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Congress Still Won’t Let DC Regulate Marijuana

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A vast majority of District of Columbia residents voted to legalize the possession of marijuana in 2014, but Congress is still blocking the city from enacting regulations on sales of the drug.

A provision in the more than 2,000-page omnibus bill passed by Congress Friday will again block the district from implementing any framework to legalize the sale of marijuana.

The law forbids D.C. from spending any money 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.”

The same language appeared in a similar spending bill passed by Congress last year after voters in D.C. voted overwhelmingly in favor of Initiative 71, which permits people in the city to possess small amounts of marijuana.

Despite the congressional bill forbidding its implementation, and threats from congressmen saying they would have D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser thrown in jail if she went ahead with legalization, the moved forward and marijuana is now legal in the city.

D.C. residents can currently carry up to two ounces of marijuana and grow up to six plants at a time for personal consumption, but it is still illegal to sell. What that leaves D.C. residents with is a grey area where it is okay to share weed with a friend, but if money exchanges hands, the interaction becomes illegal.

D.C.’s non-voting delegate in Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton, blasted the congressional effort to block pot legalization, saying the local law is not of concern to Congress.

“Look at the anomaly, or hypocrisy, or outrageousness — call it want you want to — of being able to possess but then having to go to the illegal market in order to get it,” Norton said during an appearance on WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi show.

“These are out of sync with one another, so I’m still trying to get that off of our backs, that block. It’s on our appropriations bill, which shouldn’t be in Congress anyway, because it’s just our money.”

Congress has final say on all budgetary matters in D.C. and any law passed by the D.C. Council has to go before Congress for a 30-day review period.

The House and Senate passed the spending bill Friday but it still must go before President Barack Obama to sign into law.

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