- The Washington Times - Friday, December 11, 2015

Marijuana advocates in the District of Columbia on Thursday threatened to work toward taking local lawmakers out of office if the D.C. Council continues with an effort to establish new restrictions affecting the city’s recently enacted pot laws.

In the face of a proposal that aims to permanently prohibit “cannabis clubs” from popping up within city limits, representatives from the D.C. Marijuana Justice Campaign and other pro-pot activists told council members this week that they’ll fight back with a proposal of their own.

Approval of ballot initiative 71 in November 2014 made D.C. one of the few jurisdictions in the country where adults can legally grow and own marijuana plants, but Mayor Muriel Bowser and a majority of the council have since thrown their weight behind a proposal that would ensure clubs and businesses keep patrons from consuming cannabis products on premises.

Ms. Bowser, a Democrat who took office in January, is seeking to make permanent an emergency measure passed after legalization took effect in March that prohibits marijuana use in public places and private clubs alike.

Codifying the rule would keep “cannabis clubs” from opening in the District, supporters of the proposal have argued, but marijuana advocates said it also disenfranchises low-income residents who reside in public housing where marijuana isn’t permitted.

“You can regulate use better in a public place. We’re not asking for thousands of locations. This is just a matter of the places that want to let people use marijuana on the premises would be able to say yes,” advocate Adam Eidinger told the WAMU radio station last week. “The current law prohibits any venue from selling marijuana or promising marijuana in exchange for admission. But what they’re doing with this bill is banning any kind of use of use outside the home. There’s a big problem with that, because there are lots of people who have nowhere to use their cannabis.”

Failing to see eye to eye with the D.C. Council just yet, Mr. Eidinger said pot proponents are prepared to spearhead an effort to ensure lawmakers who support the mayor’s proposal feel the wrath of weed-loving residents.

During a hearing Thursday where the bill was discussed, Mr. Eidinger touted two proposals: one that seeks to treat pot “the same as tobacco as far as its public use,” and another that would re-establish term limits for local council members.

If the city continues to pursue its anti-pot agenda without consulting with its residents, Mr. Eidinger said, advocates will put their weight behind a bill that would establish two-term limits for the mayor and council members for the first time since 2001.

“If D.C. Council passes this unnecessary legislation, DCMJ.org, my organization with more than 10,000 supporters across D.C. and the region, will be forced to bring [these] initiatives … to clarify what the people want versus the special interests you seem to be serving by even considering this prejudicial and harmful bill to marijuana users and their families,” he testified at the hearing, City Paper reported. “You are simply forcing a new voter initiative if you pass this terrible bill that creates a political crisis for medical marijuana patients instead of making or city a better place for all residents.”

“Members of the #DCCouncil that vote to remove basic freedoms for marijuana users are placing a bulls eye on their political career,” the marijuana justice group tweeted last week.

Kenyan McDuffie, the D.C. Council Judiciary Committee chairman, said private group use of marijuana will be decided early next year, a local NBC News affiliate reported.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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