Thursday morning in Washington D.C. the private smoking and harvesting of marijuana became officially legal, due to Mayor Muriel Bowser ignoring the warnings from Congress, and passing the law anyway. Bowser stated that she believed that she and the city officials were acting in accordance with the law and that she would not be bullied into a decision. At midnight on Thursday marijuana became legal in the nation’s capital, in a law known as Initiative 71.
Washington D.C. is not the first place in the United States to make marijuana legal. Preceding places include the states of Colorado, Washington, and more recently Alaska. In these states, the laws passed for legal marijuana usage are different, however. Residents must buy from specific places, such as dispensaries, and can only have one ounce of weed on them at a time. In Washington D.C. residents can have up to two ounces on themselves but are not legally allowed to buy or sell. Instead, they can grow their own marijuana, harvesting up to six plants, but can only have three budding at one time. In all places, however, public smoking and carrying it on federal land (national parks, national monuments, and state buildings) is illegal.
Though the marijuana laws passed in Washington D.C. do have similarities to the ones passed in the predeceasing states, the reason for the difference of no buying or selling can be summed up to the threats that city officials received from Congress, before passing the law, Initiative 71. Though a vote performed in November of 2014 showed a win for the legalization of marijuana, politicians were less than willing to allow such a thing to be passed. Upon hearing the city officials plans to legalize the drug, Congress threatened to pull funding for D.C. and even throw city officials involved in jail based on the federal Anti-Deficiency Act, according to sources. The federal Anti-Deficiency Act throws government officials in jail for knowingly spending over their budget.
Mayor Muriel Bowser was able to find a way around the threats of congress by implementing the law for legal smoking, but not spending any money setting up dispensaries or creating the system. Instead, she simply allowed for residents to handle their own. With the law not allowing for legal buying or selling, residents will have to grow their own marijuana and can “share” with others.
This system may not last long as the city officials estimated the marijuana industry in Washington D.C. to be around $130 million. But the important thing, according to statements made about the law passing, is that Washington D.C. has passed a major milestone, in which precedence could be set in a major way. Officials and residents of D.C., alike, believe that more states may pass the law for legalization of marijuana, now that the nation’s capital has done so. This was probably the fear of Congress, as well.
News and media sources are now calling this time the “green rush.” Politicians have made statements that they will be fighting the law. Whether they throw city officials, including Bowser, in jail or not remains to be unseen, but city officials have made statements that if the government decides to step up their game against the law, it may not stay in effect. But for now, residents can celebrate their freedom to smoke marijuana legally.
By Crystal Boulware