How Will Congress Respond To Marijuana Legalization In D.C.?

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  Of the three jurisdictions where voters approved marijuana legalization last week, Washington, D.C., is the smallest but the most symbolically potent. The prospect of legal marijuana in the nation’s capital dramatically signals the ongoing collapse of the 77-year-old ban on a much-maligned plant.

The passage of Initiative 71, which voters backed by a margin of more than 2 to 1, presents a challenge to the Republicans who will soon control both houses of Congress. Will they respect democracy and local control, or will they insist that Washingtonians toe a prohibitionist line that is steadily disappearing?

Initiative 71 allows adults 21 or older to possess two ounces or less of marijuana, grow up to six plants at home, and transfer up to an ounce at a time to other adults “without remuneration.” It does not authorize commercial production and distribution, but the D.C. Council is considering legislation that would. “I see no reason why we wouldn’t follow a regime similar to how we regulate and tax alcohol,” incoming Mayor Muriel Bowser said last week.

The initiative does not take effect until after D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson submits it to Congress for review. Congress then has either 30 or 60 days (a matter of dispute) to pass a joint resolution overriding the initiative; if it fails to do so, the initiative becomes law.


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