Pubdate: Wed, 04 Mar 2015
Source: Washington Times (DC)
Copyright: 2015 The Washington Times, LLC.
Author: Andrea Noble


Homes Currently Only Legal Place for Usage

The D.C. Council on Tuesday barred private clubs from allowing 
marijuana usage on their premises, dashing the hopes of some pot 
entrepreneurs who sought to host events where patrons could partake 
and share with others.

The emergency legislation, which passed unanimously and takes 
immediate effect, says any business that violates the law could have 
its business license revoked. It clarifies pot legalization laws that 
took effect five days ago.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser sought the measure to close a loophole in 
the voter-approved ballot measure, Initiative 71, that she believed 
left room for clubs to potentially charge membership fees for access 
to pot parties.

The initiative, which became law Thursday, allows people to possess 
up to 2 ounces of marijuana, smoke and grow marijuana on their 
private property and to transfer up to 1 ounce to others. Buying and 
selling marijuana, or smoking it in public, remains a criminal offense.

"I believe if we don't pass this emergency there will be unintended 
consequences in neighborhoods throughout the city," said pot 
legalization proponent David Grosso, citing the possibility of 
marijuana clubs with no regulation opening. "When I got involved in 
this, I wanted to see fewer and fewer District of Columbia residents 
going to jail, and not necessarily to see more and more District of 
Columbia residents being able to consume marijuana."

D.C. Council members made a few adjustments to Tuesday's emergency 
proposal before its adoption, noting the law would not have an effect 
on the ability of people to gather at private homes and smoke 
marijuana. The council also clarified that for a business to lose its 
license, a violation must have occurred at the address associated 
with the license.

The bill nonetheless evoked ire from legalization activists, who saw 
support of the bill as evidence lawmakers had already turned their 
backs on the marijuana legalization effort.

"All they did is just encourage more underground activity," said Adam 
Eidinger, head of the D.C. Cannabis Campaign, which sponsored 
Initiative 71. "This gives us nowhere to go. Just hide in your house, 
go in your closet, and smoke."

Mr. Eidinger said activists will now consider hosting public protests 
to openly smoke marijuana in opposition of the law.

"Why should we not have a smoke-in to protest the lack of private 
space to use cannabis legally?" he said.

Ahead of the vote, D.C. Council member Vincent Orange made a plea to 
legalization advocates asking them not to engage in public protests 
because he believed doing so could jeopardize future efforts to work 
with Congress on the legalization issue.

Congress has blocked the city from implementing any new laws to 
regulate or tax the sale of marijuana. Some federal lawmakers believe 
the District had no legal right to loosen its drug laws and have put 
the city on notice that they are investigating officials involved.

"We have put a lot of political capital on the line for use to go 
down this path," Mr. Orange said, speaking to advocates. "I would 
hope that they would not engage in public defiance in having public 
smoke-outs at this point in time. This is a very delicate line, and 
we are still interacting with Congress and others.

"It would not be helpful for us to be divided," Mr. Orange said.
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