Racial Justice a Major Factor in D.C. Cannabis Decriminalization
Along with voters in Alaska and Oregon, the progressive voters in the nation’s capitol will decide in November on whether to legalize adult consumption of cannabis in D.C. This is the latest in a slew of recent victories for D.C. racial justice and cannabis law reform advocates. While D.C.’s medical cannabis ballot initiative was one of the first in the nation to pass back in 1998 — Congress stonewalled implementation of the measure until 2012.
The dam seems to have broken, however, and the Obama Administration has issued statements in support of D.C.’s right to decide its own cannabis policies. Just weeks ago, the D.C. city council recently expanded the medical cannabis law in DC to allow physicians to prescribe medical cannabis for any condition; and the D.C. city council passed the most sweeping decriminalization measure in the country. It replaces jail time and a felony record for possession with a simple $25 ticket.
The council members cited tremendous racial discrimination as the main motivation for the law reform. This Stemps from 91% of D.C. residents who have been arrested in recent years have been non-white, despite being just 50% of the population and having near identical usage rates as whites. Just two weeks into new the decriminalization policy, nearly 75% of the cannabis possession tickets have been issued to non-whites. Thus ending racial justice continues to be a major context for the latest campaign to pass Initiative 71.
D.C. Medical Cannabis Initiative Makes it Easily onto the Ballot
This Wednesday, the D.C. Board of Elections announced that Initiative 71 qualified for the November ballot — not a big surprise as the D.C. Cannabis Campaign submitted 57,000 signatures last month, over twice the number needed to qualify. Two recent polls reveal support for the measure to be around 60-65% of expected D.C. voters.
But cannabis reform activists aren’t planning to sit on their laurels. Dr. Malik Burnett, D.C. Policy manager for Drug Policy Alliance, says they aim to run an aggressive education campaign and register an additional 50,000 voters for the November ballot.
Burnett told The Cannabis Report this Friday, “All eyes will be on D.C. this November. It is right in the backyard of Congress, and we are very excited about putting an end to marijuana prohibition here in the nation’s capitol.”
Initiative 71 would allow D.C. residents over 21 to possess up to 2 oz. of cannabis and to grow up to six plants. District law prevents the ballot initiative from addressing the sale and distribution of cannabis. The D.C. Council, however, is currently considering a bill which would tax and regulate marijuana within the District should the ballot initiative pass.
California Cannabis News
Santa Cruz County Supervisors to Put Dispensary Tax Before Voters
The supervisors of Santa Cruz County voted to put a 7% dispensary tax before voters in November. The county estimates the tax would generate $900,000 annually, but operators — some of whom have cracked open their financial books for county officials — say the same figure could be reached with no more than a 3% tax.
If passed, Santa Cruz County will join a handful of California local governments that tax medical cannabis sales. San Jose, for example, has had a 7% tax in place since 2011.
Problematic California Cannabis Bill to Have Final Committee Meeting Next Week
In Sacramento, a date has been set for statewide medical cannabis regulatory bill SB 1262 to have its final committee hearing before possibly moving to the Assembly floor for a full vote before the end of August when the legislative session ends for the year. SB 1262 will be heard next Wednesday, August 13th.
The bill has lost the support of most drug law reform advocates due to recent amendments. While Americans for Safe Access continues to support the bill, CalNORML, Emerald Growers Association, California Cannabis Voice and Drug Policy Alliance are all opposed unless amended.
Mendocino Talk to Focus on Organizing Small Farmers to Prepare for Legalization
In Mendocino County, the Long Valley Garden Club invites the public to its seventh talk in its Cannabis Renaissance series this Sunday, August 10. The talk is “Legalization is coming, what to do?” and speakers are CalNORML deputy director Ellen Komp, as well as Casey O’Neill, a local CSA farmer and member of the newly formed Mendocino Cannabis Policy Council. Komp and O’Niell will discuss state and local issues and options, with a focus on small farmers organizing to protect their interests. That free event is Sunday, August 10, 4-6pm at 375 Harwood Road, Laytonville. For more info, call 984-6587.