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Seven members of the D.C. Council voted to ban so-called pot clubs Tuesday afternoon against strong opposition from some of their colleagues and marijuana advocates.
Led by Ward 1’s Brianne Nadeau, Councilmembers Charles Allen, Jack Evans, David Grosso, Vincent Orange, and Elissa Silverman voted in favor of postponing a vote until Sept. 20, when a task force’s recommendations on the bill would be available.
The task force has been convened to study the feasibility of creating cannabis clubs—private venues where members could smoke marijuana. Topics on the table include “health and safety standards, hours of operation, food and beverage availability, involvement of local agencies, security plans, amount of marijuana one could bring to them, costs of membership, and locations.” The task force was established following a February Council hearing, when a permanent ban on the clubs was tabled in favor of extending temporary legislation.
Nadeau requested that the vote be moved to “give the task force time to do its work.” Orange echoed this request.
“These citizens went out, they got a referendum… they want us to make sure that we exercise our best judgement,” he said of supporters of Initiative 71, which legalized the private consumption and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana. “Let the task force do its job.”
When asked by Orange why he supported voting on the legislation now, as opposed to in September, Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said the “duties of task force are broader than as has been portrayed by those who want to defeat this bill.” One of his aides told the Drug Policy Alliance that Mendelson “does not believe that passing the ban would foreclose on the idea of the city’s opening of pot clubs in the future, presumably if Congress drops its restrictions,” the Washington Post reported.
Mendeslon voted in favor of the ban, as did Yvette Alexander, Anita Bonds, Mary Cheh, LaRuby May, Kenyan McDuffie, and Brandon Todd. The full Council will vote on the bill one more time. If it passes, it will move to Mayor Muriel Bowser, who has previously supported a complete ban.
According to a recent D.C. Vote–Washington City Paper poll, 61 percent of District voters support the creation of private venues where marijuana can be smoked or consumed. The Drug Policy Alliance says a ban on these types of clubs disproportionately affects black residents. Between July 17, 2014 and the end of 2015, 82 percent of people arrested for public consumption in D.C. were black, according to the alliance.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery