Could drug offenders work in D.C. medical pot dispensaries?
Is the District Human Rights Act so progressive that it protects the rights of drug offenders to work in the city's proposed medical marijuana dispensaries?
Nikolas Schiller, a local medical marijuana activist, thinks so. Schiller, who lives in Ward 1, fired off a mass e-mail to numerous city officials this afternoon questioning whether the medical marijuana bill approved by the council Tuesday can withstand judicial scrutiny.
Under that legislation, which is now pending before Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), a "director, officer, member, incorporator, agent, or employee of a dispensary or cultivation center who has access to the medical marijuana at the dispensary or cultivation center " cannot have a felony or misdemeanor conviction for a drug-related offense.
But Schiller says the District's Human Rights Act, which sets policies to prevent discrimination, states "it's an unlawful act for any person to require the production
of any arrest record" that is more than 10 years old.
"Therefore a potential employee or owner of a medical cannabis facility who has been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor drug offense cannot be denied employment or ownership after 10 years," Schiller concludes.
"The language passed Tuesday implies that DC residents will be forever denied employment in this emerging industry if they've been convicted any time in their entire life."
Schiller's arguments could prove to be a complication for city officials looking to implement the medical marijuana law if it survives a 30-day congressional review period.
When drafting the bill, council members said they didn't want former drug offenders to have easy access to the pounds of marijuana that will be grown in city-sanctioned cultivation centers. But city leaders also have long records of speaking out in support of the rights of ex-offenders, one reason the Human Rights Act includes the 10-year limitation on anyone requesting a criminal record.
Schiller's arguments could become intertwined in the debate over same-sex marriage. For the past year, city leaders have used the Human Rights Act to prevent a referendum on the ballot on whether same-sex marriage should be legalized. A referendum, they argued strenuously, would be a violation of the Human Rights Act.
And with the issue still pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals, same-sex marriage opponents could try to build a case that the Human Rights Act has been selectively used by the city officials.
May 6, 2010; 1:37 PM ET
Categories: D.C. Council , Tim Craig | Tags: Human Rights Act, Same-sex marriage
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