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

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A Washington D.C. Marijuana Legalization, Initiative 71 ballot question may be 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, lead by Adam Eidinger, co-owner of Capital Hemp, filed their Marijuana Legalization initiative 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 2 ounces of marijuana and the possession and cultivation of up to three marijuana plants. On March 11, 2014 the D.C. Board of Elections approved the legalization initiative, although officials must hold a public hearing, issue an official ballot title and summary and allow for a ten day waiting period before petitioners could begin the process of collecting the 22,373 valid signatures required to put their measure before voters in November. On July 1, 2014, petitioners announced they had collected over 55,000 signatures.[1][2][3][4]

From the side of the city legislators, there was a bill before the city council that would decriminalize 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 the legalization initiative.[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 legal 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 on 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.

Text of measure

Short title

The ballot title for Initiative 71:[7]

Legalization of Possession of Minimal Amounts of Marijuana for Personal Use Act of 2014[8]

Ballot summary

The ballot summary for Initiative 71:[7]

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.[8]

Full text

The text of the legislation that would be enacted by the initiative is:[7]

BE IT ENACTED BY THE ELECTORS OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA,

That this act may be cited as the “Legalization of Possession of Minimal Amounts of Marijuana for Personal Use Act of 2014.” --D.C. Code §48-904.01-- 1.

Section 401 of the District of Columbia Uniform Controlled Substances Act of 1981, effective August 5, 1981 (D.C. Law 4-29; D.C. Official Code §48-904.01), is amended as follows:(a)

Subsection (a)(1) is amended to read as follows:

(a)(1) Except as authorized by this chapter or Chapter 16B or Title 7, it is unlawful for any person knowingly or intentionally to manufacture distribute or possess with intent to manufacture or distribute, a controlled substance. Notwithstanding any provision of this chapter to the contrary, it shall be lawful, and shall not bean offense under District of Columbia law, for any person twenty-one (21) years of age or older to possess, use, purchase or transport marijuana weighing less than two ounces or to possess,grow, harvest or process, within the interior of a house, building or rental unit that constitutes such person’s principal residence, no more than six cannabis plants, with three or fewer being mature, flowering plants, and to possess within such house, building or apartment the marijuana produced by such plants; provided that none of such marijuana or such plants is sold or offered or made available for sale.”

(b) The following new paragraphs are added to subsection (a) after paragraph (1), andthe remaining paragraphs are renumbered accordingly:

(2) The terms ‘controlled substance’ and ‘controlled substances,’ as used in this Code,shall not include marijuana that is or was in the personal possession of a person twenty-one years of age or older at any specific time if the total amount of marijuana that is or was in the possession of that person at that time weighs or weighed less than two ounces. The terms‘controlled substance’ and ‘controlled substances,’ as used in this Code, shall not include cannabis plants that are or were grown, possessed, harvested, or processed by a person twenty one years of age or older within the interior of a house, building or rental unit that constitutes or at the time constituted, such person’s principal residence, if such person at that time was growing no more than six cannabis plants with three or fewer being mature flowering plants. The terms‘controlled substance’ and ‘controlled substances,’ as used in this Code, shall not include marijuana produced by the plants described in the preceding sentence, if such marijuana is or was in the personal possession of the person who grow or grew such plants, within the house, building or rental unit in which the plants are or were grown. Notwithstanding the provisions of this paragraph, the terms ‘controlled substance’ and ‘controlled substances’ as used in this Code shall include any marijuana or cannabis plant sold or offered or made available for sale.“(3) Notwithstanding any other provision of this Code, no district government agency or office shall limit or refuse to provide any facility service, program or benefit to any person based upon or by reason of conduct that is made lawful by this subsection

(4) Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to require any district government agency or office, or any employer, to permit or accommodate the use, consumption, possession,transfer, display, transportation, sale or growing of marijuana in the workplace or to affect the ability of any such agency, office or employer to establish and enforce policies restricting the use of marijuana by employees.

(5) Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to permit driving under the influence of marijuana or driving while impaired by use or ingestion of marijuana or to modify or affect the construction or application of any provision of this Code related to driving under the influence of marijuana or driving while impaired by marijuana.

(6) Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to prohibit any person, business,corporation, organization or other entity, or district government agency or office, who or which occupies, owns or controls any real property, from prohibiting or regulating the possession,consumption, use, display, transfer, distribution, sale, transportation or growing of marijuana on or in that property.

(7) Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to make unlawful any conduct permitted by the District of Columbia Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Amendment Act of 2010 (D.C. Law 18-210; D.C. Official Code §§7-1671.01 et seq.).

(c) Paragraph (1) of subsection (d) is amended to read as follows:

(d) (1) Except as other wise provided in subsection (a)(1), it is unlawful for any person knowingly on intentionally to possess a controlled substance unless the substance was obtained directly from, or pursuant to,a valid prescription or order of a practitioner while acting in the course of his or her professional practice, or except as otherwise authorized by this chapter or chapter 16B of Title

7. Except as otherwise provided in subsection (a)(1) or in paragraph (2) of this subsection, any person who violates this subsection is guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction may be imprisoned for not more than 180 days, fined not more than the amount set forth in §22-3571.01 or both.

--D.C. Code §48-1103-- 2. Section 4 of the Drug Paraphernalia Act of 1982, effective September 17, 1982(D.C. Law 4-149; D.C. Official Code §48-1103), is amended as follows:

(a) Subsection (a) is amended to read as follows:

(a) Except as authorized by Chapter 16B or Title 7, it is unlawful for any person to use,or to possess with intent to use, drug paraphernalia to plant, propagate, cultivar, grow, harvest,manufacture, compound, convert, produce, process, prepare, test, analyze, pack, repack store,contain, conceal, inhale, ingest, or otherwise introduce into the human body a controlled substance; except that it shall be lawful for any person twenty-one years of age or old to use or possess with intent to use, drug paraphernalia to possess or use marijuana if such possession or use is lawful under section 48-904.01(a)(1), or to grow, possess, harvest or process cannabis plants, the growth, possession or processing of which is lawful under section 48-904.01

(a)(1)Whoever violates this subsection shall be imprisoned for not more than 30 days or fined for not more than $100, or both.

(b)Subsection (b) is amended to read as follows:

(b) Except as authorized by Chapter 16B of Title 7, it is unlawful for any person to deliver or sell, possess with intent to deliver or sell, or manufacture with intent to deliver or sell drug paraphernalia, knowingly, or under circumstances where one reasonably should know, that it will be used to plant, propagate, cultivate, grow, harvest, manufacture, compound, convert, produce, process, prepare, test, analyze, pack, repack, store, contain, conceal, inject, ingest,inhale, or otherwise introduce into the human body a controlled substance; except that it shall be lawful [for] any person to deliver or sell, possess with intent to deliver or sell, or manufacture with intent to deliver or sell, drug paraphernalia under circumstances in which one knows or has reason to know that such drug paraphernalia will be used solely for use of marijuana that is lawful under section 48-904.01

(a)(1) or for growing, possession, harvesting, or processing of cannabis plants that is lawful under section 48-904.01(a)(1). Whoever violates this subsection shall be imprisoned for not more than 6 months or fined for not more than $1,000, or both, unless the violation occurs after the person has been convicted in the District of Columbia of a violation of this sub chapter, in which case the person shall be imprisoned for not more than 2 years, or fined not more than $5,000, or both.

3. The amounts of the civil penalties set forth in District of Columbia Code section 22-3571.01 Act shall be adjusted through implementing or amending legislation enacted by the Council of the District of Columbia to the extent necessary to ensure that this Act does not negate or limit any act of the Council of the District of Columbia pursuant to D.C. Code §1-204.46.

4. This act shall take effect after a 30-day period of Congressional review as provided in section 602(c)(1) of the District of Columbia Self-Government and Government Reorganization Act (Home Rule Act), approved December 24, 2971 (87 Stat. 813; D.C. Official Code §1-206.02(c)(1))[4][8]

DCMJ 2014 campaign website image

Support

Supporters

  • D.C. Cannabis Campaign (DCMJ 2014)[9]
  • 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]

Arguments

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.

Opposition

  • D.C. Attorney General Irv Nathan[10]
  • 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."[10]

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]

Polls

Washington Post

The Washington Post published a poll on January 15, 2014, which shows overwhelming support of the legalization of marijuana in the nation's capitol. The poll was conducted by phone between the dates of January 9 and January 12 of 2014 and asked about support or opposition to the legalization of small amounts of marijuana. Here are the results:[11]

Washington D.C. Marijuana Legalization 2014
Poll Support OpposeOtherMargin of ErrorSample Size
Washington Post poll on pot legalization
01/12/2014
63%34%3%+/-41,003
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 editor@ballotpedia.org

To the 341 polled that were opposed to marijuana legalization, the poll asked about support or opposition of decriminalization of marijuana, creating a maximum penalty of possession of a small amount of pot to be only a $100 fine. Here are the responses:[11]

Washington D.C. Marijuana Decriminalization 2014
Poll Support OpposeOtherSample Size
Washington Post poll on pot decriminalization
01/12/2014
47%41%12%341
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 editor@ballotpedia.org

The most recent poll, compared to a 2010 poll, shows a shocking increase over the last 4 years in the portion of Washington D.C. residents that favor legalization. A similar poll was taken between January of 2010 which showed the following, much more evenly divided sides of support and opposition, with opposition slightly ahead:[12]

Washington D.C. Marijuana Legalization 2010
Poll Support OpposeOtherMargin of ErrorSample Size
Washington Post poll, including pot legalization
01/15/2014
46%48%6%+/-31,135
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 editor@ballotpedia.org

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:[13]

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?[8]

This poll was conducted by calling landlines.[14] 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
49%33%18%+/-3.3860
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 editor@ballotpedia.org


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. Now officials must hold a public hearing, issue an official ballot title and summary and allow for a ten day waiting period before petitioners can begin the process of collecting the 22,373 signatures required to put their measure before voters in November. 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 will be able to collect signatures. Eidinger said, “Now it’s not happening until mid-April—4/20, maybe,” Eidinger says.[2][15]

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 55,000 signatures. After submitting them, the group announced that it only took 75 days to collect the signatures.[15][1][16]

Similar measures

Recreational

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

Colorado:

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

Maine:

Michigan:

Wisconsin:

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

Medical

California:

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)


See also

External links

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Additional reading

References

  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 4.5 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 Bloomberg.com, "Pot Decriminalization Approved by Washington City Council," March 5, 2014
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 DCMJ 2014 website, accessed January 13, 2014
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  9. DCMJ 2014 official website, accessed March 12, 2014
  10. 10.0 10.1 The DCist, "D.C. Attorney General: Marijuana Legalization Ballot Initiative Violates Federal Law," February 20, 2014
  11. 11.0 11.1 Washington Post, "Support for marijuana legalization grows in the District," January 15, 2014
  12. Washington Post, January 2010 DC Poll, accessed January 17, 2014
  13. The Week Blog, "Poll: 49% Support Marijuana Legalization In Washington DC, 39% Oppose," archived March 27, 2014
  14. 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.
  15. 15.0 15.1 The Washingtonian, "DC Voters Could Get to Vote on Marijuana Legalization in November," March 11, 2014
  16. CBS DC, "D.C. Pot Group Submits Signatures to Let Voters Decide on Marijuana Legalization," July 7, 2014