The Council of the District of Columbia shot down a plan to extend a ban on private marijuana clubs Tuesday, only to reopen the discussion moments later to keep the ban in effect.
During a legislative meeting, the council failed to extend a law that banned the smoking of marijuana in public restaurants and bars, a law enacted when the city legalized marijuana in 2014.
It only took a few minutes and a call from Mayor Muriel Bowser, however, for council members to realize what they had done, prompting them to reopen debate on the matter, according to the recorded meeting.
Two council members who originally voted to let the ban expire, Charles Allen and LaRuby May, changed their votes after Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said he heard Bowser wanted the council to reconsider.
According to Mendelson, Bowser said the city wouldn’t have an ability to license establishments that wish to allow marijuana use.
Mike Czin, a spokesman for Bowser, told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an email that Bowser has long supported regulating marijuana in a similar fashion to alcohol. Her hands have been tied, however, due to Congress.
“Failing to extend the ban would have led to an unworkable system of pot clubs with no way to regulate its sale or consumption,” he wrote. “The law remains clear: small amounts of marijuana are legal for adults for home grow and home use.”
The Council initially enacted the ban on marijuana clubs through emergency legislation in 2015, following the legalization of possession of small amounts of pot.
Republican Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland forbade the city from implementing any laws to regulate sales of marijuana with a rider attachment to a 2014 congressional spending bill. He pulled the same move on the omnibus spending bill passed by Congress in December, leaving the District in a type of legal grey area concerning marijuana for yet another year.
Currently, it is legal for D.C. residents to smoke marijuana in their homes, but is illegal to smoke outdoors or in public places. Advocates for lifting the ban said the rules are unfair for residents who can’t smoke inside.
It is illegal for residents of public housing, for instance, to smoke inside their homes, since the housing projects are funded by the federal government. While other D.C. residents aren’t allowed to smoke indoors due to lease agreements with landlords.
Councilman Vincent Orange, however, suggested parents would be helped if the ban were lifted on smoking in private clubs.
“There are a number of folks who would like to engage, but they can’t engage because they have young children in their homes,” he said.
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