By Keyonna Jones Lindsay
It’s been over a month since Mayor Muriel Bowser made a public TV announcement that marijuana possession and cultivation would be legal in the District of Columbia. “We believe that we’re acting lawfully,” said Bowser and despite urge from Congress to reconsider, including threats of jail time, the Mayor moved forward.
Midnight, February 26, Initiative 71 became effective legalizing possession of up to two ounces of marijuana for D.C. residents and visitors over the age of 21. The law also allows home cultivation of at least six plants, possession of paraphernalia and sharing of the substance. Buying or selling the drug and smoking in public remain illegal. Although Congress didn’t have much luck in getting their way, they did prevent the city from enacting any future rules to tax and sale marijuana in the way Colorado and Washington State have done.
The District is no stranger to disappointments when it comes to marijuana. Back in 1998, similar things happened where Congress passed legislation, blocking a resident voted referendum that would have legalized medical marijuana in the city. Not until March of 2013, did the District finally get a chance to open its first medical marijuana dispensary, over a decade later.
Even in a “friendlier” time for marijuana reform, Initiative 71 still faced some obstacles before it came into fruition. D.C. Cannabis Campaign, a grass-root organization, led the efforts and in July submitted the required signatures to the city’s Board of Elections to get the initiative on November’s ballot. Despite warnings from anti-marijuana activist to organize against the efforts, District voters overwhelmingly passed Initiative 71 with more than 70 percent of the vote. Following the vote, in December, Republicans added a provision to the House’s spending bill banning the District from using any of its funds to legislate marijuana legalization. Because the District is not a state and lacks budget autonomy, lawmakers tend to block DC laws by telling the city how it can spend its money. The spending bill that was passed in December by both chambers with anti-marijuana restrictions. Spending bill or no spending bill, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton argued, the law had been enacted when the residents of the District voted in favor and all the city needed to do was implement it, which the Mayor has now done.
Last month, the District hosted its first legal marijuana seed giveaway, the first of any kind to happen across the country. D.C. Cannabis Campaign, continuing its leadership in the movement, organized two seed giveaways, the first held in Adams Morgan. The #seedshare project brought out hundreds, if not a thousands, to line up for their chance at free seeds to plant in their comfort of their own home. The turn-out was strong and steady even once it started raining. Each person who showed up and presented ID showing age of 21 or older, received two dozen seeds, for free, as required by D.C. law.
“You can’t even ask to say when you grow those plants, ‘I want the marijuana when you’re done.’ You can’t do that either,” said Adam Eidinger, one of the leaders of the movement. The law allows people to give the seed of the drug away for free and organizers of the #seedshare say it informs people to “enjoy the freedoms” of the new law.