The people of D.C. voted overwhelmingly in favor of marijuana legalization earlier this month but it might not happen because the 650,000 people in our nation’s capital lack basic democratic rights.
Even though the people of D.C. have no representation in Congress, Congress has the power to override any local laws in D.C. At least one Congressional Republican is determined to use this power to try to stop reform in the District. From the Hill:
[Rep. Andy] Harris [R-MD] had contemplated a move to try to block the legalization law as part of Congress’s funding debate in this year’s lame-duck session, but because of time restraints he said he’s now eying action in early 2015.
“We have 30 legislative days [and] we probably don’t have eight legislative days left this year, so it’ll definitely go into the next Congress,” he said. “We can still do things in the next Congress [when] we’ll have more votes, more favorable votes.”
Earlier this year, Harris was successful in attaching an amendment to D.C.’s 2015 funding bill that would have nullified the city’s decriminalization law by simply barring funding for it. That package passed the Republican-controlled House, but the Democratically controlled Senate never took it up.
This highlights the importance of D.C. Council sending the initiative legalizing limited possession and home cultivation to Congress right away, instead of waiting until after they adopt a tax and regulate bill like the new mayor wants to do.
The lame duck Congress is likely going to pass a clean continuing resolution to keep the government funded for the next several months.
Harris’s best option for stopping marijuana reform in D.C. is attaching a policy rider to a must-pass funding bill, like he tried to do earlier this year. That means having the initiative undergoing its Congressional review period at the very beginning of next year, before Congress needs to work on any new funding measures, would give its best chance of not being interfered with.
Jon Walker is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy on sale for just $0.99