiction where pot 
is legal passed fairly quietly, although with moments of quirky drama.

Adam Eidinger, chairman of the D.C. Cannabis Campaign, invited 
reporters to his campaign headquarters to watch him plant marijuana 
seeds and smoke.

"It feels great. It feels like freedom," Eidinger said as he legally 
inhaled and exhaled. He declined to specify how he acquired the 
marijuana that filled the joint he was smoking other than to say it 
was a gift from friends.

The District's law allows residents to grow up to six marijuana 
plants at home - three mature ones at a time. Eidinger placed the 
seeds for his six plants in front of the cameras.

"I kind of feel like the Martha Stewart of marijuana," he said. 
"Planting a seed is a symbolic act. I hope these seeds will last."

Despite the many restrictions included in the law, police in the 
District reported no arrests Thursday of people smoking in public or 
trying to buy the drug.

"No arrests for any marijuana-type charges today," said Lt. Sean 
Conboy, a D.C. police spokesman. U.S. Park Police, responsible for 
the federal parkland that makes up a quarter of the District's real 
estate, also reported no arrests, and police in several Maryland and 
Virginia jurisdictions bordering the District reported no impact on operations.

"It doesn't change the way we do business," said Crystal Nosal, an 
Alexandria police spokeswoman. "No laws in Virginia have changed."

Schiller, the Cannabis Campaign spokesman, said organizers of the 
successful D.C. ballot measure chose not to hold a public party to 
celebrate their victory for fear of drawing potentially negative 
media attention.

"A long time ago, we decided there would be no large events with 
people smoking," Schiller said. "It was one of those quiet victories 
to be celebrated in back yards and in living rooms."

A tweet by the campaign urged D.C. residents to enjoy marijuana 
responsibly and respect the law's provisions that prohibit smoking in 
public. "Cannabis is officially legal in the District of Columbia. A 
big thank u to everyone who helped make history. Celebrate 
responsibly! #i71," it read.

Earlier this week, D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said all 
officers would be trained by midnight Thursday on the law, and she 
issued a nine-page special order guiding them on how and when they 
can arrest people on marijuana charges.

But Delroy Burton, chairman of the D.C. police union, said officers - 
whose enforcement of marijuana violations plummeted last year when 
the city decriminalized possession of small amounts - are finding 
some of the rules confusing.

For example, it can be difficult to determine whether small amounts 
of marijuana are over the two-ounce limit, Burton said. He noted 
other potentially complicated factors dealing with age requirements 
and the prohibition on officers using smell as a pretext to stop 
someone suspected of smoking in a forbidden space.

"Unless someone is doing illegal distribution or mass cultivation, we 
probably won't be doing anything about it," said Burton, who earlier 
warned that the lack of regulations could turn the District into the 
"Wild Wild West."

"We don't care one way or the other what the law is. We just care 
that rules are clear so we know what to do. And right now, the rules 
aren't that clear."

Lynh Bui, Perry Stein and Matt Zapotosky contributed to this report.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom