News & Politics

Marijuana Activists Turn in Signatures to Put Legalization on Ballot

DC voters could make marijuana legal in November.

Activists turned in nearly 3,400 sheets full of signatures. Photograph by Benjamin Freed.

The DC Cannabis Campaign has turned in more than 57,000 signatures in favor of putting a cannabis legalization referendum on November’s ballot—more than twice the signatures from registered voters required by law to get the referendum on the November 4 ballot. While the DC Board of Elections will take the next several weeks to review and validate the signatures, Adam Eidinger, who heads the group, says he is confident DCCC will have no trouble clearing the minimum.

For Eidinger, it will be a come-from-behind win. As late as the end of May, the campaign had barely collected 5,300 validated signatures. Eidinger jokes that he considered trying to steal local Democratic Party operative Tom Lindenfeld away from Muriel Bowser’s primary campaign.

“Every day we put people on the streets,” says Eidinger, who began sending out paid and volunteer canvassers in February. 

Initiative 71, as the legalization question would appear on ballots, makes possession or use of up to two ounces of pot legal, but stops well short of creating the kind of retail weed industry blazing up in Colorado. It would also allow adult residents to keep as many as six marijuana plants at home, three of them flowering with buds. People would be allowed to share their cultivated pot with each other, but without payment.

Eidinger expects that the review could disqualify a high percentage of signers—chiefly DC residents whose listed addresses don’t match their voter registrations, or non-District residents. But without a concerted challenge from a marijuana opponent, Eidinger says, certification is a near guarantee.

“We hope the only challenger is Andy Harris,” says Eidinger, referring to the congressman from Maryland who has attached an amendment blocking DC’s marijuana decriminalization law to a House appropriations bill. 

With the signatures handed over to the board of elections, Eidinger is preparing to campaign for the initiative itself. Although its success is likely—a Washington Post poll earlier this year found that 63 percent of DC voters support legal marijuana—the Cannabis Campaign is already printing literature for the fall, but which supporters can put to immediate use. At the Board of Elections today, Eidinger and his fellow activists passed out color leaflets printed on perforated card stock, with each panel designed to be detached and used as filter tips for joints. 

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.