But if Congress overrules the referendum,as the Constitution permits,the initiative will be nothing but smoke.
Rep. Andy Harris. R-Md.,worked as a physician at Johns Hopkins Hospital before his tenure in Congress and has been one of legalization’s most vocal opponents nationally. He said it would send a dangerous message to teenagers.
“He will consider any options available to him as a member of Congress to prevent teenage drug use,” spokesman Chris Meekins said Wednesday.
Congress could pass a resolution that would overrule the initiative outright. Congress can also effectively delay the referendum’s implementation by attaching a rider to a D.C. appropriations bill to prevent the District from using its own money to decriminalize or legalize marijuana. That’s what happened to the D.C. referendum approving medical marijuana,which Congress held up for more than a decade.
Meekins said Harris believes the federal government has a duty to enforce federal drug laws on federal land.
“Andy Harris,he’s not a serious threat. He’s already failed once. He’s going to fail again,” DC Cannabis Campaign Chairman Adam Eidinger said.
Eidinger said the group has lobbyists on the Hill and complete faith in the District’s elected officials.
“No one knows of anyone making serious moves,” he said. “The review period will come and go,and it’ll become law in April.”
D.C.’s non-voting Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton,D,called for Congress to stand aside and let the referendum go through.
“The people spoke,overwhelmingly,with passage of our marijuana legalization initiative,but D.C. is not out of the woods just yet,” Norton said in a statement. “Together,we must get Congress out of our business and out of the way.”
Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser has supported Initiative 71 and considers regulating and taxing marijuana a priority.
“We will turn our attention to it,look at the experiences of other states to make sure we’re not making mistakes that have already been made and put a system in place that will immediately make sense of the process,” Bowser said at a press conference Wednesday,a day after she won election. “I see no reason why we wouldn’t follow a regime similar to how we regulate and tax alcohol.”
Initiative 71 does not include provisions for regulating or taxing marijuana or permit its sale. To legalize sale and set regulation and tax laws,the D.C. Council would have to pass legislation. If the council does not do so,Bowser said she would not allow Initiative 71 to go into effect.
Republicans,who are typically less cannabis-friendly,now control the House and Senate. But that does not mean a simple majority will spell the death of Initiative 71.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher,R-Calif.,has already come out in support of legalization.
“He would be a supporter. He wants to see the people of the District empowered to cast a vote on this,” his spokesman said.
DC Cannabis Campaign activist Amanda Krouse,23,said she’s too altruistic to think Congress would stop the law,but if it did,there would be consequences.
“They’re going to take to the streets and represent what they believe in,because this Congress isn’t even relevant to D.C. citizens,” she said. “Who are they to come out of their state and tell D.C. citizens that their voice doesn’t count?”
Reach reporter Wesley Juhl at [email protected] or 202-408-1491. Reach reporter Lucas Daprile at [email protected] or 202-408-1490. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire. Like the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.