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Washington D.C. Marijuana Legalization, Initiative 71 (November 2014)

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A Washington, D.C., Marijuana Legalization, Initiative 71 ballot question is on the November 4, 2014 election ballot for voters in the District of Columbia.

Propositions for two competing efforts to eliminate legal consequences for small amounts of recreational marijuana in the nation's capitol were seen in early 2014. A group called DCMJ 2014, led by Adam Eidinger, co-owner of Capital Hemp, filed its Marijuana Legalization initiative - Initiative 71 - with the D.C. Board of Elections on January 10, 2014. Supporters called the initiative the Legalization of Home Cultivation and Possession of Minimal Amounts of Marijuana for Personal Use Act of 2014. This measure seeks to fully legalize the possession and use of up to two ounces of marijuana and the possession and cultivation of up to three marijuana plants.[1][2][3][4]

City legislators approved a bill that decriminalized possession of small amounts of pot. This was approved by the city council on March 5, 2014, but would be made relatively obsolete by the approval of Initiative 71.[5][6]

Adam Eidinger, campaign chairman for the D.C. Cannabis Campaign expressed concern that the U.S. Congress would interfere with the initiative and prevent it from going into effect, since marijuana would still be illegal according to federal law. Eidinger said, "We are proud of our petition circulators who braved the heat to further democracy in the District of Columbia, but I am very concerned that members of Congress will use their power to stop District of Columbia voters from being able to fully participate in the democratic process. We deserve the right to vote on Initiative 71."[1]

Both the enacted decriminalization bill and Initiative 71 have been targeted by critics at the federal level. Ultimately, the U.S. Congress claims control over laws in the nation's capital and have, historically, been eager to assert this authority with regard to autonomy for Washington D.C. - for example, with the budget autonomy ballot question approved by city voters in 2013. Considering marijuana consumption is illegal according to federal law, Congress will likely be especially opposed to a measure that puts the capital's laws in conflict with federal drug enforcement policy.


Although all polls indicate Initiative 71 will sail through November's election with overwhelming voter approval, questions still remain about how and when the initiative will take effect. These questions arise from the complexity regarding laws governing the initiative power and uncertainty about what actions Congress will take to thwart, support or simply change the measure.[7]

Regulation of sales

Election law does not allow a citizen initiative to mandate the expenditure of city funds. This forces Initiative 71 to avoid addressing the regulation and legalization of marijuana sales, since a regulatory system would require substantial city expenditure. Thus, Initiative 71 simply legalizes possession and personal cultivation. The initiative demands that the city council designs and passes an ordinance to establish regulations on marijuana retail and enforcement of such regulations.[7]

Delayed implementation

Because of the complexities surrounding the measure, including the possibility that Congress will simply overturn Initiative 71 and the necessity for the council to design provisions for the enforcement of restrictions and regulations on the sale and use of marijuana, city council members are openly discussing the option of delaying the implementation of Initiative 71 until some of the uncertainties surrounding it can be ironed out.[7]

Councilman David Grosso said, “I don’t want uncertainty to be out there in the streets and in the market, and the initiative as it is written doesn’t give us the certainty we need." He continued, "It may be easier to just delay the whole thing while we come up with the regulatory framework."[7]

Supporters of Initiative 71 are less than please with this prospect. Some predict that, due to the widespread support of the measure, there will be significant political consequences and disfavor among the people if the council were to delay legalization. Aaron Houston, a longtime marijuana reform advocate in D.C., said, “Because marijuana legalization is broadly supported by D.C. voters — and given the deep disdain voters here have against politicians subverting the will of the people — any move to delay implementation of the intent of the initiative would be very politically risky."[7]

Marijuana advocates also point towards Colorado to argue that the design of retail regulations can occur after legalization. Adam Eidinger, one of the leaders in the pro-71 movement, said that in Colorado legalization was implemented only a month after the approval of Amendment 64, while it took over a year to put the necessary ordinances and infrastructure in place to allow legal sales of the drug. Eidinger said, “They stopped arresting people, they let people grow their own and keep what they grew. There was no regulation in place other than that.”[7]

Text of measure

DCMJ 2014 campaign website image

Short title

The ballot title for Initiative 71:[8]

Legalization of Possession of Minimal Amounts of Marijuana for Personal Use Act of 2014[9]

Ballot summary

The ballot summary for Initiative 71:[8]

This initiative, if passed, will make it lawful under District of Columbia law for a person 21 years of age or older to:

  • possess up to two ounces of marijuana for personal use;
  • grow no more than six cannabis plants with 3 or fewer being mature, flowering plants, within the person’s principal residence;
  • transfer without payment (but not sell) up to one ounce of marijuana to another person 21 years of age or older; and
  • use or sell drug paraphernalia for the use, growing, or processing of marijuana or cannabis.[9]

Full text

See also: Washington D.C. Marijuana Legalization, Initiative 71 (November 2014), full text

The full text of the legislation that would be enacted by the approval of Initiative 71 is available here.[8]


DCMJ campaign sign


  • D.C. Cannabis Campaign (DCMJ 2014)[10]
  • Adam Eidinger, co-owner of Capital Hemp

Eidinger said, "I imagine the President rolling up a tobacco-marijuana cigarette with John Boehner and sitting on the back porch of the White House to work out their problems."[4]


Eidinger and supporters of the initiative claimed the following reasons for and benefits of a yes vote on legalization:[4]

  • Dignity for victims of the racist drug war.
  • Safety from encountering drug deals gone bad and poor quality weed.
  • Quality increases at cannabis retailers when they compete with home grow.
  • No cash exchange is needed and it defunds cartels.
  • Limited to just three mature plants making diversion unlikely.
  • D.C. voters already approved home cultivation in 1998.
  • Home cultivation is permitted in many jurisdictions where marijuana is legal.
  • There is no threat to children, according to an NIH study.
  • Federal Government is only concerned with large grows, not three plants.
  • The notion that the state has power to regulate nature out of existence is immoral.
  • Home brewing of wine and beer came with alcohol prohibition ending.
  • Cannabis is not just a big business to be taxed.
  • D.C. could require registrations for home cultivation.
  • Our founding fathers wanted people to be happy and free at home.
  • Homegrown tobacco is not regulated.

Supporting bill

Eidinger and DCMJ 2014 support a bill sponsored by city council member David Grosso (I-At Large), which, according to U.S. News, "would levy a 10 percent tax on recreational marijuana and 6 percent on medical marijuana. It would also authorize the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration to issue licenses to recreational marijuana stores." Eidinger said, "We think Grosso's bill is the bill that should be heard before the Judiciary Committee, not Wells' bill. I'm really excited about the Grosso bill, but he's not getting any respect." Currently, Grosso's bill does not have any co-sponsors.


  • D.C. Attorney General Irv Nathan[11]
  • Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6)

Arguments against

Attorney General Nathan advised the board of elections that the proposed initiative would violate federal law and urged them to reject it. In a letter to the D.C. Board of Elections Nathan wrote, "The Initiative is improper because its prohibition on denying any benefit based on conduct that it purports to make lawful is incompatible with at least one area of federal law involving District-provided benefits: federal public housing law."[11]


  • The Washington Post editorial board released an article urging voters to reject Initiative 71 and wait to make a less hasty and more thoughtful decision after more research on the drug has been done and after legalization has been tried in other areas. The article also presents the city's decriminalization bill already in place, a bill that decreases penalties for marijuana use to a small fine, as a better, more cautious approach. Below is an excerpt of the Washington Post editorial:[12]

We supported the elimination of harsh criminal penalties; jailing people who smoked pot and saddling them with criminal records made no sense and resulted in the unfair targeting of young black men.


It’s instructive that the council, in assessing the city’s approach to marijuana enforcement, chose the more cautious path of decriminalization rather than outright legalization. Voters would do well to consider the reasons for that caution.

The American Medical Association has come out against legalization, arguing that “cannabis is a dangerous drug and as such is a public health concern.” The active ingredient in marijuana has been linked to memory problems, impaired thinking and weakened immune systems, not to mention it acts as a gateway to more dangerous drugs. Dangers are more pronounced for young people. A study just published in the Lancet Psychiatry reported that teenagers who smoke marijuana daily are 60 percent less likely to complete high school. Advocates of legalization say it would not apply to young people but with legalization inevitably comes a message of approval.

It’s not been a year since Colorado became the first state to allow recreational marijuana use and, as the Smart Approaches to Marijuana has catalogued, there have been negative consequences, including increased instances of impaired driving and increased use by youth. With marijuana already decriminalized, there’s no reason for the District to rush the next step; why not at least give Colorado a bit more time to provide lessons?

D.C. voters should vote no on Initiative No. 71 on Nov. 4.[9]

The Washington Post editorial board[12]

Competing bill

Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) sponsored a bill called the "Marijuana Decriminalization Bill," which reduced the maximum penalty for possession of an ounce of marijuana from six months in prison and a $1,000 find to just a $25 fine for possession and a $100 fine for public use, with no jail time. This bill was given final approval by the entire city council on March 4, 2014. The DCMJ 2014 initiative would supersede this bill, if approved, making it and the proposed initiative competing legislation.[4][5][6]

Eidinger, who disapproves of Wells' bill, said, "Sixty-four percent in our poll in April supported legalization." But he expressed concern that support for the decriminalization bill might divert support for his initiative and stated that he might withdraw his initiative if support waned too much, saying, "I won't do it if it's under 60 percent, you can mark my words. If we're at 59 percent in our next poll of D.C. voters for legalization, if we're losing support for legalization because of Wells' efforts, then we won't do it." Eidinger believes that Wells' bill would not put a stop to drug-related violence as well as having other weaknesses. A recent poll showed 63% support for legalization.[4]

The "Marijuana Decriminalization Bill" was approved and enacted. If this initiative is approved, it would supersede the bill, going one step further to allow marijuana use.[1]


Washington Post

The Washington Post published a poll in January 2014 and again in September 2014, which show the overwhelming support of the legalization of marijuana in the nation's capitol holding steady. The polls were conducted by phone - both cell phones and land lines - and asked about support or opposition to the legalization of small amounts of marijuana. Here are the results:[13]

Washington D.C. Marijuana Legalization 2014
Poll Support OpposeOtherMargin of ErrorSample Size
Washington Post poll on pot legalization
Washington Post poll on pot legalization[14]
9/14/2014 - 9/16/2014
AVERAGES 63% 34% 3% +/-3.5 1,036.5
Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted in this race. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to

During the January poll, the 341 polled who were opposed to marijuana legalization were also asked about support for or opposition to decriminalization of marijuana. The poll asked the people who responded in opposition to legalization if they would be in favor of or opposed to creating a maximum penalty of a $100 fine for possession of a small amount of marijuana. Here are the responses:[13]

Washington D.C. Marijuana Decriminalization 2014
Poll Support OpposeOtherSample Size
Washington Post poll on pot decriminalization
Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted in this race. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to

The most recent polls, compared to a 2010 poll, show a shocking increase over the last 4 years in the portion of Washington D.C. residents that favor legalization. A similar poll was conducted in January of 2010 which showed the following, much more evenly divided sides of support and opposition, with opposition slightly ahead:[15]

Washington D.C. Marijuana Legalization 2010
Poll Support OpposeOtherMargin of ErrorSample Size
Washington Post poll, including pot legalization
Jan. 24-28, 2010
Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted in this race. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to

Public Policy Polling

The Public Policy Polling was commissioned to conduct a poll by WAMU's The Kojo Nnamdi Show and the Washington City Paper that asked many questions, including the following question on the proposed marijuana legalization initiative:[16]

The D.C. Council recently voted to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. But this November, the ballot may contain a referendum question regarding marijuana legalization. The proposal could allow adults to possess up to two ounces of marijuana for personal use and to grow up to three marijuana plants at home. The city’s Attorney General has opposed this idea, arguing that it would put D.C. at odds with federal drug laws. If you were to vote on the ballot measure today, how would you vote?[9]

This poll was conducted by calling landlines.[17] The results are below.

D.C. Marijuana Legalization Poll
Poll Support OpposeOtherMargin of ErrorSample Size
Public Policy Polling questionnaire, including marijuana legalization
03/13/2014 - 03/16/2014
Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted in this race. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to

Path to the ballot

The group D.C. Cannabis Campaign (DCMJ 2014) submitted their initiative on January 10, 2014. After much opposition from D.C. Attorney General Irv Nathan, the D.C. Board of Elections approved the legalization initiative on March 11, 2014. Eidinger, leader of DCMJ 2014 was hoping for an April 1, 2014 kickoff to signature gathering, with circulators stationed outside of polling places during the city's primary election on that day. But delays in the board's decision on the initiative pushed back the day on which proponents were able to collect signatures. Eidinger said, “Now it’s not happening until mid-April—4/20, maybe,” Eidinger says.[2][18]

The signature submission deadline for this initiative was set by law as July 7, 2014. On July 1, 2014, the D.C. Cannabis Campaign announced that its circulators had collected over 57,000 signatures. The group only needed 23,780 valid signatures to qualify Initaitive 71 for the ballot. After submitting them, the group announced that it only took 75 days to collect the signatures. On August 6, 2014, the D.C. Board of Elections ruled the petition sufficient and certified Initiative 71 for the ballot.[18][1][19][20]

Similar measures


  • Washington D.C. Marijuana Legalization, Initiative 71 (November 2014)


Defeatedd Town of Palmer Lake Marijuana Legalization Referendum (April 2014)



New Mexico:
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot City of Albuquerque Marijuana Decriminalization Measure (November 2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot City of Santa Fe Marijuana Decriminalization Initiative (November 2014)


Approveda Dane County State Legalization of Marijuana Referendum (April 2014)



Approveda Lake County Marijuana Cultivation Ordinance 2997 Referendum, Measure N (June 2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot City of Imperial Beach "Compassionate Access Ordinance" Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Act (June 2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot City of Napa Medical Marijuana Dispensary Referendum (November 2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot City of San Jose Medical Marijuana Regulation Act of 2014 (November 2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot City of San Jose Pension Measure to Alter Measure B Reform Charter Amendment (November 2014)

See also

External links

Suggest a link

Additional reading


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Vox, "DC may vote on marijuana legalization this November," July 1, 2014
  2. 2.0 2.1 The Washington Post, "D.C. Board of Elections allows marijuana legalization effort to move forward," March 11, 2014
  3. Fox News, "Pot legalization ballot initiative filed in DC," January 10, 2014
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 DCist, "Marijuana Activists Fight For Full Legalization, Home Cultivation In D.C.," October 18, 2013
  5. 5.0 5.1 Washington Post, "D.C. Council members advance bill to eliminate jail, limit fines for marijuana to $25," January 15, 2014
  6. 6.0 6.1, "Pot Decriminalization Approved by Washington City Council," March 5, 2014
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5, "D.C. Ballot Measure Faces Possible Delay If Approved," October 13, 2014
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 DCMJ 2014 website, accessed January 13, 2014
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  10. DCMJ 2014 official website, accessed March 12, 2014
  11. 11.0 11.1 The DCist, "D.C. Attorney General: Marijuana Legalization Ballot Initiative Violates Federal Law," February 20, 2014
  12. 12.0 12.1 The Washington Post, "D.C. voters should reject the rush to legalize marijuana," September 14, 2014
  13. 13.0 13.1 Washington Post, "Support for marijuana legalization grows in the District," January 15, 2014
  14. Note: Among the 1,070 registered voters, 572 were identified as likely voters. The results among likely voters was identical to the results among all of those surveyed.
  15. Washington Post, January 2010 DC Poll, accessed January 17, 2014
  16. The Week Blog, "Poll: 49% Support Marijuana Legalization In Washington DC, 39% Oppose," archived March 27, 2014
  17. Note: Some speculated that the actual percentage of supporters is higher than this poll indicates because those with landlines tend to be older and more conservative.
  18. 18.0 18.1 The Washingtonian, "DC Voters Could Get to Vote on Marijuana Legalization in November," March 11, 2014
  19. CBS DC, "D.C. Pot Group Submits Signatures to Let Voters Decide on Marijuana Legalization," July 7, 2014
  20. DCMJ website, "PRESS RELEASE: Ballot Initiative 71 Qualifies for November General Election Ballot," August 6, 2014