Washington DC Mayor Threatened With Jail Time Over Legalization

Washington DC Mayor Threatened With Jail Time Over Legalization

The day before marijuana was scheduled to be officially legalized in Washington D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser was warned that she could face time in jail if she allows legalization to go through in the District.

Although the voters of Washington D.C. demonstrated their support the legalization of marijuana last election day, a rider attached to the federal omnibus spending bill blocked any money from being spent to establish legalization regulations or implement any “law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution of any schedule I substance.”

Marijuana is classified as a Schedule I substance, despite the fact that many medical organizations, scientists and people, including lawmakers, are calling for it to be rescheduled.

The federal spending bill was signed by President Obama, and therefore it is illegal for District officials to spend even a single dollar to enact Initiative 71. After Mayor Bowser announced on Tuesday February 24 that marijuana would become legal at 12:01 am on Thursday February 26, she was issued a warning.

Two lawmakers, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) issued Mayor Bowser a letter stating, “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.”

During an interview with The Washington Post, Rep. Chaffetz spoke more about the issue,

“Federal law, signed by the president, confirms that D.C. cannot move forward. If they are under any illusion that this would be legal, they are wrong. And there are very severe consequences for violating this provision.”

Rep. Chaffetz continued,

“You can go to prison for this. We’re not playing a little game here.”

The letter, authored by Representatives Chaffetz and Meadows, also demands a response from Mayor Bowser containing very specific details about the city employees involved in the legalization process, among other information. The information required, due no later than March 10, includes the names of all employees who “participated in any way in any action related to the enactment of Initiative 71,” as well as each person’s title, salary and number of hours dedicated to related work. The letter also asks for names of any person who refused to participate in the enactment of Initiative 71.

Just days after being sworn in as the new Mayor of Washington D.C. in January, Mayor Bowser promised to fight for the will of DC voters during an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, with the statement,

“We want to respect the will of the D.C. voters, and we think that initiative 71 was self-enacting. … We want to work with our Congress and we want the will of the residents of D.C. to be enforced.”

Mayor Bowser came through with her promise on Thursday February 26 when she announced that marijuana was effectively legal in the District. Mayor Bowser and Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier have worked hard to educate District residents on exactly what is and what is not legal under Initiative 71.

It will be very interesting to see how this plays out. The warning letter from the two representatives alludes to the notion that they may be planning to take some kind of legal action against all city employees involved in the enactment of Initiative 71 since it request such detailed information.

mayor muriel bowser

photo credit: Washington City Paper, Muriel For Mayor

Washington D.C. Marijuana Legalization Facts

Washington D.C. Marijuana Legalization Facts

After many hurdles, the marijuana legalization amendment approved by voters in November 2014 went into effect in the first minute of Thursday February 26.

Although there will not be any legally-operating recreational marijuana dispensaries in the capital city of the United States, there are many changes that residents should understand to prevent any misunderstandings.

Under the new law, adults aged 21 and older may legally:

  • Possess up to 2 ounces of cannabis at any time.
  • Use marijuana on private property.
  • Gift (without payment) up to 1 ounce of cannabis to another adult.
  • Cultivate up to 6 plants in a secure location, no more than 3 of which can be mature.

The legalization amendment did not alter the ban on public usage, however, nor driving under the influence. Any person caught using marijuana in public or driving after using will still risk legal trouble. Any person caught trading marijuana for money, instead of ‘gifting,’ will also still risk prosecution.

What are the penalties?

  • An individual arrested for consuming marijuana in public will face up to 60 days in jail or a $500 fine.
  • First time offenders convicted of selling marijuana will face 6 months in jail or a $1,000 fine.
  • Restaurant and business owners that allow patrons to use marijuana will risk losing their business license and certificate of occupancy.

On February 24, Mayor Muriel Bowser tweeted the infographic below to help simplify the new laws for District residents. Even more useful tools and a list of frequently asked questions to help residents of Washington D.C. understand the new laws can be found on mayor.dc.gov, and they are printed below.

washington dc marijuana law

 marijuana legalization washington dc
New Mayor Defends the Will of The Voters in Washington D.C.

New Mayor Defends the Will of The Voters in Washington D.C.

washington dc mayor marijuana

The voters of Washington D.C. approved the marijuana legalization amendment, Initiative 71, with overwhelming support last election day. Then Congress interfered by attaching a rider to the federal spending bill which disallows the use of federal funds or local fees to establish a regulatory system for cannabis retailers and cultivators within the District. Essentially, Congress has permitted decriminalization, but has blocked the creation of a legal retail market.

The new Mayor of Washington D.C., Muriel Bowser, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” anchor Chuck Todd that she plans to defend the voters of her District, and will explore all options in doing so. When asked if she plans to challenge Congress on the issue of blocking full implementation of Initiative 71, Mayor Bowser said,

“We want to respect the will of the D.C. voters, and we think that initiative 71 was self-enacting. … We want to work with our Congress and we want the will of the residents of D.C. to be enforced.”

When Todd repeated the question, “Are you going to sue Congress over this?” Mayor Bowser responded,

“We are going to explore every option to get our law enforced, so that the chief [of police] can also be very clear with the officers of what is legal in the District and what is not.”

Mayor Bowser was vague about her exact plan of action, but she made it clear that she plans to stand up for the voters of Washington D.C.. She also discussed her vision for Washington D.C. to establish full democracy and statehood separate from the Federal Government. The District was originally established to serve as the seat of the Federal Government, but now many people with voting rights live within the District who have absolutely nothing to do with government operations. It seems to be moving away from what it once was, and Mayor Bowser seems to have a plan for change.

Initiative 71, as it stands currently in the District, allows adults aged twenty-one years or older may possess up to two ounces of marijuana for personal use. Of-age adults may also cultivate up to six cannabis plants in a personal residence with three or fewer of those plants being mature. Transferring up to one ounce of marijuana, without payment, between adults is also legal. As is, possessing and selling paraphernalia for growing, using or processing cannabis.


photo credit: Washingtonian

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