WASHINGTON — The D.C. Council today again reversed its position on a law banning the consumption of marijuana anywhere outside a private home, even though it is legal for adults to use and possess up to two ounces of marijuana in the District. By voting 7-6 today in favor of B21-107, which would make the “social use ban” permanent, the council ignored its own prior decision to make the ban temporary and set up a task force to study the issue.
The task force, which the council voted to create on February 2, was intended to study how D.C. could move forward to end the ban and allow marijuana consumption in private venues. Although that bill will not officially become law until April 29, following congressional review, steps have already been taken by the mayor and the council to set up the task force.
This is the second unusual reversal by the council. Earlier this year, the council voted to let the ban expire but then reopened the vote and reversed itself after receiving pressure from the mayor. There will be one more vote on the social consumption ban before it is finalized.
Statement from Kate M. Bell, legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project, who has lobbied on this issue since the initial hearing on the ban:
“It’s a shame that the council didn’t allow the task force, which they created, to do its job. At the hearing last year, councilmembers heard how the ban hurts people who live in public housing or apartments where they cannot use marijuana or don’t wish to consume it at home in front of their children. And now, we have clear data showing that the law criminalizing public consumption is disparately enforced, with African Americans constituting 84% of the arrests last year even though they are only 49% of D.C.’s population.
“We hope that D.C.’s newly granted budget autonomy will allow the council to reverse this decision and move toward sensible marijuana policies once congressional riders are removed. But we are very disappointed that the council voted to permanently impose this unnecessary ban on the freedoms that the vast majority of the voters support.”