Congress really dug themselves in deep when they suck a rider into a federal spending bill in December that blocked Washington D.C. from using funds to legalize marijuana, despite overwhelming voter approval in the District. Since that underhanded move, marijuana advocates across the country have been campaigning for District leaders to fight back.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser was on “Meet the Press” on Sunday. Bowser said despite the federal lawmakers denial of Initiative 71, which was the voter approved measure that would have legalized the cultivation, use and transfer of cannabis in the nation’s capital, the measure will be submitted later this month for a review by congress. Bowser wants voters and advocates to know that city of Washington D.C. has plans to “explore every option.” If need be the city is prepared to consider filing a lawsuit if it would prevent Congress from taking away the rights of District voters.
The mayor and a handful of other D.C. lawmakers feel pretty hopeful that their case against congress’ efforts to prohibit legal weed in the District. Representative Andy Harris from Maryland was the lawmaker behind the rider to stop the city from spending local dollars to change it’s marijuana laws. The language of his rider has come under attack lately as to if it holds any merit against Initiative 71.
Eleanor Holmes Norton, a District delegate has argued that Harris’ poor use of the words “Enact” and “Carry-Out” are actually keeping the initiative alive. Norton said, “D.C.’s Initiative 71, it can be argued, was enacted when it was approved overwhelmingly by voters in November and was self-executing – i.e., it did not require enactment of any rules for its implementation. Therefore, it can be argued that the legalization of small amounts of marijuana can proceed.”
Newly elected attorney general to the District, Karl Racine agrees that while the language of the rider may prevent D.C. from changing it’s pot laws in the future, it shouldn’t actually block the recent measure approval by D.C. voters. “We think Initiative 71 was basically self-enacted,” said Racine. “And we think there’s good support for that position, and we’re going to support that position.”
Unfortunately if Initiative 71 does make it through the 60-day congressional review, the rider in the spending bill would still prevent the District from moving ahead with development of a recreational pot market.