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Late Night: Residents of D.C. Vote Overwhelmingly for Marijuana Legalization

The people living in our nation’s capital want marijuana to be legal. The residents of the District of Columbia voted overwhelmingly for Initiative 71, to legalize the possession and limited home cultivation of marijuana for adults 21 and over. With 28.7 percent of precincts reporting the measure leads 68.6 percent yes to 31.4 percent no.

This vote is only the beginning of the marijuana reform process in the District. Even though the 650,000 people living in D.C. have no representation in Congress, Congress has power to override any local laws approved in the District. Before the measure goes into effect the D.C. Council will need to send it to Congress for the Congressional review period during which time Congress can approve a measure to stop it. Only after the review period is over will it become legal for adults to possess, use and grow a limited amount of marijuana under local D.C. law.

In addition, the District’s initiative rules prevented the campaign from including provisions that would have created a regulated system for taxed marijuana sales. Several members of the D.C. Council and the new mayor support moving forward with their own tax and regulate bill, but that still needs to be marked up, approved, and sent to Congress for review. (That means another chance for Congress to potentially interfere.) Only then will D.C. have a law that would allow the creation of a marijuana system similar to what currently exists in Colorado and Washington State.

Any attempt to stop the Initiative 71 or the Council’s tax and regulate legislation will need to be in a bill that is approved by both chambers of Congress and signed by the President. Earlier this year President Obama threatened to veto a bill containing a preemptive amendment by Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) to try to stop District from reforming their marijuana laws. The White House writes about it, “the Administration strongly opposes the language in the bill preventing the District from using its own local funds to carry out locally-passed marijuana policies, which again undermines the principles of States’ rights and of District home rule.”

If Congress tries to abuse their power over the residents of the District that could significantly raise the national profile of marijuana reform issues in general.

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at http://pendinghorizon.com