Ward 5 Needs Rise with Thomas' Fall

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), January 17, 2012 | Go to article overview

Ward 5 Needs Rise with Thomas' Fall


Byline: Tom Howell Jr., THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Less than two weeks after Harry Thomas Jr. stepped gave up his Ward 5 seat on the D.C. Council and pleaded guilty to stealing District funds, the saturation of medical marijuana centers and other issues in his Northeast ward will take center stage at the first legislative session without him.

Council members Vincent B. Orange, at-large Democrat, and Marion Barry, Ward 8 Democrat, are set to introduce a pair of bills Tuesday that would limit the concentration of licenses to grow or sell medical marijuana in an individual ward or the amount of licenses granted to a company. Mr. Orange also plans to introduce a bill that would impose a moratorium on strip clubs, topless bars and gentlemen's clubs in Ward 5.

A pair of contract modifications from council member Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat, are the only items on a draft agenda for the meeting that are not directly related to Ward 5 matters left behind by Thomas, who resigned Jan. 6 in the hours after federal prosecutors charged him with stealing public funds and filing false tax returns.

Thomas had expressed concern that almost all of the applicants who wished to cultivate medical marijuana had proposed sites in a part of his ward bordered by Bladensburg and Queens Chapel roads and New York Avenue. He said the burden of the program should be distributed across the city, while acknowledging that the Ward 5 cluster was a result of zoning restrictions.

Mr. Orange, a longtime resident and former council member for Ward 5, also sounded the alarm on medical marijuana and

has positioned himself as the city legislator best suited to address the ward's needs in Thomas' absence. …

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