When Will Washington D.C. Legalize Weed? Soon, But Not All That Soon
Well, those midterm elections were a little depressing. Actually, make that a lot depressing — an out-and-out GOP wave, surging across the country by margins that polling firms, by and large, failed to anticipate. But if you're looking for silver linings here and there, you can at least take solace in this: it was a big day for weed. Voters in Washington D.C. overwhelmingly backed marijuana legalization Tuesday, joining it with the states of Washington, Colorado, and similar midterm newcomers Oregon and Alaska (Florida voters backed it by a 57 percent majority, but alas, a 60 percent supermajority was needed).
But, as is often the case, nothing's quite as simple in the District of Columbia as it is in other parts of America, which enjoy the full autonomy of statehood. Thanks to D.C.'s non-state status, and the complicated web of oversight that the U.S. Congress and executive branch hold over the city's affairs, it's actually not assured that the will of the voters will rule the day.
Basically, the new law is still subject to a possible congressional veto, a possibility which certainly seems more likely now than it did this time last week, with the GOP seizing control of the Senate. If the Congress moved against the law, and President Obama agrees that he also wants it stopped, then D.C. voters will be out of luck.
Because... well, I don't rightly know. The reality is that D.C.'s non-statehood is a matter of the U.S. Constitution, and despite robust, years-long campaigns to award the District full rights and representation (they do have a Delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton, but insanely enough, she can't cast votes for final passage of bills), the status quo hasn't wavered. Life in Washington D.C. is, quite literally, taxation without representation. The upshot is that whether D.C. residents will actually get to toke in peace is very much at the whim of Congress, and subsequently, President Obama.
Of course, there's another obvious question buried in all this, a very important one raised by The Daily Beast's Abby Haglage — does this mean politicians can spark up, too? And the answer, once the law is actually in effect, is yes! With one major caveat, though: it would only be legit on private property. Federal laws are binding when you're standing on federal property, after all, and the federal government still considering marijuana in the same class of drugs as heroin and LSD. Which means, sadly, that Joe Biden will still have to hide out in the White House bathroom with a towel stuffed under the door.
According to the Washington Post, however, we should have a while to see how this all shakes out — advocates for legal marijuana testified to the D.C. Council last week that, given the new regulatory structure that still needs to be built, legal weed sales won't hit D.C. until early 2016, and the District won't see any revenue from it until late 2016.
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