Although the residents of Washington, D.C. have expressed a very clear desire to have cannabis possession legalized in their district, there are political officials who aren’t willing to honor the voting results of Tuesday’s election. Despite the approval of Initiative 71 by 64 percent of voters, there’s still chance that the measure will not be passed.
Unlike Alaska and Oregon, initiative passed in the nation’s capital are subject to congressional review before implementation. This means that there is still another hurdle that must be overcome before D.C. can begin to enact the measure.
Andy Harris, a House Republican, has vowed to make sure that marijuana possession will remain a crime punishable by up to a year in jail. Earlier this year, he introduced an amendment to an appropriations bill that essentially blocked all funding from D.C.’s efforts to decriminalize cannabis. The amendment also blocked funding to any and all future initiatives or measures to legalize cannabis.
According to the language of the bill: “None of the funds contained in this Act may be 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 Schedule I drugs, including pot “for recreational purposes.”
Unfortunately, the bill passed 28 to 21.
Now that Initiative 71 has passed in the election, it will go through a mandatory review period next year in January. Congress will have 60 days to assess the measure before issuing an official approval or rejection. In order to dismiss the legislation, Congress will need both chambers and the President to agree to a resolution — an act that has only happened three times in the last 40 years.
Under the voter-approved measure, anyone over the age of 21 would be legally allowed to possess up to two ounces of cannabis, grow up to six plants and share or give cannabis as gift free of charge. Selling cannabis would still be illegal.
Despite calls to kill the bill, it’s clear to D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier that a future with looser cannabis laws is not only possible, but can be enforced and regulated in a way that serves the highest good of everyone involved.
“I think everyone realizes that the Council will need to enact legislation to provide clarity to the public and law enforcement officers,” Lanier said. “If the initiative is held up in Congress, attorneys for the District will need to provide additional guidance.”
Adam Eidinger, the Chairman of the D.C. Cannabis Coalition’s campaign, isn’t concerned about Harris or any other member of congress gunning to shoot the measure down. He says that “they’re only going to write their own obituary for 2016.”
What do you think? Should Congress allow the cannabis legalization vote in D.C. to stand? Tell us in the comments below.