The omnibus spending bill that Congress is expected to approve this week includes a rider aimed at blocking marijuana legalization in Washington, D.C.
Whether it actually will do that is a matter of debate, and the way this provision was passed suggests that pot prohibitionists are in a weaker position than ever before.
The rider, introduced by Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), says “none of the funds contained in this Act may be used to enact any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution of any schedule I substance.” House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), another ardent drug warrior, claims this spending restriction “prohibits both federal and local funds from being used to implement a referendum legalizing recreational marijuana use in the District.” But that is not quite accurate, since the rider refers to enactment, not implementation.
By contrast, an earlier version of the Harris rider dealt with spending to “enact or carry out” decriminalization or legalization of any Schedule I drug. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia’s congressional delegate, says that difference could prove crucial, because Initiative 71, the D.C. ballot measure legalizing marijuana possession, home cultivation, and sharing, “was enacted when it was approved overwhelmingly by voters in November.” The initiative’s elimination of penalties for specified marijuana-related activities is “self-executing,” Norton says, requiring no additional legislation by the D.C. Council or by Congress. In other words, the event Harris seeks to prevent has already happened.
Harris and his allies point out that Initiative 71 will not take effect until it survives congressional review, which does not begin until D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson officially submits the measure to Congress. At that point, Congress has 30 legislative days to pass a joint resolution rejecting the initiative. If Congress fails to pass a resolution during the review period, the initiative takes effect automatically.
– Read the entire article at Forbes.