DC leaders outline marijuana laws as Congress investigates move to legalize

At 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, Initiative 71, better known as the "Pot Bill," will take effect in Washington D.C. However, a congressional committee is threatening to derail the controversial move once again.

Congress is investigating the District of Columbia's move to legalize marijuana and demanding documents showing how money has been spent to change the city's pot laws.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, sent a letter to Mayor Muriel Bowser late Tuesday asking her to reconsider moving forward with legalization. Chaffetz chairs the House Oversight Committee, which has authority over District government.

District voters approved an initiative in November that legalizes possession of small amounts of pot for use in the home. Congress approved language in December that appeared to block the initiative, but District leaders argued they could still legalize pot because the initiative was enacted before Congress took action.

Chaffetz says that interpretation is wrong and that legalizing pot on Thursday as Bowser plans would be clearly illegal.

On Tuesday, D.C.'s mayor and police chief outlined a plan of what will be legal and what is not, and they want the public to be educated.

Although some on Capitol Hill disagree Initiative 71 is legal, Mayor Muriel Bowser with Police Chief Cathy Lanier at her side say they are going ahead with it.

"We, of course, stand together and want to enforce the will of the people by implementing the initiative in a safe, fair and transparent way," said Bowser.

But don't expect to just light up anywhere. The mayor laid out a plan and the chief of police talked about how it will be enforced.

Smoking marijuana won't be allowed under the age of 21 or out in public. But those over the age of 21 can possess up to two ounces of marijuana.

"You can use and grow marijuana in your home," said Chief Lanier.

Under the new rules, you will be able to smoke inside your home. You can even grow up to six plants inside your home.

You can smoke outside on your porch, but you can't grow it there. Smoking is allowed in your yard, but if you step out on the sidewalk or any public property, you will be in violation of the law.

You will not be able to grow or smoke in a detached garage.

And keep in mind, D.C. law can't protect you on federal property. A federal officer could arrest you if you are smoking on the National Mall, one of their smaller parks or in other federal space.

Chief Lanier is concerned about public confusion.

"Knowing where you are, knowing what you can possess and knowing where you can consume are really important to the public," she said.

And what about clubs or entertainment venues? The mayor says no. Do it in a home or not at all.

"Marijuana is controlled substance that should be used safely and responsibly to protect our public health," said Bowser.

We reached out to Maryland Rep. Andy Harris who has been opposed to Initiative 71. He said in a statement, "Congress took clear action to stop enactment of legalization of marijuana in D.C."

Small business cards with these new marijuana rules will be passed out by government workers and police.

Bowser Administration Outlines the District's Marijuana Laws

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser, Police Chief Cathy Lanier and other administration officials outlined the District's plan to ensure the safe, responsible administration of Initiative 71.

"In November, residents of the District of Columbia voted to legalize small amounts of marijuana by adults for personal, in-home use in the District," said Mayor Bowser. "We will uphold the letter and the spirit of the initiative that was passed last year, and we will establish the Initiative 71 Task Force to coordinate our enforcement, awareness and engagement efforts and address policy questions as they arise."

Implementation of Initiative 71 represents an incremental change from the District's law which decriminalized marijuana. The Bowser Administration has laid out clear expectations for what is lawful and what remains illegal.

Under Initiative 71, individuals 21 years of age or older will be able to lawfully:

· Possess two ounces or less of marijuana;

· Use marijuana on private property;

· Transfer one ounce or less of marijuana to another person, as long as:

1. no money, goods or services are exchanged; and

2. the recipient is 21 years of age or older; and

· Cultivate within his or her primary residence up to six marijuana plants, no more than three of which are mature.

Under Initiative 71, it will remain a crime for anyone to:

· Possess more than two ounces of marijuana;

· Smoke or otherwise consume marijuana on public space or anywhere to which the public is invited; including restaurants, bars, and coffee shops;

· Sell any amount of marijuana to another person; or

· Operate a vehicle or boat under the influence of marijuana.

The Bowser Administration will administer the will of the people by implementing the law in a safe, fair and transparent manner. Sale of marijuana, use in public space, impaired driving, and possession by anyone under the age of 21 will remain illegal. While use by adults will be legal in these limited circumstances, marijuana is a controlled substance that should be used safely and responsibly to protect the public health.

The Administration has created the Initiative 71 Task Force led by Police Chief Cathy Lanier (MPD) and Director LaQuandra Nesbitt of the Department of Health (DOH) to lead implementation and public information efforts.

In the coming days, Mayor Bowser will put forward emergency legislation to clarify that the law does not allow private clubs to provide marijuana to their patrons.

Click HERE for a Fact Sheet on Marijuana in DC

Click HERE for a Frequently Asked Questions Document on Marijuana in DC

Click HERE for a Infographic on Marijuana in DC