Senate Democrats Surrender to Republican Pot Prohibitionists, Nullifying Legalization in D.C.


Office of Harry Reid

Contrary to what National Journal reported yesterday, it looks like Senate Democrats have agreed to a spending rider that will not only prevent legal marijuana businesses from opening in Washington, D.C., but will also block legalization of possession, home cultivation, and sharing. The Washington Post reports that the rider, which applies through next September, would bar the District from implementing Initiative 71, the marijuana legalization measure that was approved by nearly 70 percent of D.C. voters last month.

The initiative does not address commercial production and distribution, but it eliminates penalties for possessing two ounces or less, transferring up to an ounce without payment, and growing up to six plants (three of them mature) at home. The rider described by the Post would prevent the District from legalizing those activities. According to a summary from House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), an ardent pot prohibitionist, the latest version of the omnibus spending bill "prohibits both federal and local funds from being used to implement a referendum legalizing recreational marijuana use in the District."

The Post says "the rider language mirrored an amendment introduced over the summer by Rep. Andy Harris, (R-Md.), the most outspoken congressional critic of D.C. legalization." The earlier Harris amendment would have barred the District from spending money "to enact or carry out any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution" of marijuana or any other Schedule I drug. For more than a decade, Congress used a similar spending restriction to block implementation of a medical marijuana initiative that D.C. voters approved in 1998.

The Post says this rider "could also roll back a law passed by the D.C. Council and signed by Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) in the spring to join 18 states that have eliminated criminal penalties for marijuana possession." If so, possessing up to an ounce, currently a citable offense punishable by a $25 fine, would become a misdemeanor again. But it's not clear how Harris' language would accomplish that. Possession has already been decriminalized, and maintaining the status quo does not require any additional expenditures. To the contrary: Reversing decriminalization would mean spending money to arrest and prosecute cannabis consumers who currently get tickets. Harris himself says "decriminalization…is allowed under the omnibus language."

Overriding the will of D.C. voters, who backed Initiative 71 by margin of more than 2 to 1, would be bad enough. Yesterday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who ought to have some say in the matter, declared that "the District of Columbia should do what they want to do." But by last night Reid and his fellow Democrats had agreed to nullify the changes that the District's residents clearly want.

"It is disheartening and frustrating to learn that once again the District of Columbia is being used as a political pawn by the Congress," said D.C. Council Member David Grosso, author of a bill aimed at licensing and regulating marijuana businesses. "To undermine the vote of the people—taxpayers—does not foster or promote the 'limited government' stance House Republicans claim they stand for; it's uninformed paternalistic meddling."

Addendum: See this post for reasons to doubt that the Harris rider actually will prevent Initiative 71 from taking effect.

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  1. BOOOOOOOOOO! Fuck prohibition! Legalize it!

    No, fuck you, cut spending! Also.

  2. “Senate Democrats Surrender to Republican Pot Prohibitionists”

    How about “Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats plan to reinstate pot prohibition.”

    “Democrats surrender” suggests that banning pot is a Republican obsession to which reluctant Democrats have yielded.

    Who passed the Harrison Act in 1914? Who passed the Marihuana Tax Act in the 1930s?

    etc., etc.

    1. ^This.


      Rep. Andy Harris, (R-Md.), the most outspoken congressional critic of D.C. legalization.

      Number one legislative priority: remove this prick from office.

      1. I moved 8 miles down the road so I didn’t get a chance to vote against him this year.

  3. No, it can’t be, the Dems are champions of civil rights and of the will of the people!

    How about “Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats plan to reinstate pot prohibition.”

    How about corruptocrat statists of Team Purple conspire to fuck over the people once again?

  4. Praise the lord, those children will be safe now.

    Crime and violence will a thing of the past.

  5. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.)

    Legalization would cut into the massive illegal pot revenues generated by his state’s huge pot crop.

    1. You shouldn’t believe that Rogers can think that strategically. I would imagine it was more along the lines of “Negroes like pot. Pot is bad.”

  6. Dear Senator Rand Paul,

    Please come to DC and initiate a filibuster against this anti-freedom, anti-democratic, anti-commonsense legislation.


    Every rational person

  7. What exactly does the rider say, anyway?

    1. According to the above, it prohibits them from spending funds on implementing the non-prohibition.

      I don’t see how that could possibly have any effect. If the District doesn’t want to bust people for pot?and obviously they don’t?it’s not like a lack of funds would make them do so somehow.

      1. Agreed, but actual legalization does require a legal frame work for sales or distribution. Otherwise local and federal can technically bring the hammer down on anything connected with it. If they can’t make money off of pot DC will like go back to making money enforcing prohibition.

        Even with the silver lining scenario, legalization has been down graded to defacto decriminalization.

  8. Remind me again why libertarians should support Republicans?

    Because sometimes they’re not complete cunts?

  9. Dear Rep. Andy Harris,

    Thank you for standing up for maintaining our ability to stop and search whomever we like whenever and wherever we like. You help us keep the dark forces (wink, wink) at bay.


    Every cop

  10. “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who ought to have some say in the matter, declared that “the District of Columbia should do what they want to do.” But by last night Reid and his fellow Democrats had agreed to nullify the changes that the District’s residents clearly want.”

    These Team Purple fucks orchestrate this elaborate dance wherein one or another of the players makes a loud protestation in the direction of caring about rights, limited government, whatever, and then as a collective they reinforce the status quo, resulting in the preferred outcome every time.

    The blame has to lie squarely on all of the Republocrats and Demopublicans playing this hideous team sport called Bipartisanship.

  11. Somebody has to save the ignorant unwashed masses from themselves.

  12. Senate Democrats Surrender to Republican Pot Prohibitionists, Nullifying Legalization in D.C.

    It’s not surrendering if you do what you want to do. Loudly protesting you don’t want to do something it is entirely in your control to avoid doing, then making the deliberate decision to do it, is hypocrisy, not surrender.

    1. And the dems can still simultaneously rake in any 2nd hand street cred on being sane about the drug war.

      Assuming pot legalization is inevitable, this is Tactical retardation on the republicans part for even making it an issue. I hope do anyway. The alternative is taking
      Two steps back on the one decent thing that’s been happening.

  13. 8 years of Tea Party rhetoric and *this* is what republicans choose to firm up about once they get leverage in congress. Totally predictable, but still sad. I wouldn’t be surprised to see attempts to cock block state legalization initiatives either. Withholding highway funds and the like. It may just be a winning formula. Most dems want prohibition to keep going too. And with all the hippies out raising a ruckus in the streets again now that their god king is almost out of office. Getting tough on crime and counter culturisms might have legs.

    1. You are aware, of course, that republican leverage begins AFTER the first of the year, yes? And that Reid could easily have stopped this, as he has stopped so many other things?

      As noted, framing this as a GOP thing is disingenuous.

      1. Noted that myself. But this is Andy Harris’ baby, and as such, the dems are this free to frame it that way now. So it’s still a chump move on an issue that just needs to be let go.

        The good news is there are supposedly republican riders protecting the states from the same type of thing. But pro-legalization dems are never going to give them any credit on that just like they won’t blame their own team for their part in letting any of this sort of stuff happen.

      2. As for dems still being in charge, I figure this is deal making time for pet projects.

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  15. The public has spoken…the bastards

  16. How does not forbidding marijuana call for an expenditure? What was money supposed to be spent on?

    Let me guess: It would’ve cost money to send notice to the cops that it’s no longer illegal. As if they couldn’t read it in the news.

  17. You have to realize that it is OK for whites in Colorado, Oregon, Washington State and Alaska to regulate a tax pot, but where blacks live in Washington DC it is not. Republicans think local rule is best except if the locals are black.

  18. Until we treat cannabis like tomatoes people will still get killed over it. Eric Garner. Harassed over cigarette taxes. Ultimately killed for failure to OBEY.

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