It cannot be said any more plainly.
Last week, Congress castrated the D.C. Council, our mayor and the people of Washington by passing legislation intended to invalidate the city’s November vote to legalize marijuana.
(We say “intended” because there is an effort by the city to reinterpret the legislation.)
District of Columbia officials and activists are grappling with a new thorn in their sides: an amendment attached to a year-end spending package targeting marijuana legalization in the District.
The “cromnibus” was passed by Congress with last-minute and late-night Senate votes over the weekend, and is en route to the president, where it will be signed into law. Though the bill contains riders in the bill aimed at a variety of D.C. social policies now considered routine, an amendment aimed at the District’s marijuana policy has fired up D.C. activists.
Proponents for legal marijuana in the District of Columbia say they will fight on even as Congress on Monday sent a bill to the president’s desk that could neuter the city’s decision to legalize marijuana.
D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson is ignoring the "Super City Council."
Mendelson says he will submit Initiative 71, which would legalize marijuana possession for personal use in D.C., to Congress, arguing that it's his duty under the Home Rule Charter to do so.
"The duty to transmit is not discretionary in my view," he said at a press conference today. “There’s no money involved on our part in whether a person commits a crime or not, so I’m not sure what Congress was intending with their language.”
The District's first elected attorney general is hinting that a recent spending bill passed by Congress may not doom the city's marijuana legalization ballot initiative after all.
Speaking on WAMU 88.5 on Tuesday morning, D.C. Attorney General-elect Karl Racine said that he was reviewing both the language of the spending bill to see how it impacts Initiative 71, which legalizes possession of up to two ounces of marijuana. The ballot initiative was backed by 70 percent of D.C. voters on Nov. 4.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., sent a letter to House Republican leadership Tuesday asking that she be granted a vote on the House floor in the 114th Congress.
In an effort to step in and stop the District from legalizing recreational marijuana, some in Congress may have tripped instead.
During the 11th-hour scramble to pass an omnibus spending bill before the lights went out, House Republicans inserted language targeting D.C. marijuana laws.
The bill includes language that says: "none of the funds contained in this Act may be used to enact any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution of any schedule I substance."
Those who seek to justify congressional overreach into the local affairs of Washington DC assume the weight of history supports their efforts.
Conservatives cite their understanding of history, or their reading of the US Constitution, to deny DC a sovereign, territorial government; to bolster congressional efforts to interfere with self-governance; and to bar DC's delegate to the US House of Representatives from voting on legislation on the floor of the chamber.
Like many invocations of history, this selective reading gets more wrong than it does right.
"This is déjà vu all over again," sighs Wayne Turner.
Turner, 50, is talking about the $1.1 trillion congressional spending bill approved last week thatincluded a provision blocking the District from legalizing marijuana. On its face, the budget rider is seen as stopping the city from implementing Initiative 71, a measure legalizing the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana and cultivation of six plants, which was approved by 70 percent of voters on Nov. 4.
The congressional effort to block marijuana legalization in the District has been widely viewed as yet another frustrating defeat for self-governance by residents of the nation’s capital.
But city leaders are saying otherwise, promising to throw the issue back to Congress next month in a way that could prompt the most high-profile showdown in years over D.C. rights.
The giant federal budget bill that passed in the Senate on Saturday includes a provision, inserted by Republicans, that prohibits the city from spending tax dollars to enact the marijuana initiative.