Pubdate: Wed, 06 Apr 2016
Source: Washington Times (DC)
Copyright: 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.
Author: Ryan McDermott


District Split Over Legality of Drug

In the latest twist in the District's struggles over legal marijuana, 
the D.C. Council Tuesday moved to permanently ban pot clubs in the 
city, just two months after the body approved a task force to study the issue.

Whether pot can be consumed legally in private clubs is just one of 
the thorny issues the District has faced since it legalized 
cultivation and possession of small amounts of marijuana but 
continued to keep sales of the drug illegal.

The council in February divided on whether to permanently ban pot 
smoking in private clubs, so emergency legislation temporarily banned 
the pot clubs and a task force was formed on how such clubs might 
operate. The legislation would change the law to say that pot cannot 
be consumed in private places where the public is invited, such as a 
nightclub or music venue.

But even as the task force studied the issue, the Council voted 7-6 
on Tuesday to make the club ban permanent, though a second vote at 
the next legislative meeting is required for the legislation to pass.

Several council members said a permanent ban makes the idea of a 
study pointless.

"While this body established a task force in good faith, to vote 
today to establish a permanent ban would tie the hands of the task 
force," council member Brianne Nadeau, a Ward 1 Democrat, said at a 
Tuesday legislative hearing. "This legislation would actually prevent 
the work of the task force."

Council member Vincent Orange, the at-large Democrat who proposed the 
task force two months ago, said Tuesday's vote defied the will of the 
voters who approved legal marijuana in a referendum.

"Why would we undercut the task force and not let the task force do 
its job?" Mr. Orange said. "I believe this council is going down a 
slippery slope once it starts undermining legislation that we passed. 
. These citizens went out and got a referendum. They want us to make 
sure we exercise our own best judgment not for ourselves but for 
citizens of the District."

But council Chairman Phil Mendelson, a Democrat who voted to approve 
the ban, said the ban wouldn't interfere with the task force.

"The duties of the task force are broader than has been portrayed by 
those who wish to defeat this bill," he said.

There's no love lost between Mr. Mendelson and marijuana advocates, 
who say the club ban discriminates against people in public housing 
and residents who want to smoke marijuana but can't in their homes. 
Since public housing in the District is run by the federal 
government, it is not subject to local pot legalization laws.

"He's a prohibitionist," said Adam Eidinger, who heads up DCMJ, the 
organization that got the legalization measure on the ballot in 2014. 
"We'll work for the next two years to get him out of office."

Kaitlyn Boecker, a policy analyst with the Drug Policy Institute, 
said this is not what the voters wanted when the approved 
legalization passed nearly two years ago.

"It is clear that Chairman Mendelson and [District Mayor Muriel 
Bowser] rigged the process against the people. Initiative 71, which 
was overwhelmingly approved by District voters, sought to remove 
marijuana from the criminal justice system and did not restrict 
marijuana use by adults," Ms. Boecker said. "The bill passed today 
ignores those principles."

It was the second time in two days showcasing the city's fractured, 
contradictory approach to legalized pot, where growing, lighting up 
and even giving away marijuana are all now permitted but where 
legalized sales are not.

On Monday a company based in Oakland, California, touted a 
cold-pressed juice delivery service that also brings "free" marijuana 
to customers in the District.

As a way to skirt the city's law against selling cannabis - while 
still taking advantage of residents being allowed to possess up to 2 
ounces of pot - High Speed is offering to sell residents juice and 
"gift" them some marijuana with their order.

The company started in Oakland in 2015 and began deliveries in the 
District about two months ago, having already served about 300 
customers, according to High Speed.

D.C. Police and Karl Racine, the District's attorney general, did not 
return repeated emails for comment as to whether the company was 
operating within the law.

If the District can figure out how to regulate the sale of marijuana 
- - and convince Congress to not butt in - pot businesses could stand 
to make nearly $100 million by 2020, according to a report by Arc 
View Market Research and New Frontier. And depending on how the 
District would set up regulations, that could mean a lot of tax revenue.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom