GLAA warns against emergency legislation
Go to response from Councilmember Jarvis

December 17, 1996

The Honorable Charlene Drew Jarvis
Council of the District of Columbia
John Wilson Building
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., 1st Floor
Washington, D.C. 20004

Dear Councilmember Jarvis:

Recent news reports indicate that you may be sympathetic to the attempt by U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to increase the penalties for possession of marijuana. Reading between the lines of Mr. Holder's rhetoric, we suspect that he may attempt to have such legislation railroaded through the Council as an "emergency" piece of legislation, thereby avoiding public hearings.

The Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington (GLAA) has never before taken a position one way or the other on the issue of legalization of currently prohibited drugs. However, the recent enactment of initiatives in California and Arizona on the compassionate use of marijuana with a doctor's authorization, plus the launching of a similar initiative drive here in the District, is prompting us to take a new look at this matter from our perspective as advocates for people with AIDS.

Whatever our final position may be, we see no reason for the Council to declare an "emergency" solely to facilitate passage of legislation envisioned by Mr. Holder, no doubt with the encouragement of the Justice Department. If such legislation is introduced, we believe that the citizens of the District should be allowed to testify at public hearings on the pros and cons and on the possibility of carving out an exception for the compassionate use of marijuana. Home rule in the District is already under the most severe attack ever; there is no reason for the Council to hasten this erosion by meekly rubber-stamping the Justice Department's dictates without involving our own citizens.

Please consider this letter as a friendly warning against undue haste in accommodating Mr. Holder's wishes.

Best wishes for a happy 1997.


Richard J. Rosendall
Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington

cc: Chairman Dave Clarke
The Honorable Jack Evans
The Honorable Harold Brazil
The Washington Blade

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Councilmember Jarvis responds:

Council of the District of Columbia
Washington, DC 20004
December 30, 1996

Mr. Richard J. Rosendall
Gay & Lesbian Activist Alliance of Washington
P.O. Box 75265
Washington, DC 20013-5265

Dear Mr. Rosendall:

Approximately two years ago I began discussions with the U.S. Attorney, community leaders, my constituents, and law enforcement officials about a legislative proposal to increase from a misdemeanor to a felony the sale and distribution of marijuana, and/or the possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute or sell. This proposal came about as a result of the increasing use of marijuana and increasing acts of violence in my ward which police attribute to turf wars among marijuana traffickers.

While there was a press conference in December to announce the marijuana proposal, there was never an intent to pass such legislation by emergency. At the press conference, I pointed out that the legislation would be introduced during the next Council session. I share your opinion that this matter needs a public hearing which I stated during the press conference.

Thank you for expressing your concern to me. If I may be of further assistance, do not hesitate to contact me.


Councilmember, Ward 4

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