Washington DC Legalization Moves on Despite Congress
December 31st, 2014
Policy, Top News
Washington DC Marijuana Legalization Initiative 71 passed with nearly 70% support from voters in late-2014, but U.S. Congress proposed a law that could prevent the full implementation of the legalization efforts by prohibiting the use of any local or federal funds to be used to decriminalize or legalize marijuana, in a move that even President Obama denounced as meddling.
Newly elected Attorney General Karl Racine believes that Congress may not have a say after all. Since voters already enacted the legalization initiative, the DC Council may not have to send the bill to Congress for a mandatory 30-day review period. Congress may block future actions in DC, such as the legalization of sales, but not the ballot initiative that only legalizes possession, gifting, and growing of cannabis.
If the DC Council decides to enact the legalization initiatives, the matter could end up going before a judge in court to be resolved. The only problem is that the Department of Justice would be one of the only branches able to sue the local government and the Obama Administration has already voiced its support for DC’s actions and asked federal prosecutors to let states run their own programs.
While support remains strong for legalization in DC, the DC Council may also decide to avoid taking any risks at all and simply follow Congress’ lead. Advocates hope that the support from the Attorney General is enough to thwart these actions by providing legal cover. Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser previously said that she could be willing to take the risks, too, given the overwhelming voter support.
In the end, the nation will be watching these developments closely to see just how far the federal government will go to stop legalization efforts.
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