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Grosso requests funding to establish tax and regulate system for marijuana

Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), along with Councilmember Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1), today urged Mayor Muriel Bowser to release funds from the Contingency Reserve to allow the District of Columbia to move forward with creating a system for the taxation and regulation of marijuana.

Here is the full letter:



DOH updates Grosso on opioid overdoses, LGBTQ policies, and other health issues

In August, Councilmember Grosso sent a lengthy letter outlining a number of concerns to Department of Health Director Nesbitt. The letter covered the agency’s response to the increase in opioid overdoses, changes to home visiting programs, updates on LGBTQ health policies, health impact assessments, and the agency’s medical marijuana program.

On September 13, Grosso received a response from Nesbitt, which you can view below along with Grosso’s original letter. This past week brought further progress on some issues, as the Council’s Committee on Health and Human Services passed the Substance Abuse and Opioid Overdoes Prevention Amendment Act of 2016 and the mayor announced the doubling of the amount of cannabis medical marijuana program participants may request in a month. Grosso, a member of the Committee on Health and Human Services, will continue to monitor these topics and push DOH to improve its policies and programs, and make them known to the public.

Councilmember Grosso's original inquiry letter:



Grosso Receives Update from Department of Health on Medical Marijuana

In June, Councilmember Grosso sent a letter to Dr. LaQuandro Nesbitt, Director of the D.C. Department of Health about the department's medical marijuana program after hearing concerns from constituents about barriers to participation in the program.  Below are the original letter and the response from DOH.

Below is the response from the Department of Health on questions raised by Councilmember Grosso:



Grosso's position on the “Marijuana Possession Decriminalization Clarification Emergency Amendment Act of 2016”

Councilmember Grosso recorded a quick video update on his decision to oppose the “Marijuana Possession Decriminalization Clarification Emergency Amendment Act of 2016”--you can read more about his position after the jump.

This legislation amends the Marijuana Possession Decriminalization Amendment Act of 2014 to clarify that the prohibition of consumption of marijuana in a public space also includes private clubs. It also requires the Mayor to revoke any license, certificate of occupancy, or permit held by an entity that knowingly permits a violation of law concerning the consumption of marijuana in a public space.

I have been a strong proponent of marijuana decriminalization, legalization and regulation in D.C. since I became a member of the Council in 2013. I co-introduced the decriminalization law and actively supported the passage of Initiative 71. But I also introduced measures in 2013 and 2015 to tax and regulate the sale of retail marijuana in D.C. as I strongly believe that it is important for us to setup an equitable system governed by clear rules and regulations if we are truly to limit arrests and dissolve the underground market. As you may know, D.C. is currently under a congressional rider which prohibits the Council and Mayor on moving forward on any measures to tax and/or regulate the legal sale of retail marijuana. I strongly oppose Congressional leadership interfering with D.C.’s ability to govern itself and believe that at times it’s appropriate for us to defy Congress and do what’s right for D.C. residents.

I opposed this legislation because I believe it was a step toward doing just that. My interest in marijuana decriminalization and legalization laws has always been about social justice and ending the arrests and racial disparity in terms of enforcement. In the absences of available venues outside of a private residence for individuals to consume marijuana products legally, the disparity will continue. Further, this matter is currently being debated in the Committee on Judiciary via permanent legislation and I believe the Council should have the opportunity to fully debate before extending this emergency. I believed that my colleagues and I could work together with the Executive to craft an approach to this issue that is measured. Unfortunately, the bill passed today by a vote of 9-4.

I will continue to work on this issue as the full Council prepares to consider this measure at the February 2, 2016 Legislative Meeting. Thank you again for reaching out with your concerns.



Discussion on Race and Gender Disparities in the D.C. Criminal Justice System

Will The Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Solve D.C.’s Race And Gender Disparity Problem?


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Councilmember Tommy Wells’ (D-Ward 6) marijuana decriminalization bill—which would reduce the penalty of the simple possession of marijuana (one ounce or less) to nothing more than a $100 fine—is currently undergoing a language rewrite following a hearing last month. So far, most of the D.C. Council and Mayor Vincent Gray are behind the bill, albeit with a few caveats, and a revised version of the bill will be sent to the full Council for a preliminary vote in December and a final vote in January.

In theory, the soul of this bill is to help to ease the racial disparities in the D.C. criminal justice system. Statistics show that a majority of D.C.’s marijuana-related arrests are of black males, despite the fact that the self-reported use of marijuana in D.C. is about equal between white and black residents. But the main question that remains with Wells’ bill—”The Simple Possession of Small Quantities Of Marijuana Decriminalization Amendment Act of 2013”—is will it actually help alleviate some of these statistics?

Last night, Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) held a forum at the David A. Clarke School of Law at UDC on race and gender disparities in the D.C. criminal justice system, and much of the conversation focused on this lingering question. Joined by a panel of legal experts—Niaz Kasravi, Director of the NAACP’s Criminal Justice Program, John Brittain, a UDC law professor, Josephine Ross, a Howard University law professor, Seema Sadanandan, Program Director for the ACLU of the Nation’s Capital, and Deborah Golden, Director of the D.C. Prisoners’ Rights Project and Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs—last night’s forum essentially turned into a critical symposium on the marijuana decriminalization bill and ways that the District can turn around some of the shocking statistics as it relates to race and the marijuana arrest rate.

Speaking to a packed room of over 100 citizens, law students, and activists, Grosso gave a brief introduction, explaining what led him to become so involved in this issue. “We’re here today because many people have done the hard work necessary to expose injustices in the way people are arrested, tried, arraigned, convicted, and sentenced,” Grosso said. “But the reason I’m here today is because of three independent events that happened over the past 12 months, which gave profound sense of responsibility to insert myself, as a leader in the District of Columbia, into the debate on race in the criminal justice system,” he said. Grosso cited the murder of Trayvon Martin (and subsequent trial of George Zimmerman), the book The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, and comprehensive reports produced by the ACLU and Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs on racial disparity in arrests in D.C. as the three central reasons that led him to get so heavily involved on this issue.

Moderated by the Voice of Russia’s Kim Brown, each of the panelists laid out a variety of reasons why the U.S.’s failed War on Drugs has led to some disturbing trends in marijuana arrests and racial profiling, and how they’ve impact many black communities, specifically in D.C. Sadanandan of the ACLU said that, while working with young people in D.C., they would constantly tell her how they were “being stopped frequently by police under the pretext of marijuana,” and if cops thought they smelled like marijuana, they’d be searched. “The District, as compared to other jurisdictions in the United States,” Sadanandan said, “was one of the highest rates of marijuana enforcement anywhere, and we spent an enormous amount of money on marijuana arrests.” According to data compiled by the ACLU, 91 percent of all marijuana arrests in D.C. were of black people, and by and large, were of black men, despite the fact that the District is about 50 percent black and 50 percent white.

John Brittain, a UDC law professor mentioned that there is equal self-reported usage rate of marijuana in the District between white and black residents. He also talked about how the War on Drugs is a failed policy and that the country needs to not only be focusing on the legalization of marijuana, but to work on “[developing] uniform policies of cannabis and hemp to avoid corporate control,” he said. “Legal market of marijuana must be careful in not using taxes and other regulations to make marijuana so expensive that the criminal market continues,” Brittain also said.

Several other of the discussions panelists, including Kasravi and Golden, talked about how the current simple possession laws devastate the lives of those who are charged, making it increasingly difficult for them to reenter society because they have trouble finding work and housing with a record.

Toward the end of the discussion, the panelists opened up the forum to those in attendance, asking them what they think needs to be done to help solve the D.C. criminal justice system’s race and gender problem. One citizen gained many cheers and claps for calling out Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier. “You need to get rid of Cathy Lanier,” he said. “She puts road blocks in Trinidad, but she wouldn’t dare put those same road blocks in Georgetown.”

Perhaps the most cheers and claps of the evening came from another citizen who, while admitting that the marijuana decriminalization bill is a step in the right direction, the problem lives within the training of police officers and the lack of any sort of public oversight. “There needs to be a public oversight committee,” he said, “so that the police will actually have to listen and answer to the wishes of the public.”

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Matt Cohen



on Nov 15, 2013 12:18 PM