D.C. Council Backs Down on Marijuana Hearing After Attorney General Warning

The D.C. Council abandoned plans to hold a hearing on how to tax and regulate marijuana on Monday after the District’s new attorney general warned it could subject city lawmakers and their staff members to fines and even jail time.

The move amounted to a setback for advocates of full marijuana legalization and underscored the halting way the District may be forced to implement Initiative 71, the ballot measure approved overwhelmingly in November by District voters.

The hearing was scuttled even though business leaders who had launched sales of marijuana in Colorado and Washington state had traveled to the District to discuss a proposed bill to fully legalize marijuana in the nation’s capital.

New D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine warned the D.C. Council not to hold the planned hearing Monday. Doing so, Racine said in a letter to the council late last week, would violate a spending prohibition placed on the city by Congress to not move forward with setting up a regulatory scheme for sales of the plant.

Racine said holding a hearing could put city lawmakers and their staffers who help conduct the hearing in jeopardy of fines up to $5,000 each and potentially even jail terms of two years.

As the meeting was scheduled to begin at 10 a.m., D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) instead met with heads of three other committees that were scheduled to participate in the hearing. They emerged saying they would cancel the hearing on the bill and ask the dozens of assembled witnesses to participate in an informal roundtable discussion on the topic so to not risk being in contempt of Congress.

– Read the entire article at The Washington Post.

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