Battle Over Marijuana Between Congress And DC Council

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Advocates for legalizing the possession of marijuana in Washington, D.C. may have gathered enough signatures to put the issue on the November ballot, the Washington Post reports.

While only 22,600 signatures are actually required for the measure to land on the ballot, supporters of Initiative 71 have obtained almost 60,000 signatures.

This follows in the wake of a previous decision by the D.C. council in March to decriminalize possession, which would make possession punishable by a $25 fine instead of a year-long jail sentence.

However, only weeks before the decriminalization proposal was to take effect, House Republicans passed a budget measure which includes language prohibiting the council from spending any funds on modifying penalties relating to pot.

If the budget plan becomes law before November 4, the council will likely be unable to count the votes, effectively stymieing any progress on marijuana decriminalization or legalization. But in the event that Congress fails to act before November 4, it may be the case that pot is legalized in the District of Columbia. The polls indicate that residents in the District support legalization 2 to 1.

Elsewhere, nine states have legalized marijuana extracts for study or for medical treatment, with Missouri and North Carolina on the way, only needing a signature from the governor before similar policies become law. The current measure proposed by Initiative 71 would permit people 21 and older up to two ounces of marijuana for personal use.

Growing up to three plants of marijuana at home would also be allowed. To avoid direct contradiction with federal law, sale would still be prohibited.

In commenting on the trend of legalization proposals in the states, former President Bill Clinton argued in favor of decentralized experiments regarding marijuana.

“I think there are a lot of unresolved questions,” said Clinton. “This really is a time when there should be laboratories of democracy, because nobody really knows where this is going. Are there adequate quality controls? There’s pot and there’s pot; what’s in it? What’s going to happen? There are all these questions.”

In the meantime, both sides in the District will have to wait until the situation unfolds in November to determine the status of marijuana in the city.

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