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January 20, 2010


Dear Cultivators:

The city council is moving ahead with legislation to legalize “medical” marijuana. Councilmembers Catania, Mendelson, and Gray have proposed the “Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative of 2010” bill ( — the URL will be changed to the bill number after the council assigns it one), which amends the initiative that was passed in 1998.

DCIst has an article about the disappointment of marijuana proponents with the restrictions, controls, and safeguards that the council has written into the bill (, but there are two good reasons for them. First, loose and lightly regulated marijuana distribution systems are bad in themselves. Second, and more important to the councilmembers, if the council designed an openly loose and lightly regulated system, Congress would overturn their law. The city council has to at least pretend that it is doing its best to limit the distribution of marijuana to “legitimate,” “medical” uses. But the bill won’t work, if for no other reason than that the details of its enforcement are left up to regulations to be written later by the executive branch.

I would go into a rant here, but it has already been written by Dave Stroup, “Medical marijuana [is] poised to be the next contracting scandal. The council has proposed medical marijuana legislation that would create a system to grow and distribute the drug to patients in the District. The legislation puts restrictions on where the proposed five dispens[er]ies could be located, and Councilmember David Catania (I-At Large) believes the regulations could serve as a model for other states. I’m mostly in favor of ending the war on weed, as it takes up too much time and resources for law enforcement. However, I can tell you I absolutely don’t trust the District do to this correctly. We can barely enforce the laws we already have, and creating a system to provide medical marijuana is asking for fraud on levels that we haven’t seen in a long time. Since there are still federal laws making marijuana illegal, the District cannot import it from another state. Can you imagine a DC government run (or audited) organization growing marijuana for ‘medical purposes?’ Is this a joke? Catania says it would be up to the mayor to enforce the regulations. Do we want to leave this up to Fenty? As much as I don’t want to shoot down this idea, it sounds so unrealistic and I imagine will ultimately end with Congress shutting it down. Not to mention, how the heck are we going to pay for this? The council would like to provide the drug at a subsided cost for low income people. The creation of this infrastructure and enforcing the regulations will be a huge burden, and keep in mind for everyone else marijuana will still be illegal, so it won’t take much of a load off of MPD. Sorry to rain on everyone’s Cheech and Chong parade.”

Will this end badly? No, the question is who on earth expects it to end well?

Gary Imhoff


Bogus Parking Tickets, Bogus DMV Appeal Process
Jack McKay,

Can a car be parked beyond a “no parking” sign, and yet be legally parked? Yes, courtesy of a 2006 law that says that a car with a Residential Permit Parking (RPP) sticker can, on an RPP-posted block, be parked as close as 25 feet to an intersection, whereas the “no parking to intersection” signposts are placed 40 feet away. But getting Metropolitan Police Officers and Parking Enforcement personnel to understand that the law governs the situation, and may differ from the signpost, has been an endless struggle. So far I have four successful challenges to such bogus tickets: “the ticket is dismissed.”

In a vain effort to educate one Parking Enforcement officer, I intentionally parked a second time in a spot where “M. Long” had issued such a ticket the day before, this time with a prominent note explaining why the parking was legal. Fat lot of good that note did, as Officer Long happily wrote me another ticket, same place, same bogus violation, my note clamped underneath the ticket, ignored. Well, given two identical tickets, I sent in two identical denials, with a letter that has become a fill-in-the-date form. Three months later, ticket #1 was dismissed; a DMV Hearing Examiner by the name of Oyobio accepted my explanation of the law. Another month on, and ticket #2 — oops — was upheld! My identical explanation of the law this time was rejected by the very same Examiner Oyobio. Guess he wasn’t feeling cheery that day.

Very well, I paid the bogus ticket, but I also filed an appeal, figuring that somebody at DMV must know the actual parking laws. That was in July 2008 — yes, a year and a half ago — and there’s not been a peep from DMV. I guess, since the District has my money, they’re content to take their sweet time in considering an appeal. “You should anticipate a delay in receiving the order,” says the letter from DMV. Or is “delay” down at the DMV a euphemism for “never”?


JBG Lawsuit Against DC, Marriott Over the Convention Center Hotel
Richard Layman,

To me, the interesting thing about the lawsuit that JBG has entered against DC, claiming favored treatment of Marriott and special dealing, is that it is about the absolutely same behavior that was exhibited by DC council in entering into a special relationship with the Sang Oh Choi interests to redevelop the Florida Market area of DC. See “Lawsuit Is Newest Roadblock for District’s Long-Awaited Hotel” from the Washington Post,

This is a rare fight among actors who are normally co-working team players within the Growth Machine. As the Washington Business Journal suggests in this article, “What’s behind JBG’s convention hotel lawsuit?” ( “The lawsuit, which was filed in Superior Court on Sept. 4 — two weeks before the developer lost an administrative bid appeal — puzzled and dismayed many observers, who questioned why the company would fight over a contract it had not even pursued. Several sources interviewed for this story spoke on the condition of anonymity, as they were either not authorized to speak to the media or they wanted to maintain relationships.

“One possible scenario, sources close to the deal said, is that JBG is using hardball tactics to gain leverage in an unrelated business dispute at the Marriott Wardman Park, which JBG owns with Los Angeles-based CIM Group. CIM joined JBG’s administrative bid protest but is not a party of the lawsuit, according to court records. The target of the lawsuit, in other words, is actually Marriott, not the city, sources say.”

We should all be familiar with the concept of separation of powers. Generally, laws that cover the executive branch are not extended to the legislative branch, unless specifically called for in the law, with the approval of the legislative branch. It happens that DC contracting and procurement laws, at least right now, exempt DC city council actions. The laws only cover the executive branch and its dealings. Note that I am not a lawyer, but that was my understanding based on the multi-year somewhat unsuccessful/somewhat successful advocacy against the Sang Oh Choi urban renewal program for the Florida Market. So JBG is likely to lose the suit on the merits, not because they are wrong to be concerned about special deals from city council — although in normal circumstances their concern about this likely extends only to the contracts they get in this fashion — but because the city council lacks the same legal requirements over contracting that pertain to the executive branch. That, to me, is the real issue here.

Which is another irony, given that the city council is making a point of how the executive branch has been breaking the law on contracting, which came to their attention first over special contracting to friends of the mayor, which by the way, columnists at the Examiner, Harry Jaffe and Jonetta Rose Barras, don’t seem to think is a big deal.

See “Gray Wants to Give Fenty Administration More Time on Contracts,”; “Firm Got Millions after DC Council Ended Contract,”; and “DC Council Ends Deal with Fenty’s Friend’s Firm,”, from the Post for more on the issue. Look up the old Examiner columns on their web site yourself.


More Campaign Suggestions for Jack Evans
Peter Tucker,

Last week I wrote you a letter with some suggestions for your possible run for chairman of the DC city council (“Campaign Suggestions for Jack Evans,” themail, January 10). Unfortunately, I haven’t heard back from you. That’s okay. I know you’re busy working hard as both a councilmember (annual salary: more than $125,000) and a lobbyist for Patton Boggs (annual salary: $240,000). In my letter, I urged you to “be very careful about what you say and do with regards to the proposed Convention Center Hotel.” The reason is simple: legally, you are treading on thin ice. After spending years working on this project, all of the sudden you (somewhat suspiciously) began recusing yourself from voting on the issue just two days after being asked if you had a conflict of interest. And you’ll recall that when the Federation of Citizens Associations and the Committee of 100 followed up with a joint letter asking about the extent and nature of your lobbying on behalf of Marriott, you simply ignored them (

Despite your hard work this summer in getting the council to approve $272 million in public funds to help Marriott build a hotel next to the Convention Center, the deal looks like it may fall apart. JBG, a competitor of Marriott’s, is suing the city because they claim the process for awarding the massive contracts lacked transparency. An article in Monday’s Washington Post (“Convention Center Still Waits for Hotel,” said: “Behind the scenes, DC Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) is trying to get the parties [JBG and Marriott] to resolve their dispute, according to those with knowledge of the talks. Evans declined to comment.” While it was wise of you to decline to comment, it’s not enough: for legal reasons, it would be helpful if your name didn’t appear anywhere near discussions surrounding the Marriott deal (remember, you felt your involvement was inappropriate, so you recused yourself).

I must conclude this letter with the same words of warning with which I ended my last letter: “I’m fearful that by continuing to be involved with the Marriott deal you are not only jeopardizing your chances of becoming chair, but you may be at risk of becoming the subject of an ethics investigation. If you run for chair, I wish you the best of luck. And if you are the subject of an ethics investigation, I wish you the best of luck with that, as well.”


Changes in Agency Direction
Harry Gates,

You may recall that about this time last year, despite his lack of zoning and management experience, Jamison Weinbaum was nominated to be Director of the Office of Zoning. The nominee was handpicked by Neil Albert, Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, to fill the vacancy left by the departure of Jerrily Kress. Some time ago, Jerrily Kress recognized there was a problem with zoning order compliance. Conditions, imposed as a means of making special exceptions, variances, and PUDS less objectionable, were not being implemented. ANC commissioners and city residents found themselves without recourse except through DCRA. To help rectify the situation, the council approved a new Compliance Specialist position for OZ, but earlier this month Director Weinbaum terminated the Compliance Specialist, who was being effective, saying the office is moving in a new direction. Is compliance being put on the back burner in the Office of Zoning?

Shortly after the removal of the Compliance Specialist, a January 13 Northwest Current article noted, “Zoning official opts not to enforce ruling on Burleith addition,” the Zoning Administrator (a DCRA employee) justified his decision not to enforce the BZA ruling because of, “fairness to the parties involved, the severity of the violation, the harm to the public and the availability of DCRA resources”

Given the apparent course reversal at DCRA and the Office of Zoning, one cannot help but wonder if these agencies are ignoring their responsibility to ensure zoning orders are enforced and in compliance. What recourse do residents of the city have when agencies decide to change direction? Is subverting compliance and enforcement a way to remove obstacles to development in the District of Columbia? It appears the administration cannot stomach the law being enforced against its friends and contributors, and is ensuring that will not be a concern for them in the future.


Good Teachers from The Atlantic
Pat Bitondo,

Here is the link to The Atlantic: I must add that I disagree with most of the article, and I can’t help but wonder whether Ms. Rhee is the cause of Mr. Taylor’s leaving.


More Environmentalists and Environmentalism
James Treworgy,

I know where Mr. Grahame [themail, January 17] is coming from. But the problem is that even though a lot of people claim to be interested in making changes to their lifestyle to help the environment, few people are willing. If we agree that the bag tax is pretty inconsequential as far as its impact on actual trash is concerned, then why aren’t we willing to fund the cleanup of the Anacostia with real money instead of good vibes? The authors of the bill themselves believe that revenue will decline steeply after only a couple years as people adapt to the tax and far fewer bags are handed out. Yet, it seems clear that bags have very little to do with the bulk of trash in the Anacostia. So in a couple years, the revenue stream from this tax is mostly gone, but the sources of trash are not. And we are left with a very inconvenient, regressive tax that generates little revenue.

I don’t believe it would be impossible to pass a bottle bill in this city. Why do you think this would be any harder than the bag tax? The last time anyone even tried was over twenty years ago and the city was a lot different back then. But if we can’t muster either, and the goal was actually to clean up the Anacostia, then I can’t understand why we didn’t just figure out how much it’s going to cost to keep it clean every year and appropriate it. Instead we have this bag tax that has nothing to do with removing significant amounts of trash, but everything to do with appeasing some people who want to feel good without really understanding the consequences of the tax — which may, actually, be harmful to the environment in the big picture.

Being an environmentalist is about a lot more than just saying you are one. It’s about making choices that are much harder than “paper or plastic.” This tax makes people who think they are environmentalists feel good, annoys everyone else, and will be unlikely to keep the Anacostia clean. But more importantly it wastes valuable “green” political capital and will make future efforts harder to sell. I would much rather have seen this capital spent on a bottle bill, which has been proven to be very effective, even if it took longer.


King and the Vietnam War
Bryce A. Suderow,

Don’t forget that King also opposed the Vietnam War. On April 4, 1967, Martin Luther King in a speech entitled “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” declared his opposition to the Vietnam War, alienating millions of Americans, both black and white, for the war was immensely popular. In a part of the speech he even compared America to Nazi Germany: “What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test out our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building? Is it among these voiceless ones?”

Here are some links dealing with King’s stance on the war:,

The Liberal Media turned against him like rabid dogs. Time magazine called the speech “demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi,” and the Washington Post declared that King had “diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people” (



Department of Parks and Recreation Events, January 24
John Stokes,

January 24, 30, 8:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m., PG Sports & Learning Complex, 8001 Sheriff Road Landover, Maryland. All Comers Track Meet for all ages. Participants in the All Comers Track Meet will compete in track and field events. For more information, call Edgar Sams at 425-2859.


National Building Museum Events, January 25-26
Johanna Weber,

January 25, 12:30-1:30 p.m., The Business Side of Smart Growth: Local Assets, Local Approaches. Dale Roberts, owner of The Java Shack Coffeehouse in Arlington, Virginia, discusses the role of small businesses as catalysts for successful smart growth. Roberts explains his partnership with other small, locally owned businesses to help create a true urban village where people live, work, shop, and dine close to home. Free. Registration required. Walk-in registration based on availability.

January 25, 6:30-8:00 p.m., Parking Garages: Beauty or the Beast. Ned Cramer, editor-in-chief of Architect examines famous architects’ designs for parking structures and challenges the field to transform this humble form into works of beauty. This lecture complements the exhibition House of Cars: Innovation and the Parking Garage, which will be open for viewing. $12 members, $12 students, $20 nonmembers. Prepaid registration required. Walk-in registration based on availability.

January 26, 6:30-8:00 p.m., For the Greener Good: Urban Agriculture. There has been a growing movement to investigate the ecological impact of how and where we produce our food. Urban agriculture has the potential to provide nutritious food to underserved areas, reduce the urban heat island effect, and just might save the planet. $12 members, free students, $20 nonmembers. Prepaid registration required. Walk-in registration based on availability. All events at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square Metro station. Register for events at


Councilmember Cheh at Ward Three Democrats, January 28
Thomas M. Smith,

The Ward Three Democratic Committee will hold a community dialogue with DC Ward 3 DC Councilmember Mary Cheh on Thursday, January 28, 7:15 p.m.-9:30 p.m., in The Great Hall, St. Columba Episcopal Church, 4201 Albemarle Street, NW (one block off Wisconsin Avenue at the Tenleytown Metro station. The Committee will also consider a resolution to oppose Mayor Adrian Fenty’s appointment of a new People’s Counsel. For more information, contact Thomas M. Smith, Chair, Ward Three Democratic Committee, 364-7130,, or see the web site at



Research Intern, DC Lawyers for Youth
Donald Sherman,

DC Lawyers for Youth ( is looking for a college student (junior or senior) or recent grad to be an unpaid research intern. Candidates should a resume and a brief (one paragraph) statement of interest to no later than COB on Monday, January 25.

We are looking to hire someone relatively soon. Tasks would include doing nonlegal research, drafting blog posts, drafting letters, and other administrative work. We’d like a commitment of ten to fifteen hours per week, which could be done at any time, as long as deadlines are met. Folks with an interest in law and great research skills would be good candidates. In addition to valuable work experience, working for DCLY would be a great opportunity to network with young attorneys and local juvenile justice advocates.


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