Just after midnight on Thursday morning, Washington, D.C., officially legalized the recreational use of marijuana.
As in the four Western states which have adopted similar measures, including Alaska, the change in D.C. law was approved by voters through a ballot initiative. Despite receiving overwhelming majority support, Congress is trying to prevent Initiative 71 from being implemented as many conservatives on Capitol Hill are arguing that the federal legislature has jurisdiction over Washington’s laws.
In December, the federal legislature banned funds from being used to enact the law, but Mayor Bowser has gone ahead with the newly approved marijuana policy anyway. D.C. officials argue that the law was enacted when election results in the city were certified, before Congress acted to block the initiative.
Now, House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), and Rep. Andy Harris (D-Md.) are all threatening D.C.’s mayor with jail time for violating the Anti-Deficiency Act, a law passed in 19th century which prohibits federal money from being spent which has not been appropriated.
Subsequently, the Oversight Committee is investigating Washington’s local government for evidence that they have spent national tax-payer money to finance implementation of the law. Ms. Bowser faces up to two years in jail if convicted of violating the Act, but says that, “we are acting lawfully.”
Initiative 71 specifically approved the possession of small amounts of marijuana for use on private property, and allows individuals to grow up to six plants in their “primary residences.”