The Jan. 7 Post editorial “Clouded Judgment” regurgitates the same tired argument that the District of Columbia is moving too fast when it comes to changing unjust, discriminatory cannabis laws. But as Councilmember Brianne Nadeau rightfully asked earlier this week, where is the emergency that warrants a ban? The perceived ambiguity of the law is just that, perceived, not an actual emergency.
Beginning on July 17, 2014, the day D.C. Council’s decriminalization of marijuana law went into effect, it stopped being a criminal offense to have cannabis clubs in the District of Columbia. As long as the public wasn’t invited, it was not criminal to have private events where cannabis could be consumed behind closed doors. The decriminalization of marijuana law says that the smell of cannabis alone was not probable cause for police action. Thus the ‘Wild Wild East’ started well before Ballot Initiative 71 was even voted on and, newsflash, it wasn’t all that wild.
We were aware of the loophole back in October of 2013 when we testified in support of the decriminalization law. But, more importantly, we were unaware of anyone who exploited the loophole during those 7 months before the law was “clarified” due to a perceived emergency. Hence, our surprise & displeasure that the overly broad out-of-the-home ban was passed in March of last year as emergency legislation without any debate or input from the public.
By rubber-stamping the Mayor’s ban without careful consideration, the DC Council inadvertently created the “smokeasy,” which is a private residence that allow adults to consume cannabis together. It’s the only legal option for adults who wish to responsibly use cannabis with other adults outside their home. But is it the best option? Or is this the “unintended consequence” of poorly thought out emergency legislation?
Cannabis consumption at private residences is fine and dandy until you realize that after a certain point it can become problematic. Too many people show up, no exit signs posted, non-working smoke detectors, no fire extinguishers, no IDs being checked- all are reasons why we as a society realized that responsible public policy provides adults places to gather, not only at private residences, but at private venues. This is a crucial need for those in housing leases that prohibit cannabis consumption and those not wanting to use cannabis around children.
At last month’s hearing on the ban, it was crystal clear that the public was overwhelmingly against the ban. DCRA Director Melinda M. Bolling stated that her agency had not revoked any certificates of occupancy for violating the ban and fumbled her responses to questions from Councilmember McDuffie on why the ban should be so broad in scope. Yet with no revocations, it could be argued that the ban was working perfectly, but a better understanding of the ban is that it’s impossible to enforce in it’s current form.
Case in point, thanks to the Mayor’s gift of tickets, members of DCMJ attended the Dead & Company concert at the Verizon Center last month. While grooving to Grateful Dead cover songs they witnessed thousands of people simultaneously smoking joints. But will the Verizon Center lose it’s certificate of occupancy? Not yet. So why pass laws if they are not going to be enforced? Or worse, like the cannabis laws of yesteryear, selectively enforced. Under the Mayor’s ban, one unruly customer who lights up one joint can cause a private venue to be shut down permanently.
The Editorial Board questions whether the “best use of surplus cash is facilitating marijuana use?” Maybe the question should switch out the word “facilitating” and replace it with “regulating.” In 2014, the CFO’s office estimated the $130 million dollar legal cannabis market in DC would generate over $20 million in tax revenue for the city. So yes, Wall Street should see that the District’s bonds can & will be more valuable with the proper regulation of cannabis.
There are venue owners around town who would welcome adults to use cannabis at their establishments. Last year Abdul Kayoumy, a co-owner of U Street bars Velvet Lounge and Dodge City, stated he didn’t mind if his patrons smoked cannabis at his venues. In fact, he thought it would be better for business. So why not let us self-regulate? Are we not worthy of making good decisions outside of our homes?
We do not believe laws should be written out of perceived emergencies. It’s a hallmark of bad public policy to pass laws to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. By banning cannabis-using adults from gathering at private venues, the DC Council created a bigger problem than they solved. We look forward to working with the Mayor and the D.C. Council on fixing the ban in order to provide all adults safe places outside their homes to engage in responsible cannabis use.
There is still time to contact the Committee on the Judiciary!
MAKE PHONE CALLS TODAY!
Councilmember’s Staffer: Hello, Councilmember [ Insert Councilmember ]’s Office, how can I help you?
YOU: Hello, my name is [ Insert Your Name ], and I’m calling to request the Councilmember help amend B21-0107, the Marijuana Decriminalization Clarification Amendment Act of 2015. This legislation is far too broad and discriminates against adults who live in homes where cannabis use is not allowed. Please ensure this poorly worded legislation is amended before you vote on it. Thank you for your time.
TONIGHT! – STANDUP FOR DEMOCRACY’S 3RD ANNUAL STATE OF THE UNION WATCH PARTY
WHEN: Tuesday, January 12, 2016 — 8:00 pm (State of the Union Speech starts at 9 pm)
WHERE: The African American Civil War Memorial and Museum – 1925 Vermont Ave, NW – Washington, DC 20001
DIRECTIONS: Right off Vermont and U Streets, NW, Washington, DC/ Conveniently located directly across from the Green/Yellow Line Metro – U Street/Civil War Memorial/Cardozo exit (turn left after you exit escalator; the museum is through the gate to the left of the old Grimke School.)
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