Here’s a nugget for you: D.C. Councilmembers’ votes on private pot clubs may be coming back to haunt them in next Tuesday’s Democratic Primary.
Drug Policy Action has sent out 12,000 pieces of mail to 4,000 households in Wards 7 and 8 “to educate District voters about marijuana reform and hold incumbents on the Council responsible for their votes on the issue,” according to the group. The leaflets focus on the racial disparities in D.C. marijuana arrests despite the 2014 approval of Intiative 71, the ballot measure that permits home use. (One stat DPA cites: “90 percent of marijuana arrests [in the District] are of African Americans.”)
The group faults Councilmembers Yvette Alexander and LaRuby May for voting against so-called “cannabis clubs” in April, in a 7-6 split. The venues would have permitted adult residents to consume marijuana outside of their homes—a possibility that advocates argued would have benefited people who live in public housing, where pot is barred, and those simply looking for leisure. Critics said it would have violated an anti-pot congressional rider introduced by Maryland Rep. Andy Harris; some also worried that the clubs would have concentrated in certain areas of the city.
“We felt that the issue resonated most powerfully in those wards,” says Kaitlyn Boecker, an analyst for the Drug Policy Alliance, an affiliate of its political counterpart. “We did lose [the cannabis-club] vote 7-6 multiple times, so even just switching one vote will create a different power dynamic.”
The group’s mailer is not the first action of its kind. Last month, a coalition of advocacy groups including Drug Policy Alliance, the Marijuana Policy Project, and DCMJ held a candidates’ forum on weed policy. A few weeks prior to that, MPP released a “report card” on Council hopefuls’ support for legalization. Pot clubs and candidates’ weed records came up in both.
This post has been updated to clarify the relationship between Drug Policy Action and Drug Policy Alliance.