PRESS RELEASE: Ballot Initiative 71 Qualifies for November General Election Ballot

August 6, 2014

TONY NEWMAN (646) 335-5384

Ballot Initiative 71 Qualifies for November General Election Ballot


First Jurisdiction to Legalize Marijuana in a Racial Justice context

WASHINGTON, DC — Today the D.C. Board of Elections ruled that Ballot Initiative 71 has enough valid signatures to qualify for November’s general election ballot. One month ago, the DC Cannabis Campaign submitted over 57,000 signatures from registered voters and needed 23,780 signatures to qualify.

The citizens of the District of Columbia hope to follow in the steps of Colorado and Washington by legalizing marijuana and polls show the issue is popular among District residents, with support above 60 percent. DC currently has the highest per capita marijuana arrest rates in the U.S. In 2010 black people in the District accounted for 91 percent of all marijuana arrests – even though black and white people use marijuana at roughly similar rates.

Ballot Initiative 71 allows adults over the age of 21 to possess up to two ounces of marijuana on their person at any time, allows adults to give (but not sell) up to one ounce of marijuana to other adults, and allows for the cultivation of up to three mature marijuana plants at home. District law prevents ballot initiatives from addressing the sale of marijuana. However, the DC Council is currently considering a bill that will tax and regulate marijuana within the District.

The ballot initiative builds on the work of the DC Council, which decriminalized marijuana this past spring. However, as data from numerous jurisdictions around the country indicate, decriminalization alone is not enough to change police practices. Colorado and Washington have seen precipitous declines in marijuana arrests since enacting legalization initiatives in 2012, saving these states millions in tax dollars, and, more importantly, eliminating the collateral consequences associated with arrests for marijuana possession.

“It is clear from the number of signatures the campaign was able to submit that the citizens of the district would like to have a say in reforming the marijuana laws of the District,” said Dr. Malik Burnett, Vice-Chair of the DC Cannabis Campaign and the DC Policy Manager for Drug Policy Action. “The policies of prohibition in the District have been borne on the backs of black and brown men for decades, by voting YES on 71, District residents can put an end to this failed policy.”

The announcement of legalization efforts come just two weeks after the implementation of DC’s decriminalization law, where preliminary data show that 77% of all tickets have been issued in communities of color. “It is great that we have decriminalized marijuana in the District of Columbia,” said Adam Eidinger, Chair of DC Cannabis Campaign, “Unfortunately, if we are going replace arrests with tickets, discrimination will continue, but voting YES on 71 eliminates the tickets and brings discrimination to an end.”

The DC Cannabis Campaign is the official campaign committee for Ballot Initiative 71. The campaign is a project of residents from across DC, the Drug Policy Action, and Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps.