DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Advocates say marijuana legalization, which passed as a ballot initiative in November, still stands because it was enacted before Congress intervened. The initiative legalized the possession, growing, and gifting of small amounts of marijuana, but not sales.
The congressional spending deal that tried to block legalization says the DC government may not spend local or federal funds to “enact” a law, rule, or regulation that reduces penalties on marijuana. The idea was to prevent DC Council from transmitting the voter-approved initiative to Congress for approval, as required by federal law, since it would take the city council’s time and resources to do so.
Advocates argue DC voters already enacted the legalization initiative back in November. Under this argument, DC Council wouldn’t be spending its time and resources to enact the initiative by sending it to Congress for a mandatory 30-day review period; it would be merely carrying out an initiative already enacted by voters.
Karl Racine, DC’s newly elected attorney general, told the Washington Post he agrees with this interpretation (as does Congresswoman Eleanor Norton, DC’s nonvoting delegate to the House of Representatives). Racine argued the congressional spending deal blocks future actions in DC, such as the legalization of sales, but not DC’s ballot initiative, which only legalized the possession, gifting, and growing of marijuana.