Why Congress Probably Won't Block Marijuana Legalization in Washington, D.C.


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Yesterday four members of Congress held a press conference at which they argued that legislators should not interfere with marijuana legalization in Washington, D.C. In my latest Forbes column, I explain why such meddling is unlikely. Here is how the piece starts:

At a press conference yesterday, Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia's congressional delegate, urged her colleagues to respect the will of the voters who overwhelmingly approved marijuana legalization in the nation's capital last week. She was joined by three congressmen, including Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), who said trying to block legalization in D.C. or in Alaska and Oregon, where voters also said no to marijuana prohibition last week, would flout "fundamental principles" that "Republicans have always talked about," including "individual liberties," "limited government," and "states' rights and the 10th Amendment."

Norton noted that "we've had a threat to try to overturn our legalization initiative." She was referring to Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), who after the D.C. vote told The Washington Post, "I will consider using all resources available to a member of Congress to stop this action." Although there is no doubting Harris's sincerity, those resources probably will prove inadequate.

Read the whole thing

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13 responses to “Why Congress Probably Won't Block Marijuana Legalization in Washington, D.C.

  1. Although there is no doubting Harris’s sincerity, those resources probably will prove inadequate.

    Harris was first elected to congress in 2011, so doesn’t have much seniority. But he’s on a number of influential committees (Foreign Affairs, Ways & Means, Judiciary and Energy and Commerce) so might have the potential to block others legislation if they don’t yield on the DC thing. I don’t see a lot of congresscritters dying on that hill if it means foregoing pork for their districts.

    1. He might get something attached in committee, but if there’s a floor vote of the whole House, I think he’d lose. Sullum is correct, most of the GOP gains this election came from Democrats who already voted anti-pot in the previous Congress. I think there is still a pro-states’ rights on pot majority in the House.

      There’s no chance of a regular disapproval. An Appropriations rider is indeed the restrictionists’ best hope, but I think it would create Senate fireworks.

  2. Rohrabacher should run for GOP nom if he’s not too old. He would be a nice backup if/when Rand Paul doesn’t make it.

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  4. I usually find Mr. Sullum’s articles hard-headed, cogent, and persuasive, but not this time.

    Unless you think that tax-and-regulate has unambiguous 50+% support in a majority of districts and states, I don’t see why it wouldn’t be perfectly straightforward for Republicans and “moderate” Dems to form a coalition and simply prohibit DC from doing this.

    For better or worse, citizens throughout the country view themselves as something akin to part “owners” of the District. They send the bulk of their tax dollars down that way. They take their family vacations down by the tidal basin and march dutifully from the Lincoln to the Jefferson to the Washington Memorial. They remember those clips of MLK’s speech and the pictures of the Vietnam Veterans’ Wall, etc, etc. Whether or not they actually “own” it, or whatever, they think they own it and– in our mutant-bastard-hypertrophic democracy– that’s pretty much enough.

    Everyone claims to believe in live-and-let-live … until little johnny has to see a half-time nipple. Then it’s torches and pitchforks.

    1. He gave perfectly plausible reasons. Just because you don’t like them doesn’t change that.

      Why don’t you address his explanations instead of just saying they suck?

    2. I don’t see why it wouldn’t be perfectly straightforward for Republicans and “moderate” Dems to form a coalition and simply prohibit DC from doing this.

      Such a coalition is plausible, yes. But Jacob is doing a whip count based on the votes from the previous Congress. The House actually voted on 6 or 7 amendments that were pot-relevant, and the libertarian – progressive alliance won. The GOP gains in the House this year are overwhelmingly from the moderate/conservative Democrats that voted anti-pot, so it seems probable that pot still has a working majority.

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