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Singer Mateo Monk

The reggae artist hired to play at the marijuana legalization victory party referred to himself as a “ganja musician,” who considers marijuana an integral part of his art.

“You can say marijuana informs my music,” says Mateo Monk, adding that he did smoke before he arrived for his gig tonight.

The party may have played to its demographic’s musical stereotypes, but the pro-pot partygoers were in a potentially perilous spot Election Night—-despite the fact that Initiative 71 won overwhelmingly. As of 11 p.m., more than 64 percent of voters were in favor of the initiative, with 80 percent of precincts reporting.

A couple hundred of D.C.’s most zealous marijuana supporters were packed into the dark, dank basement of Meridian Pint in Columbia Heights, celebrating the presumed victory of the initiative that would legalize the possession of small amounts of pot. But by law, they couldn’t smoke. (The legislation wouldn’t legalize smoking in public.)

And, for appearance sake, it was important that they actually followed the existing laws. The legislation still has to make its way through Congress, and at least some of these federal politicians will use all the ammo they can to portray the initiative as one that’s about potheads trying to legalize a debilitating substance. Rep. Andy Harris, a Maryland Republican who tried to block D.C.’s decriminalization law through the appropriations process, has already vowed to do everything in his power to block this initiative from taking effect. (But Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who will be the head of the Government Affairs Subcommittee in a GOP-controlled Senate, says he would be against the federal government getting involved in marijuana legalization.)

“If there was a concentration of pot smokers, they’re right here, and they’re not smoking right now,” said Adam Eidinger, chair of the D.C. Cannabis Campaign, which was instrumental in getting the initiative on the ballot and leading it to victory. Eidinger and Council Chairman Phil Mendelson both said they think the legislation will face some hiccups, but will ultimately make it through Congress.

The largely young crowd (with the occasional long-haired, middle-aged bearded man) played it safe, crowding at least two deep around the bar at all times to purchase already legal booze. They cheered as the votes came in, giving Eidinger kudos when the early voting numbers showed them with more than 60 percent support. The party was likely the rowdiest of any D.C. election victory tonight, but it played out like any other night in a crowded Columbia Heights bar.

Eidinger and the group of volunteers ensured the message  was not about getting high, but rather about using marijuana legalization as means to ending a prohibition on a drug that lands a disproportionate amount of black men in jail.

“Let’s dedicate this to people still sitting in jail for marijuana,” Eidinger said during his victory speech, leading the crowd in a chant of “Bring them home.”

There was however, at least one table at the at-capacity Meridian Pint who seemed unsure of the message and mission of tonight’s gathering. A group from Virginia—-they were split on marijuana—-had unknowingly decided to dine downstairs at Meridian Pint and got stuck in a wave of people clad in pro-pot paraphernalia.

“It’s like a Seinfeld episode,” one of the women said. “We got stuck in the pot party.”

Photo by Perry Stein