SIMMONS: It’s high time someone made sense on D.C. pot plan

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Thank you, Mr. Irvin B. Nathan.

There are a lot of folks both here in the nation’s capital and elsewhere in the country who are none too pleased with Mr. Nathan’s legal rendering on the D.C. marijuana initiative.


SEE ALSO: AG: Proposed D.C. marijuana-legalization referendum would violate federal law


But, hey, no lawyer makes all the people happy all the time.

Besides, that’s not his job.

As the attorney general for the District of Columbia, Mr. Nathan wrote a clear-eyed letter to the D.C. Board of Elections that narrowly explains why the board should not approve a November ballot proposal to decriminalize.

D.C. Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan (The Washington Times)

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D.C. Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan (The Washington Times) more >

Mr. Nathan says in his Feb. 19 letter to the board’s general counsel, Kenneth J. McGhie, that federal law trumps D.C. law.

The marijuana issue is another distraction.

The District has serious business in need of practical and undivided leadership — from hunger and homelessness to education and economic development to unfilled and disjointed civic needs.

If nobody and everybody walking around is high, sober ideas will never make it to the table.

Heck, folks won’t even be able to find the discussion table, considering this gnawing fact: The initiative would allow individuals to possess, purchase, use or transport up to 2 ounces of marijuana as their personal stash, and allow them to cultivate up to six plants, three of which can be mature.

Imagine the clouds of smoke in homes and businesses. Hotels. Dorms. The National Mall. Parks, including Lafayette Square, where the William Tecumseh Sherman Monument and protesters during the heady 1960s stood by, awaiting the words “pass the joint.” Public transportation areas, affordable housing complexes and public housing.

Wait. Public housing? Yes. Enter Mr. Nathan.

In his letter, Mr. Nathan spelled out his chief legal reasoning by saying that the initiative “would violate federal law because it conflicts with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act.”

“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. It conflicts with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, which (as amended) requires that public housing leases make ‘drug-related criminal activity’ on or off public-housing premises a cause for terminating a public-housing lease.”

That the city’s attorney general weighed in on pot decriminalization is no small matter.

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About the Author
Deborah Simmons

Deborah Simmons

Award-winning opinion writer Deborah Simmons is a senior correspondent who reports on City Hall and writes about education, culture, sports and family-related topics. Mrs. Simmons has worked at several newspapers, and since joining The Washington Times in 1985, has served as editorial-page editor and features editor and on the metro desk. She has taught copy editing at the University of ...

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