Amsterdam style marijuana cafés will not be opening up anytime soon in the District of Columbia.
The D.C. Council voted to ban marijuana cafés by a narrow vote of 7-6.
Personal possession of marijuana became legal early last year. According to NORML, residents are permitted to possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana and can own up to 6 plants without penalty. There has been momentum to take the movement even further. In a recent poll, 61% of D.C. residents supported legalizing private marijuana clubs, while only 30% opposed. The D.C. Council created a task force to research the issue and offer recommendations.
The council decided not to wait for those findings to rule out the marijuana cafés Chairman of the D.C. Council, Phil Mendelson said “The problem is our ability to regulate, and until we have that ability we ought to maintain the status quo.”
Residents may see a different motivation behind the decision. Many of those living in the District of Columbia have long held the belief that they have no real say in the civil proceedings of their city. Congress oversees the entire legal system for the city. Every locally passed law goes through a 30-day review by Congress. Even after the Home Rule of 1973 was passed, granting more power to local authority, many believe the D.C. City Council still takes its marching orders from Congress.
“In spite of all the talk of promoting District autonomy and control over local affairs, today’s vote suggests that Councilmembers would prefer to hide behind congressional authority to deflect their responsibilities, rather than do the work of legislating themselves.” Kaitlyn Boecker, of The Drug Policy Alliance said in response to the council’s decision.
There has been a contentious debate over legal marijuana for many years in our nation’s capital. As marijuana remained a banned Schedule I substance on the federal level, activists were able to help legalize both medical and recreational use in Congress’ backyard. The D.C. Council’s vote will likely keep the impassioned debate going.