D.C.’s ability to advance its marijuana laws could be further …


Natalie DeLeon and other D.C. marijuana advocates gather on the Capitol grounds on April 24. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Congress’s latest spending bill could give the federal government more control over the District’s marijuana laws.

An amendment tacked onto federal spending bills since 2015 has prohibited D.C. from using funds from its annual budget to enact pro-marijuana laws. Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) first introduced the amendment after nearly 70 percent of District voters approved a ballot measure in 2014 to legalize the possession of marijuana in the city. Since D.C. voters had already legalized possession, his amendment prohibited the city from passing additional laws to legalize and regulate the sale of marijuana.

That amendment was expected to remain in place in the latest proposed spending bill to fund the government through September. But this latest amendment takes it a step further and says that the District cannot spend any of its funds — including reserve funds — on marijuana laws.

Tom Angell, a writer for the cannabis news site Massroots, first spotted the change.

It’s notable because marijuana activists have been urging Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) to tap into the city’s reserve funds to work around current federal restrictions to advance the city’s marijuana laws. The change suggests that some on Capitol Hill have been paying attention to the political debates playing out in local government.

Harris’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Bowser has said she wouldn’t tap into the reserve funds to push the city’s marijuana laws, so the new amendment likely wouldn’t have a practical impact on District affairs. But, in an email Tuesday, Bowser’s office said that she is opposed to this latest, more restrictive amendment and any attempt by Congress to meddle in local affairs.

We revisited the Schoolhouse Rock classic “I’m just a bill” to show you how the local laws of the nation’s capital are made. (Claritza Jimenez,Dani Player/The Washington Post)

“Given the fact we pay more per capita in federal taxes than any other jurisdiction, the District has more than earned the right to spend our locally raised funds how we see fit,” the mayor’s spokesman, Kevin Harris, wrote in an email. “The Mayor remains opposed to unnecessary Congressional interference into our local government, and we will continue to implement our laws according to the wishes of District residents.”

Because D.C. is not a state, Congress has the power to overturn city laws and dictate how the city can spend its money, even locally generated tax revenue.

Last week, marijuana activists protested in front of the Capitol, in part to call on Congress to remove Harris’s amendment from the appropriations bill. Police arrested four of the activists after they started smoking marijuana on Capitol grounds.

“One of the reasons we are fighting so hard to overturn this Andy Harris rider is because there’s unfinished business here in the nation’s capital,” Adam Eidinger, a prominent D.C. activist who led efforts to legalize marijuana in the city, said at the protest. “Basically, we have legalization without commercialization.”

Here’s the new wording of the amendment: (Key differences are bolded)

SEC. 809. (a) None of the Federal funds contained in this Act may be used to enact or carry out any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties 19 associated with the possession, use, or distribution of any schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 801 et seq.) or any tetrahydrocannabinols derivative.

(b) No funds available for obligation or expenditure by the District of Columbia government under any authority 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 under the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 801 et seq.) or any tetrahydrocannabinols derivative for recreational purposes.

And the current wording:

SEC. 809. (a) None of the Federal funds contained in this Act may be used to enact or carry out any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution of any schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 801 et seq.) or any tetrahydrocannabinols derivative.

(b) 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 under the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 801 et seq.) or any tetrahydrocannabinols derivative for recreational purposes.

All copyrights for this article are reserved to Pot Internet Search

Comments are closed.