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If California legalizes pot, will D.C. follow?

If they aren't already, elected officials in the District should be keeping close tabs on this year's election in California.

On Wednesday, advocates for legalizing marijuana officially secured enough signatures to put a referendum on the California ballot this November asking voters to legalize and tax pot.

And, judging by recent legislation in the District, what starts in California often eventually makes it way to the left-leaning District.

San Francisco's decision in 2007 to ban plastic bags, for example, was one impetus for the District's recently enacted bag tax. And San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome launched the modern same-sex marriage movement when he issued marriage licenses to gay couples in 2004 -- long before the District took up the issue.

And California voters approved a referendum allowing for the medical use of marijuana in 1996 - two years before voters in the District approved a similar referendum. The District's medical marijuana law is only now being implemented because it was tied up for years on Capitol Hill.

But if California voters approve the legalization of marijuana - which remains an if, because polls show a potentially close election - how long will it be before pro-pot advocates seek to petition a similar measure onto the ballot in the District?

Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, estimates it would be six years or less before the marijuana legalization debate makes its way to the District.

"California, like it or not, really pushes American politics and business in one direction or another," said St. Pierre, noting the issue is also expected to soon land on the ballot in Nevada and Oregon. "I am going to guess four to six years after the citizens of California pass something like this, there is either an initiative here or the city council takes it up."

Already, D.C. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) has been grumbling publicly that some of the District's drug laws need to be reformed because too many residents are being locked up for drug possession. But Council member David A. Catania (I-At large), the chairman of the Committee on Health, and other council members have made it clear they do not want the medical marijuana legislation pending before the council to spiral into a debate over outright legalization.

A Washington Post poll conducted in January found District residents were split on whether they supported legalizing small amounts of marijuana for personal use. Forty-six percent of residents favored the idea, but 48 percent opposed.

But while 60 percent of whites supported legalizing marijuana, only 37 percent of African-Americans felt that way, largely due to strong opposition among older black women.

A debate over marijuana legalization wouldn't be entirely new terrain for the District. In 1977, the city council approved legislation to decriminalize possession of one ounce or less of the drug. But then Mayor Walter E. Washington vetoed the measure, citing the possible effects the law would have on city youths.

And even if legalization advocates won a referendum over the issue in the District, Congress would ultimately have the power to block it from taking place.

It's hard to see Congress staying out of that debate. But who would have guessed six years ago that the debate over whether to legalize same-sex marriage in the District would have been such a snooze this year on Capitol Hill?

--Tim Craig

By Tim Craig  |  March 26, 2010; 2:39 PM ET
Categories:  Tim Craig  
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"Mayor Walter E. Washington vetoed the measure, citing the possible effects the law would have on city youths."

Thank you daddy!! lol, gotta love that..

I say yes, “save the children”! Children are indeed adversely affected by marijuana prohibition either through criminalized family members, their very own future, or completely unregulated underage availability..

Drug dealers look to make profit at what they do. This easy profit is directly due to these individuals defying law. They are not required to ID children for age restrictions, and why would they? Their business is above the law, and under the table. Drug dealers have to be caught in their professional practice of secretly breaking the law. A legitimate business, on the other hand, has a lot to lose for breaking age restrictions. Legal store fronts are physically fixed in position, and easily witnessed. Numbers prove age enforcement is not only possible, but plausible when legal business is involved. Countless polls and studies certainly do show it is far easier for the average teen to purchase marijuana than say regulated alcohol. Current underage usage of marijuana is staggering when looking at even enforcement's own information. The only available form of age control, by this farce of law, is extended penalties. An increased penalty for pushers that already willingly break the law for a profit? This does not drop underage usage or availability.

Legalize and regulate marijuana so we can protect our children!

Full Story With Video At:
Marijuana is the flame, heroin is the fuse, LSD is the bomb

Posted by: chmmrx | March 26, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

If California becomes a free state, there could be a disruptive mass-migration.

Posted by: harris512 | March 26, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Legalization is so painfully logical... But unless President Obama speaks out in a constructive way on this issue, it won't gain much traction outside of the west coast. Obama and other politicians are terrified of how easily they can be painted as "soft on drugs" by drug warriors who can prey upon the elderly's decades old demonization of marijuana.

Posted by: Langway4Eva | March 26, 2010 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Lets see, if it takes at least another 3 years before our Politicians get smart and legalize Weed that's another 20,000 Dead Mexicans,4 Million more Americans arrested and around 400 Billion in enforcement costs. What's the reason behind waiting?

Posted by: drtodd1977 | March 26, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Please, yes. It's long past time. Come on, leader, it's time to be on the leading edge of history, not waiting for it to bite you in the butt.

Posted by: zeroqwest | March 26, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

1) How would driving under the intoxication laws be enforced in regards to marijuana. Marijuana intoxication is very mild and can be easily dismissed with general varieties available in state of Florida where I live. Although a person may be under the subtle effects of the drug, he or she may appear completely normal. How would marijuana intoxication be measured if marijuana was legal?

2) Border Control Officer jobs would be in jeopardy along with DEA and local police departments through out the USA. If budgets were cut in the drug war against marijuana, think about the job losses in the DEA alone. Jobs in criminal courts would be in jeopardy, as well as privatized jails, Attorneys, probation officers, drug testing facilities, and court ordered counseling facilities. Think of the job losses people!

3)The Drug War in Mexico is not an American problem! Although 60% of the drugs being shipped from Mexico is marijuana is fueling an internal war in the state, they are only Mexicans. There are plenty of nice many islands through out the Caribbean where Americans can go on vacations and not be hit by stray bullets.

4)If unemployment is double digits, and roughly 10% of Americans smoke marijuana, we could put this 10% of the American population in jail and reduce unemployment to zero!

think about it…..

Posted by: insowork | March 26, 2010 7:07 PM | Report abuse

Are you being sarcastic? Loss of DEA jobs, border patrol jobs? Give me a break, those are the jobs that we don't need. And privatized jails, that only brings us closer to a totalitarian state. It is justice by the people, not justice for hire. Shame on you for trading in your humanity by advocating the destruction of a gentle pothead's life just so we can create jobs. Your future doesn't look too bright. When those without power take power, hopefully they offer you a second chance at re-education. The drug war is an American problem. We buy their drugs, we cause the war. By legalizing a harmless plant you eliminate the demand for the cartels.

Posted by: PhillipEmerson | March 27, 2010 2:21 AM | Report abuse

According to NIDA, 6,000 people start smoking marijuana for the first time every single day. A logical person would view this as evidence that the prohibition is a *failure*.

However, the DEA approaches the whole issue with the unshakable assumption that the prohibition is doing a wonderful job and therefore the 6,000 people starting to smoke every day is evidence that even *more* people will smoke marijuana if the prohibition ended.

Who's going to break it to the DEA that their unshakable assumption is invalid?

Posted by: jway86 | March 28, 2010 6:51 PM | Report abuse

i must say that the mixed views on this topic are quite intriguing. But the one word that pops in my mind that you should ALL (especially those who are against cannabis) consider. Economics. In California, its estimated that pot brings in 24 billion dollars of revenue, double what milk and cream bring in. If you put a 10% tax on that you bring in 1.4 billion in state revenue and add a 10% federal tax and thats the same for all the deep pocketed antagonists in washington. Legalizing cannabis in all 50 states within the the first year it would wipe half our national debt away. over the course of the next 5 to 10 we would be profiting quite well and possibly even be the super power we once were without having to waste time killing and basically raping other countries. Our "government" has basically repeated their mistakes from their attempts in the 20s to prohibit alcohol (and might i add that pot is no where near as dangerous). So if our buddies in washington really give a damn about its country and its citizens why not show it by trying to get us out of this reccession so we can relax and live a little.

Posted by: gods_little_screwup | March 29, 2010 10:56 AM | Report abuse

i need to correct something.... the 24 billion in my last pst should be 14

Posted by: gods_little_screwup | March 29, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

According to the folks at the Ritz-Carlton, a certain one of our politicians already thinks that it is legal.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | March 29, 2010 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Hopefully Californians will be prepared for the "October Surprise" that the prohibitionists will pull out of the hat as November approaches. They will no doubt try some late-breaking scare tactics and continue to ignore the harm caused by putting our young people in prison, loss of tax money, cost of enforcement, and all of the other evils of prohibition.

Parents, let’s watch out for the "October Surprise" and let’s stop putting our own kids in jail!

Citzens of California can register to vote at
w w w .
Just complete the online form and mail it to the address on the form.

Posted by: conservativechristian1976 | April 1, 2010 4:32 PM | Report abuse

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