Marijuana legalization earns a spot on the D.C. ballot

D.C. voters will be able to vote to decriminalize marijuana this November, the city's Board of Elections confirmed Wednesday. Hatchet File Photo
D.C. voters this November will weigh in on whether the city should legalize marijuana. Hatchet File Photo
Updated: Aug. 7, 2014 at 1:11 p.m.

Voters will have the chance to decide whether D.C. should legalize marijuana use this November, the city’s Board of Elections announced Wednesday.

D.C. residents would be able to legally possess a maximum of two ounces of pot if the city enacts the ballot initiative. They could grow as many as six cannabis plants indoors, share up to an ounce with another person at least 21 years old and use drug paraphernalia, though selling marijuana would remain illegal.

The unanimous vote by the city’s three elections officials comes after the D.C. Cannabis Campaign submitted a petition with 27,688 valid signatures, more than enough to get the measure on the ballot this fall, the Washington Post reported.

Even if voters weigh in favor of the initiative, the city would have to overcome several hurdles to legalize marijuana. Congress, which maintains oversight over D.C.’s laws, could shoot down the measure. The House of Representatives passed a budget bill last month that could block a legalization effort, as well as the decriminalization bill the D.C. Council passed earlier this year.

The decriminalization legislation went into effect last month, easing consequences for those caught with less than an ounce of weed. The penalty is now a $25 fine, though residents can still face arrest for smoking weed in public or carrying more than an ounce.

A Washington Post poll found in January that 63 percent of the city’s voters support legalization.

But even with support from residents, advocates for changing D.C.’s marijuana laws have seen their efforts derailed before. Sixteen years ago, activists gathered enough signatures to put legalization of medical marijuana on the ballot. Nearly 70 percent of voters supported the initiative, but federal lawmakers blocked funding to implement it until 2009, the Post reported.

The city’s new law has not altered policies at GW, and University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar said last month that the University Police Department would wait for guidance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office before making any changes.

UPD Chief Kevin Hay has said that regardless of city laws, GW is a smoke-free campus.

This post was updated to reflect the following corrections:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that a measure to legalize marijuana use appeared on a 1998 ballot. The ballot initiative was to legalize medical marijuana. The Hatchet also incorrectly reported that Congress blocked the votes from being counted. A court decision did allow the city to count the votes. We regret these errors.

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