Ever since the congressional wolves of Washington D.C. ripped democracy to pieces on Capitol Hill last year with their approval of a rider attached to a federal spending bill aimed at blocking the city from using funds to legalize marijuana, advocates across the nation have been champing at the bit for District leaders to retaliate.
On Sunday, during a segment of “Meet the Press,” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said despite the efforts of federal lawmakers to prevent the passing of Initiative 71, which legalized the cultivation, use and transfer of cannabis in the nation’s capital, the measure is being submitted later this month for congressional review. Bowser said the city plans to “explore every option,” including the possibility of filing a lawsuit, in order to prevent Congress from undermining the will of District voters.
The mayor, along with several other local lawmakers, feels confident that they have a substantial case against congressional efforts to keep legal weed from growing in the backyard of the White House. While the rider introduced by Maryland Representative Andy Harris was intended to prohibit the city from spending local and federal funds to reform its marijuana laws, there has been some controversy in regards to whether the wording of the measure holds any clout when it comes to snuffing out Initiative 71.
District delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton argues that Harris’ sloppy use of the words “Enact” and “Carry-Out” is ultimately what keeps the initiative alive. “D.C.’s Initiative 71, it can be argued, was enacted when it was approved overwhelmingly by voters in November and was self-executing – i.e., it did not require enactment of any rules for its implementation. Therefore, it can be argued that the legalization of small amounts of marijuana can proceed,” Norton said in a recent statement.
The District’s newly elected attorney general, Karl Racine, agrees, telling The Washington Post in an interview last week that while the spending bill may prohibit D.C. from making future changes to its pot laws, the rider does not appear to block the District voter’s latest decision. “We think Initiative 71 was basically self-enacted,” said Racine. “And we think there’s good support for that position, and we’re going to support that position.”
Even if Initiative 71 does manage to survive the 60-day congressional review process, the spending bill will still prohibit Washington D.C. from moving forward with plans to develop a recreational pot market, which was already in the works at the time the federal spending bill was approved.