DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Imagine your state just passed a law legalizing marijuana in small amounts. If you are at least 21 years old, you can possess up to two ounces, give as much as one ounce to other adults, and grow as many as six marijuana plants at home. Because you enjoy consuming pot recreationally, you plant some cannabis seeds under a grow lamp in your living room, waiting for the high times it will bring.
Then, several weeks later, you learn that Congress has attempted to block your state from implementing the law. It has passed a “resolution of disapproval,” or maybe sneakily attached a “rider” to the following year’s appropriations bill that prevents your state from spending funds to execute said law.
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.