Why Congress Probably Won’t Block Marijuana Legalization In Washington, D.C.

Initiative 71 cannot take effect until after D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson submits it to Congress for review, which he is expected to do when the new Congress is seated in January.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  At a press conference yesterday, Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia’s congressional delegate, urged her colleagues to respect the will of the voters who overwhelmingly approved marijuana legalization in the nation’s capital last week. She was joined by three congressmen, including Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), who said trying to block legalization in D.C. or in Alaska and Oregon, where voters also said no to marijuana prohibition last week, would flout “fundamental principles” that “Republicans have always talked about,” including “individual liberties,” “limited government,” and “states’ rights and the 10th Amendment.”

Norton noted that “we’ve had a threat to try to overturn our legalization initiative.” She was referring to Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), who after the D.C. vote told The Washington Post, “I will consider using all resources available to a member of Congress to stop this action.” Although there is no doubting Harris’s sincerity, those resources probably will prove inadequate.

Initiative 71, which passed by a margin of more than 2 to 1, 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 or distribution, although the District of Columbia 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 at a press conference after the election.

 

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