02/06/2013 07:01 pm ET Updated Feb 07, 2013

Paul Zukerberg, Marijuana Lawyer, Faces D.C. Council Challenge

A high-profile marijuana lawyer's campaign for D.C. Council may be derailed by a challenger who claims he didn't collect enough signatures to be placed on the ballot.

Paul Zukerberg, running in April's special election for the vacant at-large seat, has been promoting a platform that includes decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The Adams Morgan-based attorney has defended more than 1,000 marijuana cases throughout the course of his 25-year career, and according to NBC Washington, "he has spoken eloquently about the disproportionate manner in which young black men are the primary targets of marijuana enforcement in the District and says they account for nine out of ten arrests."

But Elissa Silverman, a former City Paper reporter who recently announced her candidacy for the same seat, is determined to kick both Zukerberg and fellow challenger John Settles off the ballot.

Silverman claims her data team conducted a statistical analysis and concluded that both Zukerberg and Settles didn't submit the required 3,000 voter signatures it takes to qualify as a candidate.

Should the former journalist's efforts prove successful, she will still face five other opponents on the April 23 election. The council seat officially opened up after Phil Mendelson was elected chairman. Anita Bonds, appointed to the interim role, is also vying for the spot.

NBC Washington's Chuck Thies noted that Zukerberg's removal would leave marijuana proponents without a candidate. "[It's] hard to imagine Silverman, a liberal, winning the support of voters for whom marijuana is an important issue," he wrote.

Zukerberg has run a lively campaign thus far. "He put on quite a performance at the first debate of the campaign season," Thies commented in an earlier piece. "He was the only contestant to receive a round of applause from the audience and did so twice."

His platform extends beyond a single issue, however. According to The Washington Post, Zukerberg has also campaigned on education, sustainable transportation and ethics reform.

"There is a tsunami coming and it’s coming from the west,” he told the Post. “Why should D.C. be last on social legislation? Why should we be last on jobs? Why should we be last on education?”



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