Pubdate: Wed, 04 Mar 2015
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2015 The Washington Post Company
Author: Aaron C. Davis


After just five days of pot being legal in the nation's capital, the 
D.C. Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve new limits on marijuana use.

The legislation introduced last week by Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) 
prohibits smoking in bars, clubs and virtually anywhere outside a 
private home where people could gather.

Although Bowser stood up to Congress last week and legalized 
marijuana over threats of jail time from House Republicans, the mayor 
immediately asked for the new curbs. She said they are needed to 
close a loophole in a voter-approved ballot measure that could allow 
clubs with membership fees and access to the drug to form in the city.

Passage of the legislation amounted to the most controversial 
development since Bowser declared marijuana legal at 12:01 a.m. 
Thursday. There were no arrests the first night of legalization, and 
over the weekend more than 1,000 people peacefully attended a 
cannabis expo blocks from the U.S. Capitol aimed at teaching 
entrepreneurs how to profit off the city's newly legal intoxicant.

But proponents of the city's measure blasted the mayor's legislation 
as overly broad and said it violated the intent of the ballot measure 
that D.C. voters approved overwhelmingly in November.

Adam Eidinger, head of the D.C. Cannabis Campaign, said the 
restrictions rendered void an agreement that he struck last year with 
Bowser to try to prevent public displays of marijuana smoking in the 
District that might provoke opponents in Congress. That deal helped 
the city's deadline for legalization pass last week with none of the 
fanfare or images of groups smoking in public that kicked off 
legalization in Colorado and Washington state.

"I see no reason not to protest with a massive smoke-in for communal 
use," Eidinger said in a tweet Tuesday morning shortly before the 
vote. In another, he said: "Your emergency bill  ends our 
arrangement on no public smoke in protests."

The District last week joined Alaska, Colorado and Washington state 
in legalizing the possession of marijuana for recreational use. 
Residents and visitors can possess up to two ounces and can smoke and 
grow it at home. But Congress last year blocked the city from 
adopting a regulatory scheme to allow for legal sales of the drug. 
That has left entrepreneurs searching for ways around the lack of a 
legal marketplace for marijuana in the city.

Some D.C. lawyers have said the ballot measure left vague whether 
D.C. businesses could close for private events and allow marijuana 
smoking on the premises. They also said the initiative could allow 
for the formation of "cannabis clubs" like those prevalent in Spain, 
which offer membership fees and access to the drug.

Although Congress in December stopped the District from taking 
further steps to allow marijuana, nothing prohibited it from imposing 
additional restrictions.

Bowser's legislation does just that by defining broadly the public 
space where smoking will remain prohibited as anywhere the "public is 
invited." That includes, her legislation reads, "any building, 
facility, or premise used to operate by an organization or 
association for . . . a fraternal, social, educational or 
recreational purpose." The legislation gives the mayor the power to 
revoke the business license, certificate of occupancy or any other 
city permit of any business where marijuana is smoked or consumed.

In an interview after the vote, Bowser pointed to a news conference 
two days before legalization took effect when she first announced her 
intent to prevent smoking in clubs. In getting the legislation 
passed, she said Tuesday, "I did what I said I was going to do."

The emergency measure will remain in effect until summer. It then 
will require additional council action to stay in effect.

Council member Kenyan R. McDuffie (D-Ward 5), chairman of the 
council's judiciary committee, amended Bowser's bill to make clear 
that smoking remains legal in homes and that any permits revoked for 
marijuana use must be specific to the address where the violation occurred.

Council member Vincent B. Orange (D-At Large) said he would propose 
amendments to the law in coming weeks to make clear what constitutes 
someone's home and private residence for marijuana use and growth, 
including allowing growing and smoking in greenhouses and garages.

Eidinger warned of another potential conflict: pushing marijuana 
smoking into homes only. "I feel that people with children, 
especially in small apartments or even teenagers, don't want to do 
this around them," said Eidinger, who is a parent and says he has 
never smoked around his daughter. "People should be able to go out, 
get a babysitter, smoke and then come home and be a responsible parent again."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom