Washington DC has become the latest frontier in the movement to legalize marijuana.
As of February 26, 2015, it is now legal for residents (ages 21 and older) of the nation’s capital to possess two ounces of marijuana, grow up to six plants in their homes, and share their crop with others. Residents can also possess drug paraphernalia including bongs and rolling papers. The legalization of marijuana in Washington DC is strange for a number of reasons—for instance, there is no legal way to purchase marijuana, Republican members of Congress have been incredibly outspoken about the law going into effect. Since Initiative 71 did not establish a system that oversees the sale and purchase of marijuana in Washington DC, the capital’s police department stated that individuals found buying or selling marijuana can still be arrested. They went on to state that individuals found consuming marijuana in any form in public space would be subject to arrest as well.
Last November, an overwhelming number of Washington DC’s residents turned out to the polls to approve Initiative 71, thereby legalizing pot use. In December, Congress, using its oversight authority, inserted language into a December spending deal designed to prevent the local government from enacting the law; however, a dispute over the meaning of “enact” led to a stand off between the Democratic mayor, Muriel Bowser, and Republican members of Congress. This stand off has gone so far as to threaten jail sentences for city officials should they proceed with legalizing marijuana. Republican Jason Chaffetz and Mark Meadows of the House Committee on Oversight and Government sent a letter to Mayor Bowser stating that proceeding with legalization was in defiance of Congress and a “knowing and willful violation of the law”. City officials stood by their decision, arguing that they are simply carrying out a law that voters have enacted.
The feud with Congress has delayed attempts to craft ways to regulate and legalize the sale of marijuana. Since residents of Washington DC cannot legally buy or sell marijuana, there is some question as to how the legalization of marijuana will affect the capital today. Many speculate that the use of trade shows, job fairs and seminars will propel the market forward, with residents paying as much as $150 to participate in events. As Washington DC proceeds with Initiative 71, and with multiple law-enforcement agencies present in the nation’s capital, some questions linger regarding federal regulations.
As of now, it appears legalization will continue to move forward in Washington DC; however, opponents of legalization do not believe Congress will roll over and let this continue without a fight.