Pubdate: Wed, 20 Apr 2016
Source: Washington Times (DC)
Copyright: 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.
Author: Ryan M. McDermott


Nadeau: Vote Will 'Tie Our Hands' In Regulating Pot

The D.C. Council voted Tuesday to impose a permanent ban on private 
marijuana smoking clubs, ending months of political hand-wringing 
over where to allow residents to consume pot.

In a 7-to-6 vote, the council made permanent a 90-day ban on pot 
clubs in the nation's capital, where marijuana possession is legal 
though still a federal offense.

The ban's passage did not come easily: Democratic council members 
Brianne Nadeau and Vincent Orange both tried to delay the vote, 
saying a permanent ban would undercut a task force studying how to 
regulate pot clubs. Set up in February, the task force has 120 days 
to offer recommendations to lawmakers.

"To vote today for a permanent ban would ... tie our hands and the 
hands of the District," said Ms. Nadeau of Ward 1. "We're used to 
Congress tying our hands. Why would we do it to ourselves?"

But council Chairman Phil Mendelson said the task force still has a 
job to do and that the permanent ban doesn't shut down the 
conversation over pot clubs.

"With legislation in this area, whatever we do today we will revisit. 
And in my mind, we should revisit," Mr. Mendelson said at Tuesday's 
legislative meeting. "The task force has plenty it can do. It has a 
broad mandate."

Noting that Congress has not allowed the District to regulate the 
sale of marijuana, Mr. Mendelson said the council's only alternative 
was to ban pot smoking clubs.

"The problem is our inability to regulate, and until we have that 
ability, we should maintain the status quo," the at-large Democrat said.

The District's marijuana law, which went into effect early last year, 
allows residents at least 21 years old to grow, consume and possess 
limited amounts of cannabis in private residences. The public 
consumption of pot is outlawed, as are the sale and distribution of the plant.

However, the law was not clear on whether would-be smokers could 
gather together in private clubs. Spurred on by Mayor Muriel Bowser, 
lawmakers subsequently approved a clarification to prevent the 
practice and imposed a temporary ban to discuss the matter.

Some lawmakers had argued for private pot smoking clubs, saying they 
would allow residents of federal public housing to use the drug more 
freely and other residents to smoke in designated areas far from 
children. Other lawmakers had argued that the District lacks the 
authority to regulate such clubs.

Marijuana advocates expressed displeasure over the permanent ban. 
Kaitlyn Boecker, policy coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance, 
said the council turned its back on marijuana reform.

"With today's vote, the council signaled to Congress that they may 
freely interfere with District autonomy," Ms. Boecker said. "In spite 
of all the talk of promoting District autonomy and control over local 
affairs, today's vote suggests that council members would prefer to 
hide behind congressional authority to deflect their 
responsibilities, rather than do the work of legislating themselves."

Adam Eidinger, whose group DCMJ led the charge for marijuana 
legalization in the District, went so far as to call Mr. Mendelson a 
21st-century human rights violator.

"He's a prohibitionist," Mr. Eidinger said of the council chairman. 
"We'll work for the next two years to get him out of office."

Coincidentally, task force's first public meeting convened Tuesday 
night at City Hall, and it's first private meeting will be held Friday.

The task force will hold a community meeting at the John A. Wilson 
Building on Wednesday at 6 p.m.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom