District of Columbia: Voter-Approved Depenalization Plan To Become Law

District of Columbia officials are moving forward with implementing a voter-approved initiative depenalizing offenses involving the personal possession and/or cultivation of cannabis by adults.

The new law is set to take effect Thursday, February 26, at 12:01am. In a press release issued Tuesday, District officials — including Mayor Muriel Bowser and Police Chief Cathy Lanier — reaffirmed their intent to recognize the will of District voters, 70 percent of whom voted in favor of the municipal measure (I-71).

“In November, residents of the District of Columbia voted to legalize small amounts of marijuana by adults for personal, in-home use in the District,” said Mayor Bowser. “We will uphold the letter and the spirit of the initiative that was passed last year, and we will establish the Initiative 71 Task Force to coordinate our enforcement, awareness and engagement efforts and address policy questions as they arise.”

Initiative 71 permits adults to possess up to two ounces of marijuana and to cultivate up to six marijuana plants (no more than three mature at any one time) in one’s primary residence without facing any criminal or civil penalty. Not-for-profit transactions involving small amounts of the substance are also permitted; however, for-profit sales are prohibited as is the retail production or distribution of the plant.

The consumption of cannabis in public or on federal property also remains prohibited.

District officials contend that they possess the legal authority to depenalize minor marijuana offenses despite the passage of a federal spending provision in December prohibiting the District from spending any tax dollars to implement the new law. They argue that the municipal measure took effect upon passage in November and that Congress failed to take any explicit action to overturn the law during its requisite 30-day review period. (This Congressional review period is mandated law before any new District legislation may be imposed.)

District officials’ stance is not without some vocal critics. Earlier this week, two Republican members of Congress sent a letter to DC’s Mayor warning that Congress may take action if I-71 is enforced.

“If you decide to move forward … with the legalization of marijuana in the District, you will be doing so in knowing and willful violation of the law,” reads the letter signed by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), chairman of the subcommittee that handles DC affairs.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Rep. Chaffetz threatened Mayor Bowser and city officials, stating, “[If District officials are] under any illusion that this would be legal, they are wrong. And there are very severe consequences for violating this provision. You can go to prison for this. We’re not playing a little game here.”

To date, neither spokespersons for the Mayor’s office and/or the DC City Council have responded directly to the Congressmen nor have they indicated that they intend to reconsider their decision to implement I-71 as voters intended.

35 thoughts

  1. They may be successful, hope so, if the Congress goes after them, I would hope mpp or norml will step up and help keep them out of a federal prison.

    Very ballsy what they are doing.

  2. Excellent decision by the DC Mayor Bowser and other DC officials in implementing I-71, this is the will of the voters of D.C. and should be carried forth for the name of freedom and justice for all! Mayor Bowser your decision to implement the new law should become new order for all states to follow immediately. This will support the will of the people and ensure there will be no cartel in D.C. because there is no money to be made for the cartels in D.C. All of the other states should implement this as a new standard all across America. No more marijuana cartels in the USA. Thank you again, signed: Trojan72 from the BACKWARD STATE of GEORGIA. end prohibition AND put the cartels out OF business! period! Excellent Choice. Very Wise Choice.

  3. So we have a super-majority of black voters in DC telling some rich, powerful, sanctimonious white guy politician he can’t override their vote.

    This anarchy could spell the doom of Western civilization!!!!!!!

  4. Are Jason Chaffetz and Mark Meadows mentally handicapped? Seriously, the law was passed by voters with all the lawful restrictions preventing voters from passing laws that require spending. In no way shape or form is moving head with this statue a violation of the Spending Bill.

    Jason Chaffetz and Mark Meadows don’t even understand how the law works and yet, somehow, these morons were sent to Washington with the idea they will be writing laws. If these goons cannot understand so simple of an issue, how can they contribute to writing anything certain to be more complex???

  5. No regulation is what Congress wanted? I have a sneaking suspicion when the contingent that was attempting to close implementation of this initiative down they thought they had won.
    I am pretty sure they did not foresee the mayor moving forward with a bare bones law.
    Must be tough to be stupid enough to think that when there is a resounding demand for change, by the constituents of the area, said voters would just let the powers that be dictate to them what was going to occur.
    Congress does have a few power-crazed representatives in their midst, but some must honestly believe their version of morality trumps the will of the people.

  6. wow we vote for something an it happens… are we in America? Quick ring the liberty bell! So this is what freedom feels like. WHO WOULD DEBATE CANNABIS ISNT SAFE AN WILL CAUSE YOU TO GO CRAZY!??? no one can now DC is on board! NEXT WILL B CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE ACT TO CHANGE FOR THE BETTER!!!

  7. I can understand why Chaffetz (R-UT)and Meadows(R-NC)are so frightened about the possibility of depenalization in DC: they realize that it will eventually lead to . . . Benghazi! Oh, the humanity!

    Uh, like Chaffetz said, “We’re not playing a little game here!”

  8. Sounds like the prohibitionists (Chaffetz, Meadows et al) may try to put some one in jail over this. If it was as simple as that I am sure it would already have been done in Washington (state) or Colorado. Anyway 2 Republican members of congress have spoken up and will have to try something or effectively end their careers in politics. If that does happen it will all be resolved fairly soon but I cannot see legalisation being dismantled – far more likely is the end of federal prohibition. These 2 men may have done us a favour in speaking out in this way and making their threats.

  9. If the Democrats were smart, they would get behind this issue and start initiatives in every state for the voter mobilization!

  10. Game on! Just in time for my visit to D.C. In a couple of weeks! Missed the thirty day review period, didja Congress? So now prohibitionists are sooooo angry that they would threaten the police chief and the mayor of D.C. with Prison time?

    Thanks Paul for explaining this very convoluted law.

    And all this when at any moment we could receive Federal Judge Mueller’s decision to declare the scheduling of marijuana unconstitutional. I wonder what Republican Congressman will say when the Judge rules for the defense? “Oh well, that’s just a Federal Judge’s ruling,” even though a recent Federal judge’s immigration ruling would appear to be law already to them.

    Face it Chaffetz and Meadows; You’re on the wrong side of history.

  11. This is surely going to be an interesting day. I would love to be there to see the crowd of people. It’s also going to be a day that will change everything. Have fun. Be safe. Be free.

    To: Rep. Jason Chaffetz
    I participated in the breaking of federal law concerning legalization of marijuana. So get your warrant and come get me too. I look foward to meeting you sir. Bring your friends.

  12. Social conservatives love nanny state methods when they appeal to their proclivities. The sure as heck do not love freedom!

  13. America is awesome! Designed to grow and change with the enlightenment of Man. Well done D.C. We are one step closer to a more civilized existence.

  14. Its so nice to see the people finally get what they voted for ,,,but remember one thing//// they did not get there rec, shops.or tax bennies for d.c.,,,we really need to stand up and be Americans again and control our government instead of them controlling US we the people are what should be controlling this country ..its time for a nation wide vote there are so many bennifits with cannabis use …

  15. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) are the perfect example of what is wrong with politics in this country. They should be tossed out of office and onto their butts for their efforts to thwart the will of the people they are supposed to be serving!

  16. The Republican response to the implementation of I-71 is not only ridiculous, but has resulted in a bonanza of media attention on the issue. Way to go, guys!

  17. As Macklemore said: “This is f–king awesome!”

    @Julian – so funny with “Missed the thirty day review period, didja Congress?” What a burn, they’re toast.

    Keep the snowball rolling everybody.

  18. “Sounds like the prohibitionists (Chaffetz, Meadows et al) may try to put some one in jail over this.”

    Yeah, that kind of is the point of making marijuana illegal in the first place. So innocent people can be sent jail, sometimes for life with the only reason being so Crackers make illegal profits by wasting Tax Payer Money in a well known scam. They Flush the money down a toilet that leads to their own pockets, the blood goes else where. Mostly to Mexico.

    Success here would be a proud moment for all the corrupt and mental in our government.

  19. The best thing i think will save this country is to put all elected officials in office by (votes only) not by the amount of money they raise, make, or have/// there is to much corruption and greed in this country ////it has got to stop??? ELECTED officials should only be allowed to 1 AND REPEAT FOR 1 TERM ,,VOTED IN BY THE PEOPLE NOT GREED OR MONEY …SO TIRED OF WATCHING OUR OFFICIALS ARGUE AND BRIBE EACH OTHER ITS REDICULOUS …ITS GOTTEN CARRIED AWAY we the people need our country back START WITH A NATION WIDE VOTE ON CANNABIS?? GOD BLESS THIS MESS

  20. I read in The Cannabist that Chaffetz and his ilk are being petty and vindictive about legalization in DC, and are threatening to pull funding. I read in HuffingtonPost yesterday that he and his prohibitionist pals are requesting documents with names and hours worked for people who worked and spent public money to implement it. Cannabist Quote & link below. Jason Chaffetz, the prohibitionist dick from Utah who has been groomed to carry Orrin Hatch’s prohibitionist bullshit into the House.

    “Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican who chairs the House Oversight Committee, urged Bowser in a letter late Tuesday to reconsider. He said that the mayor and any other district employees who spend money or time implementing any aspect of the initiative could face prison time for violating federal law.”


  21. Maybe the D.C. government should file a lawsuit against Congress! And if Congress continues to meddle it might be time for the residents of D.C. to hold a very large rally on the steps of the Capital building while Congress is in session.

  22. Ignorance is bliss when it leads you to frustration and intolerance. Cannabis acceptance by the political elite will erode their fiscal demands to promote their cash cow, prohibition.

  23. Chaffetz is just mad because Romney didn’t make it. Republicans have long made it clear they do not care a hoot about the will of the people.

    The reason Bowser was able to accomplish this, of course, is because DC is not under state rule, which sort of makes her like the governor there. Let’s hope that autonomy endures when the dreaded monster Jason and his house repubs start yapping. Even so, I doubt she goes to jail.

    Bless you your courage and sacrifice, Honorable Mayor Bowser.

    From the 19th-Century State of NC.

  24. “We are not going to be bullied into submission.”
    -D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Feb. 24th, 2015
    “Going to jail would be a bad thing… But… I am the duly elected Mayor of the District of Columbia; I was elected to serve the people and that is what I intend to do.”

  25. Could they really go to prison for NOT enforcing prohibition? I get it, profiting from MJ in the district is illegal. But doing nothing at all about weed- legal right? Let the Feds enforce it if they want to; they’ve got a smaller police presence than the District.

  26. Big Salute to Mayor Muriel Bowser and Police Chief Cathy Lanier!!! You are true leaders and your actions are heroic!

    Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) are just your typical prohibitionists. You know: ignorant, racists, greedy, don’t care about the people they are supposed to serve, facist; generally just human trash… I sure hope they good people of Utah and North Carolina wise up and get rid of these two…

  27. I WANT IN-STATE GROWING in Georgia because I need the medicine and can’t afford to buy from those GOVERNORS AND SHERIFF DEPT. POLICE PROTECTED STREET DEALERS!! Let’s get the GOVERNMENT CRIMINALS OUT of the MARIJUANA business! END PROHIBITION NOW!!!!
    Signed: A concerned peaceful, law abiding voter from the BACKWARD STATE of Georgia! TWEET THIS!!!!

  28. Ok, Rep’s Meadows, Chaffetz fine. Rule one in my personal code of conduct, never threaten anyone, not even in a joking manner, bad idea…

  29. The real criminals are…Congress. All you ignorant politicians, you are hereby put on notice: CHANGE is happening–with or without you!! When you drag yourselves into the 21st century, you’ll see it.

  30. I’m pleased that D.C. government is standing up for the will of the people.
    I’m also disgusted by the narrow minded views by some posters thinking that cannabis is only a liberal issue.You are slowing political progress by not supporting bipartisan support.
    Liberals rule Maryland and yet I still can’t get even medical cannabis.

  31. Wounded, there are kooks that self identify as Liberals or Conservative, but are neither. The “liberals party” might be in charge, but “liberals” are not throwing innocent people in jail. But Liberals and Conservatives alike are allowing folks with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder to continue arresting innocent marijuana users. Why though? What is good about the government having too much authority???

    The contards cry about marijuana being dangerous, while ignoring real dangers of pollution. The say the Endangered Species Act is an attack on American’s Rights, because it modified your land usages if you have endangered species on your property. That this is governmental overreach! But jailing marijuana users somehow isn’t, it is something we have to do. Contards make not sense.

    Liberals have a no interest in expanding personal freedom; unless they can figure out a way to make you pay through the nose for it. Who do you think wants to tax marijuana too much and continue driving money into the hands of Cartels???: Libtards with their disordered thoughts; never heard of a tax or subsidy or useless regulation that they don’t love.

    On the other hand, we have the contards, they think if you paint a Fracking Drill Bit pink, the Fracking will not cause cancer.

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