Kennedy Kicks Off Anti-Legalization Campaign in Nation’s Capital

lastprohibitionistSeeking Redemption for his own drug use?

The opposition campaign to marijuana legalization in Washington, D.C. kicked off with a press conference this morning. The big news is that the leading opponents of Initiative 71 don’t seem to actually have read the measure they’re campaigning against.

Malik Burnett of the pro-legalization Drug Policy Alliance was in attendance and he told in a phone interview that the event, led by former Congressman Patrick Kennedy and a handful of local religious leaders, was “an exercise in gross misinformation to the public.”

Not only did the speakers try to walk away from the podium and end the event without even taking questions from the press, but they also grossly mischaracterized what the initiative would do. Most speakers, Burnett says, tried to stoke fears about “the emergence of Big Tobacco companies coming in to the District to sell marijuana to minors.”

The thing is, Initiative 71 doesn’t even legalize marijuana sales. Because District law prevents voters from putting initiatives on the ballot that require the expenditure of city funds, which the regulation of the marijuana trade would entail, the measure simply legalizes possession of up to two ounces and allows residents to grow up to six plants at home.

The event seems to have kicked the opposition campaign off to a rough and embarrassing start, but things could be about to get even worse for D.C.’s leading prohibitionists. While, as noted above, organizers initially tried to prevent reporters from asking questions, journalists in attendance didn’t take kindly to that and ended up peppering the speakers with questions about why the opposition campaign hasn’t filed paperwork with the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance. That could spell legal trouble for a campaign that’s already struggling to get its message out to D.C. voters, who polls show overwhelmingly favor legalization.

In the end, Burnett says, the event felt like a “flashback to the 80’s” and amounted to “a whole bunch of misinformation and stigmatization around marijuana.” If that’s the best opponents can do, it seems likely that marijuana will soon be legal in Congress’s backyard.