Congress Blocking DC Legalization?


When Washington, D.C., approved the legalization of recreational marijuana, they did so with 64 percent of the vote; that’s more than most politicians ever get in an election. By all measures, 64 percent is considered a landslide victory.

Despite overwhelming support for marijuana, Republican congressman Andy Harris attached a rider amendment into the $1.1 trillion budget bill currently being considered by congress which would ban DC officials from using federal or local funds to implement the legalization of recreational marijuana, effectively killing marijuana legalization in our nation’s capital.

The rider amendment doesn’t stop there with marijuana legalization; it also rolls back a law passed earlier in the year which decriminalized marijuana in the District. Needless to say, the industry is ready to fight this maneuvering.

Adam Eidinge, an individual who led the signature gathering effort for Initiative 71, spoke with The Washington Post about this latest move by Congress.

“It’s totally disturbing; it’s entirely undemocratic,” said Eidinge, “I’m ready for some civil disobedience. If you’re going to overturn an election, you might as well say something before it’s done.”

Perhaps the most baffling aspect of this story is that the same budget bill used to block legalization in D.C. also blocks the Justice Department from using funds to undermine state marijuana laws, as well as stopping the DEA from interfering with hemp cultivation that is grown for academic and agricultural research purpose.

It seems awfully hypocritical to allow the states to make their own decisions  about cannabis, but then bar the District of Columbia from doing the same thing, especially when congressional leaders like Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher have been so supportive of the industry. It seems that party politics still trump principals on Capitol Hill.

There is still a chance that Senate Democrats could block this budget bill or that the president could veto it, but these scenarios are unlikely. Although Democrats tend to look more favorably on marijuana reform, all they offer at this moment are impotent words and overtures.

Speaking with The Washington Times, Democratic Senate Majority leader Harry Reid voiced his opposition to the rider amendment. “It’s going to be hard to take it out over here, but I oppose it.” If there is one thing you can count on from the Democrats, it is that they will agree with you, then do nothing to actually help you.

Although D.C.’s marijuana law seems dead in the water at the moment, District Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser said she plans on going forward.

“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,” Bowser said in a written statement. “In the meantime, the Council and I will move forward to implement the law in a thoughtful and responsible way.”

Although nothing is written in stone, things don’t look good for the District and its budding cannabis market. The budget bill still has to go through the Senate, but even then it will be difficult to take the amendment out.

If you were looking to make it big in D.C.’s cannabis market, then your plans have been indefinitely placed on hold. The most that you can do now is contact your elected representative, voice your concerns, hope for the best and not hold your breath.


Click here to contact your elected representative and voice your outrage at the disenfranchisement of DC voters

William Sumner, a freelance writer and marijuana journalist, was a staff writer for MJINews from May 2014 through February 2018. You can follow him on Twitter @W_Sumner.

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