Weed is now legal in Washington, D.C., no thanks to Congress.
Mayor Muriel Bowser vowed in late February that legalization would go ahead in the nation’s capital, despite a congressional vote that tried to block it. It is now legal to possess up to two ounces of marijuana in D.C. and to grow up to six plants at home for personal use, with no more than three flowering at the same time.
Unfortunately, residents will likely have to rely on the black market or their own gardens to supply their pot. A retail industry is still barred by Congress, though it’s unclear how long that embargo will last.
Congress blocked new marijuana laws from taking effect
Late last year, Congress passed a bill that prevents D.C. officials from “enacting” the weed law approved by District voters in November. Obama signed the bill, and congressional Republicans now say it prevents the city from legalizing.
District officials beg to differ. Bowser said it’s well understood that laws are “enacted” when lawmakers or voters pass them rather than when they formally take effect. Democrats in Congress are supporting her position.
Republicans, on the other hand, have threatened Bowser and other D.C. officials with arrest and incarceration if they move ahead with the law. This would force Metro police to keep citing people for simple possession.
The District Council decriminalized marijuana earlier last year, so in any event most users wouldn’t go to jail if busted. But they would have to pay civil fines, which were removed by the new law.
Possession legalized in Washington Feb 26.
Possession officially became legal at 12:01 a.m. Feb. 26, making Washington the fourth political entity in the United States to completely legalize weed. Other cities have decriminalized or partially legalized, but police in those places still have the authority to make arrests under state law.
Pot went legal in Colorado and Washington State in 2013, while the first retail pot shops opened in those states last year. In November, Oregon and Alaska also legalized weed; the change took effect in Alaska in February.
That means the District, Washington State, Alaska, and Colorado are now the only four areas in the United States where marijuana is legally allowed. Uruguay, in South America, is the only other place in the world with fully legal cannabis.
In D.C., weed advocates said the decision to move ahead with the law reflects the rapidly changing face of marijuana law in America. Just a few years ago, no politician would have dared challenge Congress over the legality of pot.
“Nationwide, it (legalization) is clearly symbolic in its ability to impact other places,” said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of NORML
It’s not clear who could happen next. GOP lawmakers would likely hurt their cause more than help it if they tried to lock up Democratic leaders in the nation’s capital over a popular, harmless pastime. But lawmakers could still cause a lot of trouble for the city.