Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Friday, January 18, 2019

Fridays with Mary J: D.C. Council tries to move forward with marijuana sales, fails


It’s tough being a cannabis plant in the District of Columbia. The residents love you but Congress doesn’t. To explain the fiasco, Fridays with Mary J is back, the definitive weekly roundup on whether marijuana is legal yet in D.C. Here’s the latest on what happened in the District’s fight to legalize weed:

No hearing for you!

This week got off to a shaky start when the D.C. Council tried to hold a public hearing on how to tax and sell marijuana, but instead councilmembers and staffers were threatened by fines and jail time. The District’s Attorney General Karl Racine warned in a letter to the Council that simply holding a hearing would violate Congress’s decision to block D.C. from loosening pot laws.

Here’s the issue: holding a hearing would technically require spending money. In December, Congress passed a massive budget bill with a provision tucked deep inside: no federal or local funds can be spent to loosen marijuana laws in the District. Holding a hearing could violate that provision, Racine said in his letter.

Instead of a hearing, the D.C. Council held the next best thing: a public roundtable. As Aaron C. Davis reported in the Washington Post, business leaders who set up sales of marijuana in Colorado and Washington were able to give advice on how the city could set up its own regulations. Councilmembers want the city to tax and sell marijuana at shops that acquire permits, similarly to alcohol and tobacco. —Read the full article.

Congress to D.C., basically.

On Friday’s WAMU Kojo Nnamdi Show, D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D) was quizzed on the decision to call off a formal hearing.

“You seem to feel that a hearing Monday morning at the Wilson Building is a major territory to stake out our issues with congress — I wouldn’t agree,” Mendelson said in response to NBC4 reporter Tom Sherwood.

Mendelson disparaged Congress’s meddling, as it will prevent the District from being able to tax and regulate a drug which will be legal after the end of the month. He also said a number of members of Congress have ignored attempts by his office to hold meetings. —Watch the full interview.

Mayor Bowser making the rounds on Capitol Hill

Mayor Muriel Bowser made the trek up to Congress Thursday, holding conversations with Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland), House Minority Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and other members of Congress. Roll Call reported she spent part of her time with Pelosi chatting about congressional meddling in the city’s marijuana laws. Pelosi seemed to support D.C.’s elected officials and voters.

“When asked what Pelosi said during their discussion of the marijuana initiative, Bowser responded, ‘Her concern is that residents of the District of Columbia should enjoy the rights that every other American has. And that their elected leaders and voters should pass laws that affect the residents of the District of Columbia, without intrusion by the Congress.’” —Read the full article.

Last Friday acting U.S. Drug Czar Michael Botticelli, who directs the country’s drug-control policy, made some headlines with the following statement in D.C.:

“The acting U.S. drug czar says the federal government shouldn't interfere with the District of Columbia's move to legalize possession of marijuana for recreational use.

Botticelli said Friday that while he doesn't agree with legalization, he believes the District ‘should stick to its home rule.’” —Read the full article.

Bonus: An interview with Adam Eidinger, chairman of D.C. Cannabis Campaign

The Eagle’s Zach Ewell profiled Eidinger, the man who led the charge for Initiative 71 to legalize marijuana. He is an AU alum who says he was introduced to weed at the University. Watch video and read the story here.

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