The D.C. Council narrowly approved a ban on any marijuana use outside of private homes, disappointing supporters of legal marijuana.
The issue has been in the spotlight for months, but the Council acted, in part, because Congress has prohibited the city from regulating or taxing the sale of marijuana. Without those regulations, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Metropolitan police Chief Cathy Lanier said private clubs would be difficult for police to monitor.
“This is a difficult issue,” said Elissa Silverman, an at-large member of the Council. “A pot club ban is not going to end the discussion.”
Under the city's current law, marijuana can only be consumed in private homes. It is illegal to smoke, eat, or drink marijuana or holding or carrying a lighted roll of paper or other lighted smoking equipment filled with marijuana in any public space in Washington.
Ward 1 Councilmember Briane Nadeau said the Council should have waited until a task force created this year completes a review of the issue.
“We're used to Congress tying our hands,” she said. “But why on earth would we do it to ourselves?”
After the vote, disappointed advocates for marijuana use were angry.
“I think that the Council is doing Congress’ dirty work for them by helping Congress to block the will of the D.C. voters,” said Kate Bell, a legislative analyst with Marijuana Policy Project
More than 60 percent of D.C. voters approved modest amounts of legal marijuana use, but the initiative that went into effect in February 2015 did not cover public or club consumption.
Several council members said Congress should stop blocking the District’s ability to tax and regulate marijuana.