Last week, just one day after Initiative 71, which legalized marijuana for recreational use in the District of Columbia, became law, Mayor Muriel Bowser proposed emergency legislation to the D.C. Council to ban marijuana use at private clubs in the District.
Initiative 71 passed the voters on November 4 with over 60 percent of voters supporting legalization. The law permits recreational use of marijuana for adults 21 years old and above, for amounts not exceeding 2 ounces in possession, but prohibits use of marijuana “in public.”
On Tuesday, just five days after the measure became law, the D.C. Council approved the emergency legislation, amending the law to prevent “any place to which the public is invited” from providing a venue for marijuana use. According to the amendment, private clubs that violate the amendment are subject to revocation of business licenses and certificates of occupancy.
In response to the emergency legislation, D.C. marijuana activists have threatened to organize “smoke-in” protests, which would allegedly violate previous agreements made with Mayor Bowser to refrain from such protests in the event that the emergency legislation did not pass.
— Adam Eidinger (@aeidinger) March 3, 2015
Despite support for legalization at the ballot box, the movement to preserve marijuana’s illegal status has remained strong. Prior to the vote, The Washington Post publicly opposed Initiative 71 in an editorial, and the Obama Administration continues to stand strongly against legalization.
Dr. Kevin Sabet, who cofounded Smart Approaches to Marijuana with former Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy, remarks that the potency of marijuana today in the United States has tripled in the last 15 years and has grown five times stronger since the marijuana of 1960.
The District of Columbia faces even more challenges to the new law, with Members of Congress threatening legal action by claiming that the law is not in accordance with the Antideficiency Act.
In a letter to Mayor Bowser dated February 24, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), Chairman of the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, explained that Congress has “plenary powers” over the District of Columbia:
“If you decide to move forward tomorrow with the legalization of marijuana in the District, you will be doing so in knowing and willful violation of the law.”
Rep. Chaffetz also requested answers to several questions by March 10, including a list of D.C. employees who engaged in activities related to the enactment of Initiative 71, the amount of funds expended related to the enactment of Initiative 71, and any communication related to the enactment of Initiative 71.