Marijuana Legalization Makes Strides in DC

Tuesday marked a major milestone for marijuana advocates in Washington State as dispensaries were finally cleared to sell their product for recreational use. People gathered outside the businesses long before the shops opened in anticipation of making their first legal recreational purchase. Supply was a concern, however, as only 100 of the 2,600 groups that applied for the necessary licenses had been reviewed by state authorities business, according to the Los Angeles Times. An even smaller number of people/groups, 25 to be exact, received an email in the dead of night from the Washington State Liquor Board notifying them they were legally licensed to sell their product for purely recreational use.

Under the new law, which is similar to a recreational use law that took effect Jan. 1 in Colorado, anyone 21 or older can legally possess up to one ounce of pot. Nonetheless, the retail sale of reefer is still banned or under temporary hold in several areas of the state due to local municipalities enforcing what they believe is their right to institute local control.  This has, obviously, whipped up a frenzy of debate among those for and against the legalization of marijuana in Washington and across the country.

Proponents insist the Washington State Constitution is clear when it states that local jurisdictions cannot ban an item that the state government has authorized. State Attorney General Robert W. Ferguson, however, issued an opinion on Jan. 16, that stated local bans would be legally permissible. You can find more on the attorney general’s ruling here.  While Colorado has made it very simple for cities to ban the sale of recreational marijuana, Washington appears to have several issues they’ve yet to fully address.

The state has made clear its position of sales of edible marijuana products. As of the time this blog was written, no companies had been authorized to make edible marijuana products for recreational use. This has been based in part on concerns that such products might be marketed to minors. The state’s guidelines for edibles have set strict standards for the packaging of these products, which must make it clear that they contain marijuana and that they do not resemble candy, snacks, or other items that might be especially appealing to children.

While Washington, DC is far from Washington State, a group of advocates working to legalize marijuana in the nation’s capital also celebrated significant gains. The DC Cannabis Campaign announced Monday that it had submitted 55,000 signatures to election officials to allow a pro-pot measure to be placed on November’s ballot, according to the Associated Press. If the measure is put to a vote, and if it passes, it would make legal the possession of two ounces or less for anyone 21 or older. The number of signatures collected in support of the measure was double the amount required, though Congress could still block the group’s efforts as they did earlier this year when they opposed the work of city lawmakers who decriminalized possession of small amounts of pot.

Clearly the debate is far from settled in DC, and it will be interesting to see how Washington State fares with its new mandate. Both that state and Colorado are serving as test sites for many other jurisdictions in the nation grappling with how best to address concerns voiced on both sides of the issue. As a criminal defense firm that has represented many people who have been charged with drug possession in DC, our attorneys will closely follow the developments here and in Colorado and Washington State.