D.C. is a ‘plantation’ because it isn’t considering decriminalizing pot, council candidate says

March 19, 2013

D.C. Council candidate Paul Zukerberg on Tuesday referred to the District as a “plantation” because city politicians are not seriously considering decriminalizing marijuana.

In a statement, Zukerberg noted that the Maryland Senate is poised to take up a bill this week that would end jail time and reduce the fine for possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana .

“Meanwhile, back on the plantation, D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson told the Washington Post recently that it’s not the right time to be discussing marijuana law reform in D.C.,” said Zukerberg, referring to a recent Post story. “At least in Maryland, elected officials have the brass to debate the issue.”

Zukerberg, an attorney who specializes in representing clients arrested for marijuana possession, has made the decriminalization of the drug a centerpiece of his campaign. At forums and debates, Zukerberg appears to resonate with audiences when he speaks about needing to the reduce the number of young adults who land criminal records because of marijuana use.

It’s questionable whether it’s politically wise for Zukerberg to refer to a historically majority-black city as “a plantation.”

“In the modern world, it sounds very derogatory,” said D.C. council member Anita Bonds (D-At Large), also a candidate in the race.

When asked about his comment, the 55-year-old Democrat conceded plantation “may not be the most appropriate term.” But Zukerberg said he’s heard others refer to the District that way “because they don’t have voting rights.”

Regardless, Zukerberg said he stands by his broader statement that city leaders need to become more engaged in the debate over marijuana policy.

“We need to have a debate on decriminalization,” Zukerberg said. “We need to have the same debate they are having in Maryland here.”

Zukerberg is one of seven candidates in the April 23 citywide special election for an at-large seat on the 13-member council.

Tim Craig is The Post’s bureau chief in Pakistan. He has also covered conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and within the District of Columbia government.
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