Washington, DC: District Officials Move Forward To Enact Municipal Depenalization Initiative

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director January 15, 2015

    District of Columbia city officials this week moved forward with their intentions to implement a voter-approved municipal initiative depenalizing marijuana possession and cultivation offenses.

    On Tuesday, city officials confirmed that Initiative 71 was transmitted to Congress for review. Under federal law, all District laws are subject to a 30-day review process by Congress, during which time members may take action to halt the law’s implementation.

    Speaking to Roll Call this week, House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said that language previously adopted by Congress in a December 2014 spending bill already prohibits DC officials from implementing I-71 and, thus, no further action by Congress is necessary. However, several District officials – including DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson – said that the federal provision in question in no way blocks city officials from enacting the new law.

    “The District’s examination agrees with our analysis that the initiative was enacted when voters approved it and will take effect at the end of the 30-day congressional review period,” Del. Norton said in a statement.

    Chairman Mendelson agreed, saying, “I happen to believe that the initiative was enacted so I think there’s no question that after the 30-day review it will be law.”

    The District of Columbia Attorney General’s office has not yet commented in regard to how the District will respond if Congress does not address the initiative during the review process, Roll Call reported.

    In November, 70 percent of District voters approved I-71, which removes criminal and civil penalties regarding the adult possession of up to two ounces of cannabis and/or the cultivation of up to six plants.

    Separate DC municipal legislation – ‘The Marijuana Legalization and regulation Act’ – which seeks to regulate commercial cannabis production and retail sales, is also pending before the Council. If enacted, this legislation would also go before lawmakers for Congressional review and likely would force a federal challenge.

    34 responses to “Washington, DC: District Officials Move Forward To Enact Municipal Depenalization Initiative”

    1. Joel: the other Joel says:

      Will the republican congress actually review it or just strike it down and bully those in the same party who wants it implemented?

    2. Miles says:

      Power to the people!

      Power to the people – Right on!!!

      Prohibition is just so friggin’ stupid! As if most of us don’t already know it, Nancy Grace has been in the news recently appearing as stupid as ever with her anti-marijuana agenda. OMG – What an ignorant b@itch!!!

    3. Adam says:

      Not only will this law cost nothing to implement but it will save enormous sums of money!

    4. Brent says:

      well I am more then excited to see the federal governments response on it. I have a feeling we will see many debates play out in February. But eric holder needs to step up and say something, the Obama administration cant keep ducking this issue! someone speak up!

    5. dope vote says:

      We need to speak up in 2016. Vote single issue for cannabis freedom.

    6. Julian says:

      Way to go Eleanor! Looks like a prohibitionist bluff; Even a Congress purchased by greed is too scared to stand up to our legalization movement… At least there ‘s a few members in the House with a voice of reason… Even if she doesnt have a vote Norton can still sway opinion, call a bluff and read the law. Good job!

    7. Raven says:

      Chaffetz already thinks that the Cramnibus spending bill already bloked it. I think that he’s mistaken here. Spending bills are not considered regulatory, and I think that the courts will be inclined to agree. Otherwise, Any item in any spending bill can be considered regulatory.

    8. Galileo Galilei says:

      So Dr. Andy Harris, a rich, powerful, sanctimonious white guy from a political party constantly touting home rule and federalism takes it upon himself to override the decision of a super-majority of black voters in DC. Harris claims he’s thinking of the children, but 1/3 of black men under the age of 25 have been to jail. This is what Harris and his ilk have done to folks in the inner city. This is what they did to yesterday’s children. People in DC are obviously fed up with it. Who wouldn’t be?

      This type ugly injustice underlies the kinds of clashes between cops and citizens that we’ve seen of late in Ferguson and New York. I think the people of DC and NORML fans should seize on Dr. Harris’ stunt and make it as big an issue as Ferguson.

      I wonder if the same scenario will play out if ‘The Marijuana Legalization and regulation Act’ is passed by the council.

      Incidentally, Dr. Harris is my Representative. He was re-elected with 70% of the vote last November. He’s not going away.

    9. MSimon says:

      This is what I think:

      Republicans have to get 217 Congress critters on board. The libertarian faction of the Republicans is 49 votes. The Democrats won’t vote for repeal. And a lot of Republicans would rather it didn’t become an election issue in 2016.

      My guess is that the R leadership will not let it come up for a vote for fear of a loss which would weaken the Rs. They know they are losing on the issue and would rather not make that obvious.

      Well that is my guess as a Republican oriented voter.

      This is what the WaPo thinks:

      D.C. Democrats say they are ready to wager that Republicans will be unwilling to get bogged down in overturning the city’s marijuana law, which 7 in 10 voters supported in last month’s election. Doing so, Republican strategists acknowledge, risks exposing a divide between Republican conservatives and libertarians that could prove consequential to the 2016 presidential race.


    10. ralph says:

      Mr. Holder (AG)and or Pres. Obama need only re-schedule and at that point the states will set their own regulations….if any