Dec 122014
 December 12, 2014

washington dc marijuana legalizationIt’s been a wild week for marijuana legalization in D.C.. Earlier this week it appeared that marijuana legalization would be blocked in D.C. via the federal spending bill. Now it appears due to bad language in the bill, Initiative 71 will be allowed to be implemented, but that additional provisions for taxing and sales will not be allowed in the future. This seems to be the view of the Drug Policy Alliance and StopTheDrugWar.Org. Per the Drug Policy Alliance:

Republicans were successful in including language in the “cromnibus” federal spending bill that interferes with the right of Washington, D.C. to set its own marijuana policies. The language, however, was not what they originally wanted because they had to compromise with Democrats. The D.C. marijuana rider inserted in the bill allows D.C.’s marijuana decriminalization law (passed earlier this year) to stand, while prohibiting D.C. from taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol (a D.C. Council committee recently approved tax-and-regulate legislation and it is widely believed that the Council will legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana next year if it can).

Because the language was poorly drafted there has been disagreement over whether or not the spending bill rider would overturn Initiative 71, an initiative approved by 70% of D.C. voters in November that legalizes marijuana possession and home cultivation for personal use. Based on statements by members of Congress, including members who were part of the funding bill negotiations, it is clear that the legislative intent of the rider was to allow both decrim and Initiative 71 to stand, while blocking D.C. from carrying out more sweeping reform in the future. Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi; Rep. Eleanor Holmes Horton, who represents D.C.; Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY), the ranking member on the House appropriations subcommittee that funds D.C.; Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), the Ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee; and others have said that the D.C. rider allows Initiative 71 to stand. The D.C. government is blocked from enacting any new marijuana law reforms but it is free to implement and carry out reforms that have already been enacted.

Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, had this to say:

“Initiative 71 was enacted on November 4th when 70% of D.C. voters approved it. Voters wanted to reduce racial disparities in the criminal justice system and focus police resources on serious and violent crime. The will of the people should stand. While Initiative 71 won’t take effect until after the Council transmits it to Congress in January and it goes through an administrative 30-day review period, it has very clearly already been enacted by the voters.

People who were part of the negotiations over the federal spending bill and this amendment in particular say the language was modified several times to reach a compromise. The marijuana compromise that Republicans and Democrats reached is that D.C’s decriminalization law and Initiative 71 can move forward, but D.C. cannot enact further changes, such as taxing and regulating marijuana to eliminate the illicit market.

The Drug Policy Alliance strongly urges the Council to transmit Initiative 71 to Congress as soon as it convenes in January. The Council should also continue to find ways to reduce the harms being caused by the war on drugs and rebuild the communities that have been devastated by decades of punitive drug policies.

Finally, it is worth noting that House Republicans were only able to pass this D.C. rider by doing it behind closed doors, with no debate or transparency. When marijuana law reform is debated out in the open we win. The House voted five times this year to let states set their own marijuana policies. In fact, one of those amendments, the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment prohibiting the Justice Department from undermining state medical marijuana laws, made it into the final spending bill.

We have no doubt that we will be able to repeal the D.C. rider in the future, setting D.C. completely free to tax and regulate marijuana like other states have done. The D.C. rider may slow us down but it won’t stop us. In any case, Initiative 71 is able to move forward.”

Source: Drug Policy Alliancemake a donation

And from StopTheDrugWar.Org:

By Phillip Smith

Despite the language Republicans managed to include in the “cromnibus” federal spending bill interfering with the District of Columbia’s right to set its own marijuana policies, several leading Democrats say that the Initiative 71 marijuana possession and cultivation legalization initiative is still alive.

A close reading of the relevant language in the bill shows that while it would block the District council from enacting a pending bill to tax and regulate marijuana, it would not undo DC’s decriminalization law. The language around Initiative 71 is less clear, but Democrats involved with the negotiations say it is clear that the legislative intent of the rider in question was to allow both decriminalization and Initiative 71 to stand.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi; Rep. Eleanor Holmes Horton, who represents DC.; Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY), the ranking member on the House appropriations subcommittee that funds DC; Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee; and others have said that the D.C. rider allows Initiative 71 to stand. The D.C. government is blocked from enacting any new marijuana law reforms but it is free to implement and carry out reforms that have already been enacted.

“Initiative 71 was enacted on November 4th when 70% of DC voters approved it, said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Voters wanted to reduce racial disparities in the criminal justice system and focus police resources on serious and violent crime. The will of the people should stand. While Initiative 71 won’t take effect until after the Council transmits it to Congress in January and it goes through an administrative 30-day review period, it has very clearly already been enacted by the voters.”

The Drug Policy Alliance is urging the DC city council to transmit Initiative 71 to Congress as soon as it convenes in January.

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  22 Responses to “It Appears That DC Marijuana Legalization Can Proceed”

  1.  

    This is what I thought was happening, and it will be interesting to watch it play out. I’m troubled that if DC is not able to set up a tax and regulate system, then the Black Market will continue to thrive instead of retreat like what is happening in CO and WA. With legalization becoming a real political issue that can no longer be ignored, much like gay rights (but a little different since it’s a states’ rights issue too), we will all get to see just what side of this issue politicians stand on. Republicans tried to block it in DC, and Dems tried to salvage it.

    •  

      If they set the taxes high enough the Black Market will be well supported.

      •  

        Over-regulation also supports the Black Market.

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          My opinion is the black market will always be around but will change hands from violent cartels gangs etc to passive local friend networks connected to growers.
          I believe there is a big market for both sides for a long time to come. My defense is that it will always be a source of cash no matter how low the prices are driven.

  2.  

    sarijuana, with tax and regulate, they only compete with the black market. therein lies the bullshit. why would i go to a shop and pay way more for it when i can stop in my grower’s and get it much cheaper as we have been for nearly a decade. regulate? regulate the legal providers maybe, the black market is still very much alive in colorado and elsewhere.

    •  

      Not a decade…many decades. I agree the black market is still alive, but their presence is dwindling in legalized places and it will continue as more states get on board. As prices come down we will see less of them unless they adjust their prices too, and that may happen, but the cartels won’t ride those prices down to anything affordable, they will find another place to sell – a place where it’s still illegal, a place where they can get top dollar for their wares.

      Right now I have a choice of buying Black Market weed or go to a dispensary for some regulated stuff. Here, the price is the same either way. I can support the Black Market, or I can support local business. I choose local business. DC doesn’t have that choice and they voted for it.

      And remember…supporting the cartels is supporting some pretty creepy people that provide violence and murder here and abroad. I know that has nothing to do with your local growers, but is the vast majority of illegal weed coming from local growers, especially in places like DC?

      •  

        I find it very difficult to believe that you are seeing comparable prices between the legal shops and the black market. From what I am hearing in the states that are set up with legal shops, the black market has their product marked demonstrably less than what’s available in the shops.

        •  

          First we need to compare apples to apples. The only legal weed in our state is medical. The Black Market is really anything that is grown/sold illegally. That dumps growers of really good buds into the same designation as cartels, unfortunately. High grade bud from local/regional illegal growers is going for essentially the same price as the good bud in the dispensaries. Yes, there is still crap schwag out there that has most likely come from points south, and it IS cheap ($200-$300 per quarter lb.) but it is yuck grade. Here, dispensary buds go for between $9 and $15 per gram, and $63 to $100 per quarter oz. depending on where and what you buy. Local sales tax varies depending on county or municipality, and in my city it is 7%. Here also, high quality bud on the street will cost between $40-$60 per eighth oz. Believe it, or not, it is what it is.

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      There will always be participation by the black market but if the government is not prohibitive with their regulation and taxation, then one should be able to make a purchase at a shop for a fair price based purely on supply and demand.
      The hurdle here, of course, is that the government will not be a passive participant in the sale of cannabis so it will be a wait-and-see how much the black market has a stake in cannabis sales. Based on what I’ve seen in my sixty years with government intervention, the black market will still have a very large share of the cannabis sales. Regulation and taxation is an evil arm of our government.

  3.  

    Thanks for the good news. I think this analysis sounds pretty good, and likely to hold unless there is more hidden pressure applied to override what would be the correct legal judgement. I think DC may not be able to yet implement a system of regulated sale under this law, but prohibition has been ended, thanks to the geniuses who came up with the compromised wording. That requires spending no more money, so it is not itself affected by the Cromnibus law.

    •  

      That was a good link. Thanks! The media did report it all as they wanted it to be seen, just like all the stuff they report on, be it this piece of shit federal full-o-pork bill. What people forget is that most of the crap coming out of their mouths is speculative. We have to dig deeper for more accurate info.

  4.  

    The purpose of alcohol regulation is to support distributor cartels. The purpose of cannabis regulation…

    BTW John McCain’s wife runs one of the cartels.

  5.  

    I am a medical Marijuana patient in DC…. marijuana plus tax in DC is VERY EXPENSIVE!! One gram is $25.00 plus tax!!!!!!!! If DC can legally sale marijuana without taxing it so high, I would stop going on the black market.

    •  

      Glad to see you are an MMJ user! Do you mind if I got some advice from you on getting a card myself?

    •  

      It’s been that way here in Michigan all along. $20 to $30. at the dispensary but no tax. So you see the tax doesn’t hurt it’s the sudden shortage of product which still hasn’t caught up…..that keeps the prices high.
      Grow if you can or find someone who does. All the best my brother/sister.

      •  

        If regulation doesn’t prohibit additional growers to be part of the system, then supply should catch up to demand and drive the price down. It’s the government who has the most influence on what the prices are (presently) but if it’s legal, then the government should be part of the solution and not part of the problem. Right now, they are part of the problem due to the restrictive entry opportunities they have in place.

    •  

      If the distribution and sale of legal cannabis is done correctly, the price should demonstrably come down to where cannabis is available to those who need it or want it for under $200 per ounce. Those days SHOULD be seen but it will take cooperation by our government to be involved and not over-involved on many fronts — including taxation.
      It is up to our government to allow for legal cannabis to be available and affordable on ALL socio-economic levels. It CAN be done —- it’s just a matter of how much government intervention (and just as much the lack thereof) that will allow this to happen.
      There are many who will embark on cultivating their own (kudos to them) but there still will be a sizeable amount who choose to purchase on the open/legal market. If one sees it as cost-prohibitive, then the black market will be the alternative. And if the government intercedes too much by causing a high cost through regulation and taxation, then the black market WILL be the avenue that users employ. It’s up to our government to decide how they want us to proceed as consumers/purchasers…

  6.  

    It appears that this story was released far too soon. Care to make a bet on who released this story? Cannabis in DC is safe, according to Nancy Pelosi who commented on the Bold Progressive site, that this story and its rewrites are just so much smoke and mirrors. So this story should be, Cannabis Remains in DC Despite the Covert Media Actions of it’s Opposition.

  7.  

    I live in Southwestern Virginia. We have some of the best pot growing land in the entire country, yet our farmers live in poverty and our young people rot in prison – What would solve this? Legalize pot in Virginia. #stopthemadnessVA

    •  

      And there are so many states (and its residents) who feel exactly the same as you. My premise and stance has always been that if one is not impinging, impeding, imposing, threatening or victimizing another human being or an animal, then they should have the freedom and the right to do what they wish in their own home or on their own property. This above premise should pretty much be considered the criteria when creating or enacting ANY law. Freedom of choice or having a right should be based on these considerations and criteria listed above. We create laws to protect the innocent and to punish the guilty — I think everyone would agree to that premise.

      The bottom line is that we all, as individuals, have a life to lead and live. As long as we are not adversely affecting someone else’s life, then we should be allowed, and have the right to lead it and live it as we wish — after all, it IS our life. We don’t have to agree or subscribe to how someone else lives — we know that and we shouldn’t be concerned about how they live their life. I care not to know or certainly not to have a hand in how someone else lives their life. If they are having no effect or pose no threat to me living my life as I wish to live, then I am fine.

      This legalization issue has many tentacles and one of them certainly is FREEDOM OF CHOICE, which in a truly democratic and free society, is paramount. And on that theme of a democracy, when we put something up to vote or we factually find that the majority wishes to have an issue addressed, then it should be addressed as the majority wishes. So whether we live in a state that practices the use of ballot initiatives or we have to depend (or be at the mercy of) on our representatives to be our voice, the majority’s will should be heard and acted upon.

      I, of course, truly hope that the DC voters (the vast majority) get their will enacted — after all — we do live in a democracy, don’t we?

      —–

      P.S. I also hope that Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY), the ranking member on the House appropriations subcommittee that funds DC and Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee are working very hard to help us make positive progress toward legalization here in New York State, for we just like EVERY other state in this Nation, have the majority of its residents supporting legalization of cannabis. Why? Well, there’s a myriad of reasons, but certainly, FREEDOM OF CHOICE should be right up there at the top of the list…

      Peace.
      Ilion, NY

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