Will Congress Allow DC to Legalize Weed?

When voters in Washington DC legalized recreational marijuana in November’s general election, the snarling beast, awakened earlier in the year by an ordinance to decriminalize weed began to howl in excruciating pain. The District of Columbia has been the war nerve of prohibition for over the past seven decades, but now all eyes are on congressional leaders to see if they will sooth the dying animal or put it out of its misery.

The fight to legalize marijuana has been one conducted with a certain level of civility, but that all stands to change, now that hungry natives have ditched the gloves, climbed the fence to the White House and lunged for Uncle Sam’s throat. Despite the rabid enthusiasm of voters last week in the nation’s capital, passing Initiative 71 with overwhelming support, the issue must now go before the arrogance of a soon to be Republican-led Congress for final ruling. Some feel confident that these suits & comb overs will vote to uphold democracy, while others believe the vote will end in a Mexican standoff.

Once DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson submits the initiative for congressional review, the big dogs will have between 30 to 60 days to decide whether to give life to progressive pot reform in the District or chop it off at the neck and let it bleed out all over Capitol Hill. There was speculation earlier this year that Congress would snuff out the passing of a measure to decriminalize marijuana in DC, but in the end, they let it live.

However, the reach of Initiative 71, which allows adults 21 and older to possess up to two ounces of marijuana as well as cultivate up to six plants at home, could carry enough controversial weight to back Republicans in a corner and force them to retaliate unfavorably. Representative Andy Harris is already foaming at the mouth over the passing of the initiative, and has solemnly vowed to do whatever it takes to stop it from breathing. Yet, he spewed the same swill of empty threats back in the Spring when he swore to take down the DC Council’s decriminalization effort — a ballsy proclamation that just didn’t have enough girth to screw the council properly.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who could be a deciding factor in District legislation, recently told reporters that if voters in Washington DC want to legalize marijuana, then it should be allowed to do it. “I’m not for having the federal government get involved,” he said. “I really haven’t taken a stand on … the actual legalization. I haven’t really taken a stand on that, but I’m against the federal government telling them they can’t.”

Supporters of Initiative 71 believe a newly seated, Republican-dominated Congress will not stand in the way of this issue because doing so would be a clear violation of personal liberties. Yet, the question remains: are federal lawmakers prepared to make a historical leap of faith that could ultimately weaken the principles behind prohibition? One thing is certain… the moment Uncle Sam’s spine is forced to contort in order to appease, not only the voters in DC, but the opinions of the American majority; those who believe the time has come to repeal prohibition altogether, the crippling of the nation’s outdated drug policies are bound to follow.

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