For reasons that can only be described as a clever approach to pushing ol’ Uncle Sam in a corner, the District of Columbia Council has approved legislation to establish a taxed and regulated marijuana market in the backyard of the White House. For almost seven decades, anyone who has even muttered the word “marijuana” in the nation’s capital without the sound of iron-fisted contempt in their voice has been considered one of society’s wasted hooligans and spit on by a legion of stiff collar legislators convinced that weed kills.
However, during the 2014 general election, D.C. residents made the decision to rise up against years of being chastised by the machine. Nearly 70 percent of voters showed up to the polls to cast a ballot in favor of passing Initiative 71. They put their stamp of approval to legalize the cultivation, possession and use of marijuana on the same streets where federal lawmakers have lunch with their mistresses. And, even though the measure didn’t come with all the retail bells and whistles of the recreational bills approved in Colorado and Washington, it did have an effect on regulations.
Now, adult pot connoisseurs all across D.C. can legally cultivate up to six plants, give weed away to their friends and family and be stoned in the privacy of their own homes without living in fear of a police shakedown. It was beautiful… at least for a few days.
While supporters were still celebrating the major victory, mayor-elect Muriel Bowser chimed in on the topic at her first press conference, stating that her administration’s first line of business was to develop a system to implement a fully-legal recreational marijuana market in the District.
“We’ll turn our attention to it, look at the experiences of other states to make sure we’re not making mistakes that have already been made, and put a system in place,” Bowser told reporters. “I see no reason why we wouldn’t follow a regime similar to how we regulate and tax alcohol.”
Essentially, she was telling District citizens, lawmakers and anyone else willing to listen that she didn’t care about the non-commercializing principles behind Initiative 71 and that if the nation’s capital was to have legal marijuana it would do so under a taxed and regulated market similar to the western efforts in Colorado and Washington state.
Although Bowser’s desire to legalize a cannabis industry in Washington, D.C. sounded like a progressive move, the D.C. Cannabis Campaign, the group responsible for getting Initiative 71 on the ballot, stood up in utter disgust of putting a price tag on weed after the group went through so much trouble to give residents the right to cultivate their own.
“We’re against any bill that would modify the initiative,” said Adam Eidinger, chairman of the D.C. Cannabis Campaign. “It’s not up to her to change this.”
Three weeks following the passing of Initiative 71, the District Council reached into their archives and pulled out a piece of legislation introduced last year by Council Member David Grosso called the “Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Act of 2013.” Just days before closing up shop for the Thanksgiving holiday, the Committee on Business, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs gave initial approval on this bill, which would put the District of Columbia cannabis industry in the hands of booze slinging regulators, the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration. The department now has about six months to establish guidelines for what appears to be the making of serious conundrum in the realm of hidden hypocrisy in the Land of the Free – a legal marijuana market in the home of federal prohibition. Oh, how the plot thickens.
Grosso’s bill won’t be ready to go before the full D.C. Council for a vote until sometime after the group reconvenes in January. However, as long as the council can manage to put their final seal of approval on the measure before next spring, dispensaries could be set to open in the District by sometime in 2016. But, that’s only if Congress doesn’t step in and put the kibosh on the council’s fast-track approach to selling marijuana in a city that’s supposed to reflect the sanctity of American values.
Even though D.C. has been allowed to makes its own laws since the enactment of the Home Rule Act of 1973, these measures are still required to go before Congress for final approval. Up to this point, the federal government has only stepped in a few times to snuff out legislation passed by the city, but considering the delicate nature of a pot market, there’s a distinct possibility there will be a white knuckle showdown before weed is ever allowed to be sold in the city. However, there doesn’t seem to be much concern that District lawmakers will not get exactly what they want, just like they did earlier this year when it passed a measure to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana.
“Any attempt to overturn this vote would be a violation of essential American principles,” said James Jones, communications director of DC Vote, a watchdog organization that ensures the District does not get shafted on Capitol Hill. “It would be Congress acting by fiat — not by any sort of democratic principle, but by hypocrisy.”
In the case of Initiative 71, Maryland Representative Andy Harris has vowed to use all of his available resources to prevent the law from being unleashed. Yet, he’s responsible for the same loud month swill routine back in April when the hot-aired lawmaker stood unsuccessfully against decriminalization. Therefore, it’s doubtful that his influence will have a significant impact on the Congressional decision to either allow Presidential pot to be sold throughout the District or attempt to show the council exactly who the boss really is by exercising their right to pass a resolution of disapproval.
One thing is certain — this issue will all come to a head early next year.
What do you think? Should lawmakers allow the legalization vote to stand? Let us know in the comments below.