Pubdate: Thu, 11 Dec 2014
Source: News-Item, The (PA)
Copyright: 2014 The News Item


WASHINGTON (AP)- Elected officials and drug-policy advocates hoped to 
make the nation's capital the first place on the East Coast with 
legal pot. They wanted to use the District of Columbia as further 
encouragement for states to make their own marijuana laws, and they 
were optimistic that Congress wouldn't intervene, pointing to a 
Republican caucus that's far from unified against pot.

Those hopes were crushed late Tuesday when Congress reached a $1.1 
trillion spending deal that bars the District from legalizing 
marijuana. The move by Congress followed a familiar playbook when 
District leaders try to enact social policies that conservatives on 
Capitol Hill disagree with. Rather than trying to vote down the pot 
initiative-which Congress has the power to do-opponents placed 
language in an essential spending bill that would prevent the city 
from spending any money to enact it.

"I kind of always expected the House to do this," said Adam Eidinger, 
chairman of the D.C. Cannabis Campaign, the group behind the 
initiative. "What I didn't expect was the Democrats to give up. ... 
It's totally unacceptable."

Voters in the District approved the marijuana initiative in November 
by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. Alaska and Oregon also voted to legalize 
pot, and drug-policy advocates are planning to push legalization 
initiatives in California and several other states in 2016. The drug 
is already legal in Colorado and Washington state.

The District's initiative would allow possession of up to 2 ounces of 
pot or up to three mature plants for personal use. It doesn't address 
the legal sale of marijuana, leaving it to the D.C. Council to pass a 
tax-and-regulation framework.

If the spending bill is approved, all that would be on hold until at 
least next September, when it expires. But support for the bill among 
Democratic leaders was wavering Wednesday because of other 
provisions, raising the possibility that Congress could keep the 
government running on autopilot until Republicans seize full control 
of Congress next year. That scenario would likely delay action by 
Congress on the marijuana initiative rather than preclude it. 
Republican control could also open the door for Congress to dictate 
District policy on other issues, such as gun control.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom