While many Washington, D.C. residents consider this one of the quieter mayoral campaigns in the city’s history, thousands are excited about the opportunity to vote to legalize marijuana.

Initiative 71, the voter-generated measure to legalize marijuana in the nation’s capital, has passed the final phase of government scrutiny required to place it on the ballot.

On Aug. 6, the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics held a final public meeting to announce the fact that the petitions met all criteria for placement on the ballot.

“There is tremendous enthusiasm in the city for ending these Draconian marijuana laws,” said Adam Eidinger, chairman of the D.C. Cannabis Campaign. “I only hope citizens will come out and vote this November.”

Initiative 71 will allow residents 21 and older the right to:

  • Possess up to two ounces of marijuana outside one’s home
  • Grow up to three mature marijuana plants inside one’s home
  • Allow growers to keep all the marijuana grown at home
  • Does not allow anyone to sell marijuana

On July 26, The New York Times in an editorial called for “federal” legalization of marijuana.

“It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol,” the Times wrote. “The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana.”

The White House quickly responded, stating the Obama administration opposed legalization of marijuana and other illegal drugs because it flies in the face of a public health approach to reducing drug use and its consequences.

“We agree that the criminal justice system is in need of reform and that disproportionality exists throughout the system.  However, marijuana legalization is not the silver bullet solution to the issue,” the Office of National Drug Control Policy wrote in a July 28 statement. “The editorial ignores the science and fails to address public health problems associated with increased marijuana use.”

On Jan. 1, Colorado became the first state in the nation to legalize marijuana from seed to sale; Washington state became the second on July 8. Although marijuana use is still not approved federally, these states have claimed free reign to regulate the drug according to their local laws.

“The White House response to the Times endorsement of ending the federal prohibition of marijuana is incredibly short-sighted and fails to capture the most up to data surrounding marijuana use. Study after study has shown there is no correlation between marijuana policy reforms and increased teen usage,” said Dr. Malika Burnett,policy manager in the Office of National Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “The White House seems to be in contradiction with itself, on the one hand suggesting that states should experiment with marijuana policy reform while at the same time upholding a ban that prevents that very experimentation.”

On July 18, the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted unanimously to reduce the sentences of 46,000 inmates in federal prison on nonviolent drug possession charges. The move was prompted by a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder in June.

Unlike Colorado and Washington, the District of Columbia is in a unique situation because it is not a state and remains subject to the whims of congressional leaders.

After the first six months of legalization, Colorado reported that violent crime decreased, millions of dollars of taxes were collected, and the state saw new businesses and thousands of new jobs, as well as huge growth in tourism.

AVELIFE Worldwide, a local hip-hop production company, is making a video about the legalization of marijuana in D.C. to educate the masses about the history of the herb in the U.S., the importance of voting for the initiative in the upcoming election and to warn youth to stay away from tobacco, alcohol and drugs.

“I’ve been an advocate for marijuana legalization for years,” said Delonta “Digaveli” Washington, a hip-hop artist. “Me, many of my friends and family have been arrested and treated like animals for carrying a joint. We want to help get the word out.”

Valencia Mohammed

Special to the AFRO