The people of Washington D.C., alongside their counterparts and Oregon and Alaska, voted overwhelmingly to legalize cannabis for recreational use last month. But unlike in those other states, D.C.'s decision came with a major potential roadblock: the United States Congress.
Thanks to a decision a group of fusty white men made 200 years ago, Congress retains the right to strike down just about any decision the District makes on its own behalf, and during negotiations over the federal budget this week, it did exactly that. The Washington Post reports:
Late Monday, congressional aides had floated the possibility that the spending deal would include a provision sought by conservative House Republicans to block the voter-approved measure.
By midday Tuesday, it appeared negotiators had found middle ground to legalize possession of marijuana but to allow no further action by D.C. officials to create a regulatry system for legal sales and taxation of the plant.
Under a spending "rider" included in the 1,600-page bill distributed late Tuesday, neither part would be allowed.
Not only will the rider block legalization, the Post reports—it may also reverse the decriminalization bill mayor Vincent Gray signed into law earlier this year, which made pot possession punishable only by a $25 fine. Democracy in action!
Maryland's only House Republican also said he had no qualms about interfering with the results of the Nov. 4 election. On that day, voters in Alaska, the District and Oregon chose to legalize marijuana, but only the District's vote was subject to oversight by Congress.
"The fact is the Constitution gives Congress the ultimate oversight about what happens in the federal district," Harris said.