Will Congress Let D.C. Legalize Pot?

Theoretically, any state’s marijuana law is under threat from the federal government; Washington state and Colorado legalized marijuana last year and have enacted an uneasy truce with the feds, who have agreed not to enforce laws for now. But it’s of particular concern in Washington, D.C., where the relationship between the federal and local governments poses unique jurisdictional challenges. Although D.C. gained significant independence with the Home Rule Act of 1973, all its laws and budgets still need to be sanctioned by Congress, a body in which it has no voting representative. This set-up renders the district especially vulnerable to the whims of national politicians, some of whom—historically, at least—have prioritized partisan interests over D.C.’s right to self-determination.

Legalized marijuana is the next chapter in this struggle. On Election Day, two-thirds of district voters supported Initiative 71—a ballot measure that makes limited pot possession legal. Congress will have 30 business days after the election’s results are certified this month to review the initiative, as it does with all new laws in D.C. (Certain criminal laws in the district get a 60-day review period.) If Congress passes a joint resolution rejecting the ballot, President Obama could approve or veto their decision. In the latter case, the initiative would officially go into effect once the D.C. Council creates a system for regulation and sales, which was not part of the ballot.

“Any attempt to overturn this vote would be a violation of essential American principles,” said James Jones, communications director of DC Vote, a non-profit organization that works to secure representation in Congress for the district. “It would be Congress acting by fiat—not by any sort of democratic principle, but by hypocrisy.”

– Read the entire article at The Atlantic.

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