D.C. Council Schedules, then Cancels Hearing on Legal Marijuana Sales

A D.C. Council hearing regarding the sale of legal marijuana in the District was cancelled on Monday, and an informal discussion was held in its place, the Washington Post reports.

The meeting had been organized to receive public input on a system for retail marijuana sales in the District, as per Initiative 71, a voter-approved bill to legalize and regulate cannabis, which passed in November with 70 percent approval. However, after a warning from District Attorney Karl Racine, city lawmakers decided to cancel the meeting and hold an informal discussion period in its place.

Racine urged the Council to hold off because of a rider on the Congressional spending bill that prohibits the District from spending any funds in an attempt to alter local marijuana laws. “The issue here is not whether Initiative 71, which was, in our view, enacted before the 2015 Appropriations Act became effective, but, rather, whether the hearing on this bill — which was not enacted by the time the rider took effect — would violate the rider,” Racine explained in a letter to the Council.

He warned that the hearing could potentially result in federal fines of up to $5,000 and two years in jail for the lawmakers and any staff who were to help conduct the meeting. “I reluctantly conclude that it would be unlawful to [continue] notwithstanding my full support of the sentiments behind your desire to conduct this hearing,” Racine wrote.

And though the Council’s chief attorney, David Zvenyach, wrote in response that he disagreed with Racine on the subject, the Council heeded the attorney general’s warning and called off the hearing. In its place, an informational round-table discussion was held on the topic.

Initiative 71 would legalize the possession of up to two ounces of cannabis and allow home cultivation of up to three plants per adult, and called for a system of taxes and regulations for the commercial cultivation and distribution of the drug.

Meanwhile, President Obama recently proposed changes to the national budget plan that would allow D.C. to spend its own, locally-sourced funds on setting up a regulated marijuana market.




Photo Credit: Nicolas Raymond


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