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DC Marijuana Advocates Target Bowser Allies Running For Council Reelection

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Marijuana activists are hoping to make an example out of D.C. Council members who voted in April to permanently ban the expansion of marijuana legalization to include private “pot clubs.”

The activists sent last-minute mailers to thousands of residents who largely favor legalization ahead of Tuesday’s Democratic primary. The mailers specifically target two steadfast allies of Mayor Muriel Bowser who are up for reelection in the Democratic primary for city Council. Yvette Alexander is running against former Mayor Vincent Gray for the Ward 7 seat, while LaRuby May is fighting to hold her seat in Ward 8. Both Council members voted against pot clubs in a tight 7-6 vote — a vote activists note Bowser stood fairly silent on. (RELATED: Marijuana Activists Blast New Congress ‘Assaults’ On DC Legalization)

“We need more clarity and leadership from the mayor on this issue,” Kaitlyn Boecker of Drug Policy Action told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “We hear a lot of good messaging on this issue when she’s talking about statehood and home rule. We are happy this issue is being referenced but we have to see some action on this. When it actually came to the private club vote, which was one of the few marijuana votes since she’s been mayor, she did not act, so its a little bit of a mixed bag and we wish she would be more clear.”

Drug Policy Action, the 501 (c)(4) arm of the Drug Policy Alliance, mailed 12,000 flyers to roughly 4,000 households in Wards 7 and 8 highlighting Alexander’s and May’s vote against further liberalization of marijuana law in the District, according to a Thursday report. The flyers also highlighted crime statistics showing the criminalization of marijuana disproportionately affects minorities in these communities, reports Washington City Paper.

“Our hope is this is going to help voters to hold them accountable,” Boecker told TheDCNF. “The majority of residents in the District are in favor of regulated venues for consumption. Wards 7 and 8 have suffered a hugely disproportionate amount of arrests for simple possession.”

Polling shows 63 percent of D.C. residents view marijuana reform as a statehood issue due to the repeated interference of Congress. Sixty-one percent of District residents support a regulated system to consume marijuana at private clubs. (RELATED: DC Council Folds To Congress, Approves Permanent Ban On Pot Clubs)

Activists remain disappointed with the progress of legalization in the District and Mayor Bowser’s unclear position on the issue. The marijuana ballot initiative passed with roughly 64 percent support, but the legalities of the referendum remain in limbo a year later due to disagreement from Republicans in Congress.

Congress currently bars the D.C. Council from using appropriated funds for taxing or regulating marijuana, which Council Chairman Phil Mendelson says is preventing city lawmakers from moving forward on issues like pot clubs. Mendelson noted April’s vote does not close the issue, and allows the Council to revisit the law at a later date.

Activists are hopeful Tuesday’s election will shake up the Council and lead to a future vote to expand legalization.

“We want to let voters know how their representatives actually voted on the cannabis clubs issue, because a lot of folks may have not heard about this issue,” Boecker said. “By educating voters on it we think that they are going to make an informed decision, because we know the majority of voters in the district are pro-reform and we think they are going to hold their council members accountable and they’re going to want pro-reform council members.”

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