WTF, DC? Council OKs Cannabis Clubs, Then Bans Them

Published on January 6, 2016 · Last updated July 28, 2020

In a whiplash-inducing session on Tuesday, the Washington, D.C. Council voted to drop its ban on cannabis use at private functions — then minutes later reversed itself and voted to outlaw it once again. 

Aaron Davis reports for the Washington Post:

For a brief time Tuesday, the D.C. Council embraced a new, much more relaxed version of marijuana legalization, voting to allow pot smoking at rooftop bars, sidewalk patios and most any other place a city resident declared to be a private pot club.

That lasted just about 30 minutes. After appeals from Mayor Muriel E. Bowser, who argued there would be no way to rein in open pot use once existing restrictions were lifted, the council reversed itself.

The city has no ability to license pot clubs, of course, because Congress has specifically denied the District permission to fully implement its 2014 legalization vote. U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., has repeatedly blocked attempts to open a legal avenue for recreational cannabis and continues to draw the ire of cannabis proponents in both the District and in his home state. 

In other words, cannabis possession is legal in D.C., but Congress continues to block the District’s ability to regulate it.

Washington City Paper writer Will Sommer caught the spirit of the day perfectly:

Officials aren't done yet. According to the Post, the Council plans to revisit the issue soon and could reverse its own reversal:

Several lawmakers said their change of heart could be short-lived, and the council agreed to reconsider the issue again within four weeks. That leaves open the question of how the council, Bowser and perhaps Congress will resolve a major disagreement about how lenient the city should be in regulating the smoking of pot in public.

Washington D.C. Prepares for Legalization Despite Threats From Congress

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Bruce Barcott
Bruce Barcott
Leafly Senior Editor Bruce Barcott oversees news, investigations, and feature projects. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and author of Weed the People: The Future of Legal Marijuana in America.
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