One of the weird things about Washington D.C. being a part of the District of Columbia is that it has no state to call its own. It answers to Congress.

And after city voters passed a marijuana legalization measure called Initiative 71 last month, constituents had to hold their breath to see what Congress would do.

Federal lawmakers answered the question overnight by denying the town it’s democratically legitimized weed.

As part of an omnibus spending bill that had some good things about it, including a lack of funding for anti-pot feds in marijuana-legal states, Congress blocked D.C.’s legalization, plain and simple.

It’s a temporary blockage, as the spending bill only lasts through September.

But some are suggesting that the new wave of Republicans taking office in January, when the GOP will control both the House and Senate, won’t bode well for the future of D.C.’s cannabis dreams.

Michael Collins, Policy Manager for the Drug Policy Alliance, says:

It’s outrageous that Congress would even consider overriding the 70% of D.C. voters who supported November’s marijuana legalization initiative. While we are encouraged by reports that D.C.’s legalization law may survive, Democratic leadership can do much more. We are deeply troubled by reports that the final language will prevent the District from taxing and regulating marijuana.

City lawmakers were ready for this legalization thing to happen. They even approved a regulation, licensing and distribution system.

Part of the inspiration for legalization was to stop putting young black men behind bars for minor drug crimes. The city did pass a law earlier this year that makes minor marijuana possession a $25 civil penalty.

But folks in D.C. are still angry. Dr. Malik Burnett, Policy Manager at Drug Policy Alliance and Vice-Chair of the D.C. Cannabis Campaign, says:

In light of recent events in Ferguson and New York, it is particularly disturbing that Congress would choose to overturn the will of the voters in a majority black city. D.C. voters chose to reform their marijuana laws, which have a direct impact on how communities of color interact with police. Congress is poised to undermine that.

About The Author


Raul Duke has been working as a journalist in Southern California for two decades. The medical marijuana juggernaut is one of his many beats. He's a longtime Westside resident who needs to renew his doctor's recommendation soon. If you have news tips, reach out:

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