Pubdate: Thu, 26 Feb 2015
Source: Herald, The (Everett, WA)
Copyright: 2015 The Daily Herald Co.
Note: Chicago Tribune


WASHINGTON - The city that brought America government shutdowns and 
all-night filibusters is set to make pot legal Thursday. But by the 
time the chaos over implementing the law is settled, most everyone in 
the District of Columbia might wish they were smoking some.

Residents voted overwhelmingly in November to allow growing and 
possessing small amounts of marijuana. But Congress, using its 
oversight authority over the nation's capital, inserted a provision 
into a massive December spending deal that prevented the local 
government from enacting the law.

A dispute over the meaning of "enact" has left a haze of uncertainty 
over what is legal. It has also sparked a standoff between the 
Democratic mayor, Muriel Bowser, and the Republican-led Congress, 
which has made oblique threats of jailing city officials if they 
proceed with legalization.

The dispute highlights the constant tension over autonomy in this 
city of largely liberal voters that is overseen by an increasingly 
conservative Congress. The local issue also holds symbolic value in 
the national battle over marijuana laws, given the district's 
position as the headquarters in the war on drugs.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who chairs the committee that oversees 
the district, warned city officials in a letter Tuesday that they 
would be "in willful violation of the law" if they moved forward with 

His letter, also signed by Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., announced an 
investigation and demanded a list of city employees "who participated 
in any way in any action related to enactment" in crafting the city's 
marijuana guidelines released this week.

But legalization advocates and city officials argue that they are 
simply carrying out a law that voters enacted. At least one 
pro-marijuana lobbyist said his side worked to prevent stricter 
language in the December spending law that allies felt could have 
gone further to hamstring the city.

And Congress failed to use its specific authority to overturn the 
marijuana law within an official review period, which expired Wednesday.

Eleanor Holmes Norton, the district's non-voting delegate in the 
House, was furious over what she called "unnecessarily hostile 
congressional reactions."

"There could be a good-faith disagreement over the language here," 
said Norton, who supports legalization and says she helped the city 
with its legal interpretation. "That's all there is. And baseless 
threats won't heal it."

The fight with Congress has prevented the City Council from studying 
more specific regulations, or crafting ways to allow legal pot sales, 
as Washington state and Colorado have done. Alaska, which this week 
became the third state to legalize pot for recreational use, also 
lacks regulations to create a legal pot market. (Oregon voters 
legalized pot in November, but it won't become legal there until July.)
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom