D.C. Activists Getting Creative in Fight for a Marijuana Industry

Legalization advocates in Washington D.C. have been getting creative in their attempts to overturn an act of Congress that blocks their ability to conduct marijuana business. Last week, members of the D.C. Cannabis Campaign dressed in tricorner hats and other iconic “patriot” costumes and stormed the office of Congressman Jason Chaffetz, the Republican Representative of Utah who blocked the voter-approved Initiative 71. Chaffetz — who threatened D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser with jail time if she implemented the legalization law — was offered a glass pipe as a peace offering.

On the same Tuesday, D.C. Brau Brewing unveiled their “Smells Like Freedom” beer, a green-tinted IPA that both smells and tastes like marijuana (yet does not contain actual cannabis). Chief executive and co-founder of D.C. Brau Brandon Skall says his company released the beer in solidarity with efforts to tax and regulate marijuana sales, so that residents of the District can enjoy the infrastructure revenue from that market.

“There’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to benefit the same way they do in Colorado,” Skall told The Washington Post. “You walk into a D.C. public school, you see empty bookshelves, you seen underfunding, you see teachers going out and spending their [own] money to buy kids supplies. We should be able to benefit the same way that other states do. . . I’ll tell you straight up, I don’t smoke pot, but I believe 100 percent in people’s freedom to do so. I think that if we didn’t have people standing for the end of prohibition . . . this business would not be here today.”

Last year alone, the state of Colorado reaped $76 million in taxes and fees from its recreational and medical marijuana industries. While D.C.’s voter approved ballot initiative technically “legalized” marijuana, Congress has forbade the selling of the drug, which cuts the local government out of any potential tax revenue from sales.

Due to the control Congress has over D.C. spending, efforts to reform marijuana policy in the District have often been squashed by federal lawmakers, who stalled the city’s medical marijuana program for over a decade.

Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project co-directed the campaign in Colorado to legalize marijuana in 2012, and says that he’s optimistic about D.C.’s ability to overcome the  Congressional block against marijuana sales. According to Tvert:

“There appears to be strong support among D.C. officials for regulating and taxing marijuana. We believe they have the ability to do so this year by using reserve funds, which federal law allows them to use to take actions in the interest of public health and safety. Using funds to remove marijuana from the underground market and start controlling marijuana cultivation and sales could not be a better example of an expenditure being made in the interest public health and safety. We hope the mayor and council members will continue to stand up for the voters and take this course of action. We expect to see the District to adopt a system of regulating and taxing marijuana within the next year or two, if not this year.”

Photo Credit: Doug Kerr


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