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Marijuana Goes Legal in Washington DC

It is now perfectly legal for adults to grow and possess cannabis in the nation’s capitol.

WashingtonDC_CampeignAD_PreviewThe D.C. initiative (Measure 71), approved by 70 percent of the city’s voters, went into effect on Thursday. It specifically does not address any retail scheme. Instead, it has a simpler approach.

D.C. residents can now posses up to 2 ounces of marijuana, grow up to six plants and give away up to one ounce for no payment.

All of this local freedom for marijuana consumers drew the intense ire of some Republican members of Congress. Last year Rep Andy Harris (R-MD) and Rep Joe Pitts (R-PA) attempted to prevent the law from being implemented by tucking a provision into the omnibus federal spending package. Congress has the final say over all fiscal decisions in the District of Columbia.

But D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and the Washington’s city council pressed forward by “transmitting” the measure to Congress. Because the format of the District’s marijuana legalization plan does not require any spending by the city they feel they can honor the will of voters.

The Hill reported that a Congressional investigation has been opened. Rep Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Rep Mark Meadows (R-NC) have even gone so far as to threaten Mayor Bowser with prison.

But after much bluster they backed off. House leadership does not seem keen to get involved with direct litigation.

Still Rep. Harris told the Washington Post today that he hopes that US Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice would «bring action under the Anti-Deficiency Act.»

Arresting D.C.’s mayor would be an extraordinarily unusual move. In fact, the conflict has brought out some strong support for marijuana reform.

Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) gave a passionate speech on the Senate floor in December on the topic:

«The very idea of taxation without representation and the self determination of people is at the core of our democratic ideals as a nation. Yet despite this, Washington D.C. with a population larger than two of our states, sees the constant undermining of this very principle….So when the District of Columbia votes just like Colorado, just like Washington, just like Oregon, just like Alaska to change marijuana laws…when Washington D.C. grapples with the devastating impact of the Drug War; sees the pain and the challenges and the struggles therein…when the people of the city come together to try a different way forward should we not honor their results?»

White House spokesman Josh Ernest indicated that President Obama shares that sentiment.

In the end, Congress did not do anything to prevent Measure 71 from going into effect.

Advocates at DCMJ, the organizers who achieved a victory with «Yes on 71» celebrated.

«It feels great, it feels like freedom,» Adam Eidinger told CBS News as he lit a joint at 12:01AM Thursday.

Fittingly, D.C. is the first place east of the Mississippi for cannabis prohibition to end. That means the seeds of change for marijuana will be growing, legally, in the seat of American politics.

Let’s hope this send a real message to the legislators who work there that we need national reform.