D.C. Legalizes Marijuana Amid Tensions With Congress

| by Ethan Brown
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Two Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives said that the mayor of the nation’s capital may serve jail time if the city implements and enforces new legislation that legalizes the use of recreational marijuana.

On Feb. 24, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-North Carolina) sent a letter to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) explaining their disappointment with Bowser and cautioning her to take other action.

“If you decide to move forward tomorrow with the legalization of marijuana in the District, you will be doing so in knowing and willful violation of the law,” said the congressmen.

Initiative 71, the technical name for the legalization of marijuana in D.C., was supported by 70 percent of D.C. residents last November. The legislation allows for up to two ounces of the drug for private use among citizens. Like other legal marijuana laws throughout the country, there are limits to the D.C. law as well. For example, one would not be able to buy and sell marijuana, nor would citizens be permitted to smoke outdoors in public.

However, Chaffetz believes that the new legislation violates a provision that Congress passed last year which states that federal funding will not be used to assist in the implementation of the law. 

“Given Congress’s broad powers to legislate with regard to the District of Columbia it would be unprecedented for the District to take action proscribed by legislation passed by Congress and signed by the President,” said the Republicans.

Both sides are using technicalities in the provision to make their case. Mayor Bowser says the provision does not apply to the marijuana legislation due to D.C. voters approving the initiative prior to Congress discussing and voting on it. Rep. Chaffetz and Rep. Meadows believe the initiative was still not law, because Congress had not approved it, which they are allowed to do for legislation in the District.

Congress and D.C. politicians have always held animosity toward one another, due to their vast differences in their political ideologies.  D.C., which voted 92 percent for President Obama to be reelected in 2012, contrasts with the politics of Chaffetz, whose home state of Utah voted 73 percent for Mitt Romney. 

Mayor Bowser responded by criticizing the Republicans for not funding the Department of Homeland Security and by saying, “Bullying the District of Columbia is not what his constituents expect, nor do ours.”

Sources: The Hill, CBS News, Washington Post / Photo Credit: Wikipedia