DC Council Retaliates Against Federal Spending Bill By Submitting Initiative 71 to Congress

Earlier this week, High Times reported that the D.C. City Council planned to give the proverbial middle finger to Congress by submitting a voter approved initiative that legalized the cultivation and possession of marijuana in the nation’s capital. Well, folks they have swung the axe.

Although a recent spending bill allegedly blocks the reform of marijuana laws in Washington D.C., Council Chairman Phil Mendleson recently told The Washington Post that he dropped off Initiative 71 on the doorstep of Capitol Hill on Tuesday, giving Congress 30 days to decide whether to let it pass or kill it and bury it in the backyard.

The 40-year-old District of Columbia Home Rule Act forces any law passed by the District to undergo a 30-day review process before it is allowed to take effect. Since the passing of this federal law, Congress has only prevented the city from moving forward with legislation three times, but there are some concerns that a fourth could be around the corner.

Last month, Congress attached a rider to a federal spending bill, which was signed by President Obama, preventing the use of federal and state funds for the legalization of a Schedule I substance. Yet, District lawmakers argued that while the bill may have stopped the immediate future of pot reform in the city, the language of the bill did not keep Initiative 71 from moving forward.

In fact, a legion of District lawmakers, including newly elected Mayor Muriel Bowser, have come forward with war in their eyes against the congressional decision to sandbag the city’s progressive legislative efforts, vowing to utilize every available resource to respect the wishes of District voters by fighting for their right to grow marijuana.

Councilman Mendelson says the District is not just twisting Uncle Sam’s arm for the fun it – they have a legitimate legal argument for why Initiative 71 should be allowed to pass. In letters sent to Speaker of the House John Boehner and Vice President Joe Biden, Mendelson notes that the initiative to legalize weed in the District was certified a week prior to the passing of the federal spending bill.

However, the Councilman is adamant that he is not trying to start a brawl with Congress. “I’m not trying to defy anybody,” Mendleson said last month in an interview with Roll Call. “I’m responsible for transmitting the initiative. I have a very clear requirement in the Home Rule Act to transmit the legislation. Congress has the ability to step in when that legislation is transmitted, so I don’t see anything that’s provocative here, and I certainly don’t intend any provocation.”

The District Council’s subtle plan of retaliation towards Congress is probably the smartest move, considering a wave of pseudo-slanderous publicity could blow the initiatives’ chances of making it off Capitol Hill alive. No sir, this will be a quiet war; at least until the measure is denied and lawsuits are filed. Nevertheless, the course of marijuana legalization in the District of Columbia now resides in the hands of federal lawmakers, some of which can be counted on to stir the crapper before this ball-busting business is said and done.

Representative Andy Harris, the forefather of the rider responsible for causing all of this trouble, has already thrown a fit of opposition towards the District’s submission of the initiative. “Despite attempts to misconstrue the language of the omnibus bill, it is clear that if D.C. chooses to proceed with enactment of marijuana legalization, they will be in violation of the law,” said Harris in a statement.

If Initiative 71 survives the congressional review, residents of the District of Columbia could begin enjoying the benefits of home marijuana cultivation by sometime in March.


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