Marijuana Policy Project Voter Guide: 2016 DC Council Elections

Marijuana Policy ProjectThe Marijuana Policy Project has put out a DC Council voter guide that would be very beneficial to review before upcoming elections!

Marijuana Policy Project Voter Guide: 2016 D.C. Council Elections

Welcome to our voter guide! MPP is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States and works to improve the District’s marijuana policies. We sent a questionnaire to all candidates for D.C. Council and have compiled the responses along with information on incumbents’ votes on marijuana policy (as well as the mayoral record of one candidate).

We hope that D.C.’s Democratic voters will find this guide useful as they prepare to vote in D.C.’s Democratic* primary elections on Tuesday, June 14, 2016. There is also information about two of the general election candidates below. This guide will be updated based on any additional responses to our questionnaire and prior to the general election on November 8.

The voter registration deadline for the primary is May 16, 2016. You can register at the Department of Motor Vehicles and several other D.C. agencies, or online here. Remember, you can only vote in the primary for the party of which you signed up as a member. You can check your registration status or update your address here. NOTE: D.C. allows individuals with a criminal record to vote as long as they are not incarcerated on felony charges; homeless individuals can also register (click here for more information on voting rights).

Finally, you can look up your polling place, or request an absentee ballot (for any reason). Can’t get off work on June 14? Don’t worry, you can vote early at a few places between 8:30 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. on June 4 and June 11; click here to find an early voting center.

Some of these races are expected to be very close. For example, the last time that LaRuby May and Trayon White faced each other in a special election, the race was decided by only 78 votes. So get out and make your voice heard, D.C.!

*Please note: The Democratic primary is the only one run by the D.C. Board of Elections. The D.C. Statehood Green Party is holding a primary, but its candidate for an at-large seat on the D.C. Council, G. Lee Aiken, is running unopposed. The D.C. Republican party states: “Candidates for At-Large, as well as Wards 2, 4, 7 and 8 on the DC Council, will be on the ballot. We will announce candidates for a number of offices in the coming months.”

Democratic Primary

At-Large candidates (representing all D.C. residents):

David Garber: A+

Mr. Garber supports taxing and regulating marijuana, ending the social use ban on marijuana consumption outside the home, and expanding the medical program. He also believes that budget autonomy will allow the council to move forward with taxing and regulating marijuana.

Vincent Orange (current councilmember): A

Councilmember Orange supports taxing and regulating marijuana, ending the social use ban on marijuana consumption outside the home, and expanding the medical program. He has consistently voted against the social use ban and introduced legislation to tax and regulate marijuana. He has also stated on the record that he supports using “reserve funds” to get around the Congressional attempt to block marijuana policy reform.

Robert White: A

Mr. White supports taxing and regulating marijuana and expanding the medical marijuana program. He had this to say on his support for ending the social use ban: “So long as there is a balanced approach, as with cigarettes.” He further suggested having a longer survey Votbecause: “We are talking about the creation of a public trade in a substance that sent thousands of mostly young black men to prison in the recent past.”

Ward candidates (you can look up your Ward here):

Ward 2

Jack Evans (current councilmember): A+

Councilmember Evans, who is unopposed in the primary, supports taxing and regulating marijuana, ending the social use ban on marijuana consumption outside the home, and expanding the District’s medical program. In 2014, he voted for decriminalization. He has consistently voted against the social use ban and introduced legislation to tax and regulate marijuana.

Councilmember Evans notes that he has been proactive on moving policy forward: “I have already requested a legal opinion from the Attorney General on legal options to allow the sale and regulation of marijuana in the District.”

Ward 4

Leon T. Andrews, Jr.: A

Mr. Andrews supports taxing and regulating marijuana, ending the social use ban, and expanding the medical marijuana program. He provided lengthy comments on his survey, including the following:

“From the collected data in DC and what we know from cities and states across the country, cannabis in all of its forms must be regulated and treated as similar products, such as tobacco or alcohol and, it should be consumed in safe and lawful communal use spaces, as well as private homes.”

“The trend of legalization is upon us, so we need to get ahead of this industry and determine how responsible adults can use cannabis for their personal benefit. I believe the DC Council has a responsibility to provide sensible marijuana legislation, as well as stringent oversight of the agency charged with its regulation and eventual taxation.”

Ron Austin: C+

Mr. Austin supports taxing and regulating marijuana. He would await the task force’s report before making a decision on whether to continue the social use ban. He is undecided on whether the medical marijuana program should be expanded or more restricted. He commented that: “I feel that Medical Marijuana is news to the city, and I would like for it to be available for the citizens that really need it for health concerns.”

Calvin H. Gurley: Did not respond to MPP’s survey

Brandon Todd (current councilmember): F

Councilmember Todd has consistently voted in favor of the social use ban. Yet, he agreed to serve as one of two councilmembers on a task force to study the issue. He did not attend either the community forum to provide feedback on the task force or the first task force meeting. He was not on the Council when decriminalization passed and did not respond to the candidate survey.

Ward 7

Yvette Alexander (current councilmember): D

Councilmember Alexander has consistently voted in favor of the social use ban, strongly stating on the dais that she would “absolutely not” support allowing people to consume cannabis in safe, regulated spaces outside a private home. She was the only councilmember who voted against decriminalization in 2014. She did, however, introduce bills to expand the medical program. Councilmember Alexander did not respond to MPP’s survey.

Delmar Chesley: Did not respond to MPP’s survey

Vincent C. Gray: C+

Mr. Gray did not respond to the survey. However, when he was mayor of D.C., he signed both the decriminalization law and a bill that expanded the medical marijuana program. He also cautiously supported calls to boycott Ocean City after its Congressman, Andy Harris, tried to block the decriminalization bill with an appropriations rider. But, when Congress tried to block Initiative 71, which legalized possession of up to two ounces of marijuana, he was ready to give up, while Mayor Bowser stood up to Congress for the validity of the initiative when she took office in January 2015.

Grant Thompson: C+

Mr. Thompson supports taxing and regulating marijuana. He would await the task force’s report before making a decision on whether to continue the social use ban. He believes there should be more restrictions on the medical marijuana program. He commented that: “I would like to learn more and discuss the details of an open market for visiting municipalities.”

Ward 8

Maurice T. Dickens: Did not respond to MPP’s survey

Bonita Goode: Did not respond to MPP’s survey

Aaron Holmes: Did not respond to MPP’s survey

LaRuby May (current councilmember): D

Councilmember May initially voted to allow the social use ban to expire, but caved in to mayoral pressure and switched her vote. She has consistently voted in favor of the ban since then. She was not on the council when decriminalization passed and did not sign on to the legislation to tax and regulate marijuana. She did not respond to MPP’s survey.

Trayon “Ward 8” White: Did not respond to MPP’s survey

General Election Candidates

At-Large candidates (representing all D.C. residents):

Drew Franklin (Independent): A+

Mr. Franklin supports taxing and regulating marijuana, ending the social use ban on marijuana consumption outside the home, and expanding the medical program.

He provided thoughtful comments on his survey, including the following:

“Public housing tenants, and many renters, cannot legally grow or consume cannabis in their homes, and as a result extreme racial disparities in marijuana arrests remain; 84% of people arrested for public smoking last year were black. The Council’s ban on ‘pot clubs’ ensures that this trend will continue. Only policies that allow for a safe, well-regulated recreational cannabis market can effectively end the racist legacy of prohibition, and as a member of the Council I will fight to make that a reality.”

David Grosso (Independent, current councilmember): A+

Councilmember Grosso supports taxing and regulating marijuana, ending the social use ban on marijuana consumption outside the home, and expanding the medical program. In 2014, he voted for decriminalization. He has consistently voted against the social use ban and introduced legislation to tax and regulate marijuana.

Councilmember Grosso has also been an outspoken advocate of drug policy reform more broadly. While he said that he believes that Congressional budget riders will continue to block marijuana policy reform in D.C. even with local budget autonomy, he also said that: “I believe that there are other paths forward. Civil disobedience has to be on the table.”

Website link: https://www.mpp.org/states/district-of-columbia/voter-guide-2016/

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