Sherwood's Notebook: Up in Smoke D.C. Style?

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBC 6

    It’s not surprising. Many people in our mostly liberal little city say they favor our new law “decriminalizing” small amounts of personal marijuana possession for use in the home.

    Never mind where you get that pot — buying and selling remains illegal. But instead of jail time for possession, you will be risking only small fines (hence, decriminalization).

    It’s not law yet. Congress is still sniffing around a possible challenge before the new D.C. law goes into effect in July. Still, for the law to be derailed, the House and the Senate would have to each vote it down and President Obama would have to sign the disapproval resolution.

    D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton said at a Hill hearing last Friday that everyone should keep his or her mitts off local D.C. laws. She sounded like she meant it.

    But if you’re paying attention — and we realize some of you have trouble paying attention — you’ll know there’s another marijuana battle underway right here, right now. And, so far, it has nothing to do with the feds.

    The shoestring D.C. Cannabis Campaign is trying to collect 24,000 valid voter signatures to supersede the “decriminalization” law almost before the first one starts. In its place would be a law with legal pot similar to Colorado — regulated and taxed by the District.

    Most D.C. elected officials shied away from that outright legalization, not because they were opposed but because they thought it was a reach too far.

    Well, it turns out some citizens on the street may be in favor but aren’t so ready to put their own names down.

    Activist Adam Eidinger has been working the streets for more than a month trying to gather signatures. But many sympathetic folks aren’t signing.

    “What we hear a lot is, ‘I work for the government,’” Eidinger told NBC4. “‘I have a contract with the government; I don’t want to sign it.’ ‘I’m a schoolteacher; I don’t want to sign it.’”

    Eidinger is the intense but friendly activist who has been at anti-war, civil rights and other demonstrations. He says many people thought it would be “a piece of cake” to gather ballot signatures for marijuana in the District. But not so.

    He says his group needs more funds. Eidinger hopes to collect nearly 60,000 signatures before July 8 to make certain at least one third of them are valid. That’s right — whenever you do a petition drive, the error rate can be sky high, to use a common phrase.

    Among those who do sign, some aren’t registered to vote even though they say they are. Some think they’re helping even by making up a name or an address. But back at the headquarters, a few volunteers laboriously type in the names and check them against the voluminous election rolls.

    Some eager volunteers drop by and pick up dozens of blank petition sheets with room for 20 names per sheet. But thousands of those sheets haven’t been turned in.

    “We want ’em back,” Eidinger told us.

    And he wouldn’t mind a few more volunteers.

    ■ Closing for good. The District’s celebrated Hospitality High charter school is going out of business. But that doesn’t mean the programs will disappear.

    The school is sponsored by the restaurant industry, and it is voluntarily giving up its charter after the 2015-2016 academic year. That might be a first time a charter school voluntarily has surrendered its paperwork.

    An agreement is in the works for Hospitality High to continue operating, but merge into the D.C. Public Schools system.

    For more than a decade, the restaurant industry has supported education and training in the food industry, a mainstay of the city’s growing economy.

    “We hope to continue to provide our students with the exposure and access to our industry that they deserve,” said Solomon Keene, president of the Hotel Association of Washington, D.C.


    Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.