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Marijuana Legalization Advocates Fired Up in Northwest D.C.

At Meridian Pint, the mood was festive. (Hannah Hess/CQ Roll Call)

Heading into the basement of Columbia Heights mainstay Meridian Pint, a bouncer warned attendees of the D.C. Cannabis Campaign’s election watch party there was “no smoking and no vaping down there.”  

At the bottom of the steps, the hosts passed out specially made “YES WE CANNABIS” white T-shirts with logo featuring the District of Columbia’s flag, while a DJ blasted a remix of Pharrell Williams’ hit “Happy.” The mood was glib, with more than an hour left to go until polls closed.  

Voters in D.C. appear poised to approve Initiative 71, a measure that would make it legal for people 21 years old and older to possess up to two ounces of marijuana for personal use and grow six cannabis plants at home, half of which can be mature. Elected officials were certain enough about the pot proposal's passage to hold a D.C. Council hearing the week before ballots were cast on legislation to tax and regulate sales of the drug. "Absolutely," said Democratic mayoral nominee Muriel Bowser during a midday campaign stop when asked if she thought the city should move forward with the bill. Bowser confirmed to CQ Roll Call that she voted in favor of legalization when she headed to the polls earlier that morning.  

Independent candidate David Catania, who was running second to Bowser in mayoral polls, also said he voted for legalization and would be prepared to defend it if Congress tries to intervene.  

Unlike the mayoral candidates who could have hours to go before they know their fate, most pot proponents were already partying. More than 180 people RSVP’d to the Meridian Pint event. Organizer Caroline Phillips said others had told her they were afraid to add themselves to the invite list on Facebook before the legalization vote was tallied. Regardless of the results on Tuesday, the results still have to be certified and sent to Capitol Hill, where the measure will undergo a 60-day review period.  

Attendees could bid in a silent auction for all the supplies they will need to enjoy legalization if lawmakers let it stand, including vaporizers and glass pipes. One item -- valued at $400 -- was a three-hour "Ready, Set, Grow" course offered by District Growers, LLC, a licensed medical marijuana cultivator in the District. The class promised to give participants "the foundation and confidence needed to begin setting up their own personal indoor garden," and teach them to select the best equipment, growing methods and nutrients for their weed garden.  

Vanessa West, general manager of Metropolitan Wellness Center, a medical marijuana dispensary in Barracks Row, said business definitely stands to benefit under the new legislation. However, she said in an interview that she remains "very cynical when it comes to legislation that has to go through [the] congressional review period in D.C.," a process that is required for all local legislation.  

West said she hopes the Hill "remains a do-nothing Congress" during the review period.  

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