Washington, D.C., is expected to legalize marijuana Thursday despite earlier threats from Congress to derail the voter-approved measure, but some parts of the law’s implementation remain prickly. City officials have raised concerns over private nightclubs skirting the law’s ban on public smoking by charging membership fees in exchange for a “gift” of marijuana. On Tuesday, District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser preemptively moved to nip the whole idea of private cannabis clubs in the bud, according to the Washington City Paper. Bowser said she plans to introduce legislation that would make operating marijuana nightclubs a crime in the District.
In an information flier distributed by Bowser’s office, the mayor said D.C. would not become “like Amsterdam” and that “pot cafes are not permitted and neither is the sale of any amount of marijuana,” the Washington Post reported. Such a ban on private cannabis clubs would not affect D.C.’s new legislation allowing adults 21 years or older to smoke marijuana in the privacy of their own homes, grow small amounts of pot or give up to an ounce to a friend or family member, according to The Hill.
Initiative 71, which voters approved in November, legalized small amounts of marijuana for personal, non-medical purposes but banned smoking pot in public spaces and most businesses. Initiative 71 does not allow marijuana to be sold from one individual to another and has not created a system for regulating and taxing weed. Marijuana users could also face charges for driving while high.
In December, Congress threatened to clip the voter-approved measure by adding a clause to its $1.1 trillion spending bill barring City Council members from talking about marijuana legalization in D.C. The amendment "prohibits both federal and local funds from being used to implement a referendum legalizing recreational marijuana use in the District,” however city officials simply ignored the clause, called a rider. On Jan. 13, D.C. Council submitted the marijuana initiative to Congress for review. The 30-day window for Congress to intervene with the initiative’s implementation ends Thursday.
Other changes to the country’s marijuana policies are underway. On Friday, lawmakers submitted two separate House Bills that together would decriminalize marijuana nationwide. The Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, submitted by Rep. Jared Polis, D-Col., would remove the drug from being a schedule 1 drug like cocaine or methamphetamine. The other bill, introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., would tax legal pot sales at the federal level.