Council Creates Taskforce to Explore Creation of Designated Spaces for Marijuana Use
Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–February 2, 2016. Today the Council of the District of Columbia voted to halt consideration of legislation that would permanently ban adult consumption of marijuana outside the home, and instead moved forward with the creation of a taskforce to explore the establishment of regulated places where adults can legally consume marijuana in the District.
“The will of District voters was upheld today by the Council, which voted unanimously to move forward on establishing regulated places where adults can consume marijuana,” said Kaitlyn Boecker with the Drug Policy Alliance. “One year ago this Council voted unanimously to ban such spaces, stripping residents of their rights under Initiative 71, but today Councilmembers righted that wrong and voted for reform,” said Boecker.
Initiative 71, which was overwhelmingly approved by District voters in 2014, legalized the possession of up to two ounces marijuana for adults over the age of 21, and allowed individuals to grow up to six plants in their home. The implementation of Ballot Initiative 71 in the District has resulted in an unprecedented drop in arrests for possession of marijuana. D.C. laws prevented the ballot initiative from addressing the taxation and sale of marijuana, which requires action by the D.C. Council. However more than a year ago, Congress blocked D.C. lawmakers from using locally raised public funds to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol. Shortly after Initiative 71 took effect last year, Mayor Bowser and the Council passed emergency legislation banning all marijuana consumption outside a residence (even in private membership clubs). Advocates decried the legislation as poorly drafted, unnecessary and overly broad – going so far as to shut down any business where a single patron is caught.
The Council of the District of Columbia was scheduled to vote today on making this ban permanent. Opponents have advocated for months to abandon such prohibition policy and instead compromise on a measure establishing regulated places where adults can legally consume marijuana. However, Mayor Muriel Bowser and Council Chairman Phil Mendelson opposed a compromise and pushed the permanent ban through the Council. Several Councilmembers were prepared to offer amendments to the measure during consideration today, including an amendment to allow a limited number of marijuana clubs in the District. Shortly before the Council was scheduled to consider the permanent ban legislation, Council Committee on the Judiciary Chair and Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie withdrew the bill from consideration.
Despite the withdrawal of the permanent legislation, a final vote on passage of a temporary extension of the ban remained on the Council’s schedule. This extension was opposed by a growing number of Councilmembers. Councilmember Vincent Orange led the efforts of such councilmembers Tuesday, offering an amendment which created a seven-person taskforce to issue within 120 days a report with recommendations on establishing regulated places where adults can legally consume marijuana. The amended temporary legislation also extended the current ban by 225 days, in order to allow the taskforce and Council time to consider all recommendations and develop final legislation before making such spaces legal. Recent polling shows widespread support among District voters for creating venues for the consumption of marijuana.
“The Council has taken the first step towards sensible marijuana policy on social consumption of marijuana in the District, but much more needs to be done,” said Kaitlyn Boecker, policy associate at the Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs. “We look forward to working with the taskforce to develop recommendations establishing regulated places where adults can legally consume marijuana.”
No Permanent Ban Yet: D.C. Council Creates Task Force To Study Pot Clubs — By Rachel Kurzius, Feb 2, 2016
Today could have been a big showdown between pot advocates and opponents—the permanent ban on social smoking was set for a vote at the D.C. Council. Moments before the bill was going to be added to the agenda, though, Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie moved the permanent ban from consideration until at least February 16.
Instead, the council struck a more conciliatory tone, voting unanimously to establish a task force that will come back in 120 days with recommendations regarding the feasibility of pot clubs in the District. The task force is part of temporary legislation that extends the social-use ban for an additional 225 days.
The Council passed emergency legislation immediately after legalization to ban social use of marijuana, citing regulatory concerns. While the council overturned the ban on private cannabis clubs early this January for a few minutes, lobbying from the mayor and police chief led to a second vote that kept the emergency legislation in place.
“The time is right for us to consider designated spaces for communal smoking,” said Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau. “The existing ban is overly broad and punitive.” She noted that a permanent ban could tie the Council’s hands when it comes to marijuana policy, thanks to a Congressional rider.
At Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman said that the D.C. Council faced a unique balancing act between District voters’ wants and the impositions of Congress, and insight from the task force could help find a solution.
At Large Councilmember Vincent Orange, who introduced the amendment, said the seven-person task force would include leaders from D.C. Police, the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, the Office of the Attorney General, the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration, Department of Health, and two councilmembers.
“Today’s withdrawal of the permanent ban shows that elected officials have finally begun to heed their constituents’ wishes, but the fight for the creation of regulated places where adults can legally consume marijuana is far from over,” said Kaitlyn Boecker, policy analyst with the Drug Policy Alliance.
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