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Washington, D.C. Council Considers Ban on Marijuana in Private Clubs

Updated on February 5, 2016

Washington, D.C. Considers Marijuana Use Restrictions

In a case being watched by the real estate industry, the District of Columbia Council voted unanimously recently to extend a temporary ban on smoking marijuana in private clubs.

A final vote on a permanent ban was delayed as a task force explores alternatives.

The legislation is intended to clarify a law the Council approved in 2015 that allows marijuana use in private homes.

The law could force landlords of commercial and residential properties to allow tenants to smoke marijuana. So far, residents of public housing have not been allowed to consume marijuana in their homes but revisions being considered by the D.C. Council are likely to expand their rights to cannabis.

Although the ban would restrict marijuana use, a lingering question is whether it is adequate to satisfy Republican members of Congress who want to override local authorizations for cannabis consumption.

Lawmakers in Oregon and Denver also have approved limited use of marijuana. However, they do not face the possibility of a federal veto.

The D.C. Council's proposed permanent ban forbids marijuana use anywhere outside a private residence. It authorizes the mayor to revoke the licenses, permits or certificates of occupancy of businesses that allow marijuana consumption on their property.

Vague restrictions in the law approved last year prompted intense controversy among supporters and opponents of marijuana use. The controversy continued at the D.C. Council meeting.

The sky isn't fallen since the D.C. Council legalized recreational marijuana last year, said D.C. Councilmember Brianne Nadeau.

Unlike Mayor Muriel Bowser, she opposes restricting marijuana consumption to private homes.

The current law allows adults at least 21 years old to possess and consume small amounts of marijuana. It outlaws the sale, distribution and public consumption of the weed.

The law did not specifically mention private clubs but D.C. police told the Council the legislation needed to be clarified to become enforceable.

The D.C. Council allowed marijuana use after local voters in 2014 overwhelmingly approved recreational use of cannabis in a ballot initiative.

Weeks later, Congress voted to forbid the District of Columbia from taxing, regulating or using federal funds to legalize a marijuana market.

The vote by the Republican-controlled Congress set off complaints by D.C. officials about a lack of home rule, or local control over local issues.

D.C. Councilmember Elissa Silverman repeated the complaints when she accused Congress of butting in.

Kate Bell, a legislative analyst for the advocacy organization Marijuana Policy Project, said the back-and-forth politics of one of the nation's most liberal marijuana laws has been quite a roller coaster ride.

Washington, D.C. Allows Marijuana Use But Worries About Unbridled Consumption in Public

Washington, D.C. Allows Marijuana Use But Worries About Unbridled Consumption in Public
Washington, D.C. Allows Marijuana Use But Worries About Unbridled Consumption in Public

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