The day before marijuana was scheduled to be officially legalized in Washington D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser was warned that she could face time in jail if she allows legalization to go through in the District.
Although the voters of Washington D.C. demonstrated their support the legalization of marijuana last election day, a rider attached to the federal omnibus spending bill blocked any money from being spent to establish legalization regulations or implement any “law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution of any schedule I substance.”
The federal spending bill was signed by President Obama, and therefore it is illegal for District officials to spend even a single dollar to enact Initiative 71. After Mayor Bowser announced on Tuesday February 24 that marijuana would become legal at 12:01 am on Thursday February 26, she was issued a warning.
Two lawmakers, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) issued Mayor Bowser a letter stating, “If you decide to move forward tomorrow with the legalization of marijuana in the District, you will be doing so in knowing and willful violation of the law.”
During an interview with The Washington Post, Rep. Chaffetz spoke more about the issue,
“Federal law, signed by the president, confirms that D.C. cannot move forward. If they are under any illusion that this would be legal, they are wrong. And there are very severe consequences for violating this provision.”
Rep. Chaffetz continued,
“You can go to prison for this. We’re not playing a little game here.”
The letter, authored by Representatives Chaffetz and Meadows, also demands a response from Mayor Bowser containing very specific details about the city employees involved in the legalization process, among other information. The information required, due no later than March 10, includes the names of all employees who “participated in any way in any action related to the enactment of Initiative 71,” as well as each person’s title, salary and number of hours dedicated to related work. The letter also asks for names of any person who refused to participate in the enactment of Initiative 71.
Just days after being sworn in as the new Mayor of Washington D.C. in January, Mayor Bowser promised to fight for the will of DC voters during an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, with the statement,
“We want to respect the will of the D.C. voters, and we think that initiative 71 was self-enacting. … We want to work with our Congress and we want the will of the residents of D.C. to be enforced.”
Mayor Bowser came through with her promise on Thursday February 26 when she announced that marijuana was effectively legal in the District. Mayor Bowser and Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier have worked hard to educate District residents on exactly what is and what is not legal under Initiative 71.
It will be very interesting to see how this plays out. The warning letter from the two representatives alludes to the notion that they may be planning to take some kind of legal action against all city employees involved in the enactment of Initiative 71 since it request such detailed information.