Uncertain Future for DC Legalization

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Regardless of how loudly voters speak, sometimes elected officials just ignore them. That might become the case in Washington DC with Initiative 71, which legalized marijuana possession and passed with nearly 65% of the vote on Tuesday.

At least one House Republican in Congress has sworn to do all he can to block implementation of the initiative, according to The Washington Post. It’s also possible that Congress and President Obama could agree on a resolution to essentially veto the new law, but that would have to happen within 60 days of Initiative 71 passing. (And that’s only happened three times in the past four decades.)

Alternatively, opponents in Congress could use other methods to delay Initiative 71 going into effect, as they did with medical marijuana, The Post reports. Washington DC passed its MMJ law in 1998, but it was stalled for 11 years by Republicans who used parliamentary tactics to keep it bottled up as long as possible.

Also, the district’s mayor-elect, Muriel E. Bowser, said on Wednesday that she “would not want Initiative 71 to proceed to congressional review without accompanying legislation to establish a system for selling and taxing marijuana,” according to The Post. Such a system was not included in the initiative, which only legalizes personal possession and use, along with home cultivation and sales of paraphernalia.

Pushing the envelope that way may turn off potential allies in Congress, however, such as Kentucky U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican who said on Tuesday that he would rather defer to the will of DC voters than overturn the new law. If Congress steps aside, the DC council could move forward with a measure to regulate the sale and distribution of marijuana.