It’s only been a month since voters in Washington D.C. voted overwhelmingly in favor of Measure 71, to legalize recreational marijuana. But that victory may be short lived, if congress gets their way.
Lawmakers started working on Tuesday to attach a rider on to the current $1.1 trillion spending bill in the works. The rider would effectively overturn the very initiative that more than 70% of voters in the district were in favor of. The rider would also “prohibit federal and local funds from being used to enact or carry out any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution of any schedule I substance.”
Washington D.C. delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton said, “I would be at a loss to explain why Democrats would agree to block D.C. marijuana legalization on their watch,” Ms. Norton said. “Republicans will control Congress in less than a month. I don’t know why Democrats would give them a head start in interfering with the District’s local laws.”
Including the rider in the spending bill is a huge disappointment to D.C. officials who were in favor of decriminalization. It would have included the city with 18 other states that have decriminalized cannabis.
Even President Obama has spoken in opposition of the rider that would interfere with the city’s laws. He does hold the power to veto the spending bill if he wants. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (a strong advocate of the rider and bill) doesn’t think that would happen.
“If they put it in there, it’s going to be hard to take it out over here, but I oppose it,” said Mr. Reid, Nevada Democrat.
The mayor of D.C. Muriel Bowser didn’t have an explanation when asked what her office would do if the bill passes.
“I call on all members of Congress to respect the will of D.C. voters and reject any attempts to violate our right to self-governance,” Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser Tuesday afternoon in a written response to questions on the issue. “In the meantime, the Council and I will move forward to implement the law in a thoughtful and responsible way.”
Democrats are still fighting against the bill and really want to leave in place what voters have voted for.
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