Residents of Washington, D.C., are battling local and federal officials for the right to not only possess, cultivate, and use cannabis, but to legally purchase it from licensed distributors, following the passage of a ballot initiative last year.
The ballot initiative in question, Ballot Initiative 71, which decriminalized cannabis in the District, took effect 11 months ago. Yet the measure’s full enactment has been stymied by elected officials, both in Congress and in the D.C. government.
In late 2014, Congress passed the spending bill with a rider attached stipulating that the District was to spend no additional funds to “enact any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties” related to cannabis.
The administration of the District’s mayor, Muriel Bowser, fought to uphold what residents voted for — full legalization including the right to establish regulations for retail sales. However, after being threatened with jail time for willfully violating the law, should she continue to defend the enactment of Initiative 71, Bowser’s fight for the right to cannabis fizzled. Some say Bowser’s administration took the crackdown several steps further with the “Home Grow, Home Use” campaign, an interpretation at odds with that of many of the District’s residents and activists.
The administration also raised alarms about the unregulated sale of cannabis in the District, and pushed through the DC Council emergency legislation that banned all cannabis use outside of the home. The DC Council is said to be moving ahead with similar legislation that would make the ban permanent.
“District residents are fed up with congressional interference with local marijuana policy. D.C. lawmakers would be wise not to cede more control of local marijuana policy to Congress by approving the Mayor’s ban on marijuana consumption,”
said Kaitlyn Boecker, a policy associate at the Office of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance.