The congressional challenging of Washington D.C.’s voter-approved Initiative 71, which legalizes recreational marijuana for adults aged 21 and older in the District, has gotten a lot of attention in recent weeks. Sparking the controversy is the political rider sneakily attached to this year’s cromnibus spending bill by Maryland Rep. Andy Harris, which bans the enactment of laws that affect the legality of Schedule 1 substances in the nation’s capital.
However, two recently elected city officials — Mayor Muriel Bowser and Attorney General Karl A. Racine — have separately announced their intentions to continue fighting for the District’s autonomy on the issue of legal marijuana.
Before taking office, Bowser explained that “My job is to uphold the will of the voters, and the voters overwhelmingly support legalizing marijuana in the District.” She was sworn in on Jan. 2, and now says D.C. is prepared to “explore every option” to see that the voter-approved marijuana market is enforced in the nation’s capital, even if that means a lawsuit against Congress over the issue.
This statement, issued in an appearance alongside D.C.’s Police Chief Cathy Lanier on Sunday’s Meet the Press, was reinforced by a previous statement of Bowser’s to the Washington Post: “I continue to think that public safety is best served by having clear and enforceable laws.” Essentially, the D.C. police force needs to have a very clear understanding of what is legal and what isn’t regarding marijuana in the District, and — if this is truly a democratic society — the District’s voters should be the principal authority on such issues.
Meanwhile, Attorney General Racine has also announced that he will pursue the validation of Initiative 71 on behalf of D.C. voters. His belief, which coincides with many top D.C. and Democratic officials, is that Initiative 71 was officially enacted on Nov. 4 when voters expressed overwhelming support for legalization, and that Rep. Harris’ cromnibus rider should only target the future enactment of such laws.
Racine holds the unique position of being the District’s first elected attorney general. Formerly, the position was mayor-appointed and required confirmation by the city council. Racine’s successful campaign placed a heavy emphasis the intention to steer the District’s juvenile detention system “in a way that focuses more on rehabilitation and restoration as opposed to mere incarceration,” a stance that naturally sympathizes with the District’s desire to remove criminal penalties for petty marijuana possession.
Photo Credit: tanjila ahmed
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