Thanks to the deeply unjust laws governing D.C., Congress technically has complete control over all local laws in the distric

Starting on July 17th, being caught with less than an ounce of marijuana in the nation’s capitol should result in only a $25 fine. According to the Council of the District of Columbia that is when the recently approved decriminalization bill is projected to finally go into effect. But it could go into effect a few days earlier, a few weeks later, or even never at all depending on how Congress behaves.

Thanks to the deeply unjust laws governing D.C., Congress technically has complete control over all local laws in the district, even though the 630,000 people of D.C. have no representation in Congress. When the D.C. Council approves a bill it is merely asking Congress to let it pretend to practice democracy. Real representative democracy has been legally denied to the Americans citizens living in D.C.

All bills approved by Council must face a Congressional review period during which time Congress has the option of overriding the wishes of the people of D.C. when it comes to local D.C. matters. The length of the review period is measured in “legislative days” so the more days Congress is in session, the sooner D.C. laws are allowed to go into effect. Based on the current Congressional calender the review period on the decriminalization bill should end July 17th.

If Congress takes off more days than planned it could be later, and if they decided to step in it could be never. Currently, Rep. John Mica (R) is abusing Congressional power to target the D.C. decriminalization bill, but it is unlikely his efforts will get very far.

Jon Walker is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy

Photo by Mike Licht under Creative Commons license