White House Says Cannabis is a State Issue, DC Decriminalizes

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Ladybud has been following the political situation in Washington DC surrounding their recent decriminalization law and attempts to legalize. Many residents and politicians from the District of Columbia have been crying foul as a state representative from outside the District has moved to block the implementation of their decriminalization law. All residents have been encouraged to boycott Ocean City and the rest of Maryland Representative Andy Harris’ district.

Now the Obama Administration has officially responded to the Republican’s shenanigans. The letter specifically takes aim at poorly-disguised Republican attempts to thwart the implementation of cannabis decriminalization in Washington DC. The Administration criticizes transparent ploys to undermine local voters’ rights:

Similarly, the Administration strongly opposes the language in the bill preventing the District from using its own local funds to carry out locally- passed marijuana policies, which again undermines the principles of States’ rights and of District home rule. Furthermore, the language poses legal challenges to the Metropolitan Police Department’s enforcement of all marijuana laws currently in force in the District.

The letter also spoke out against attempts to block funding for a DC needle exchange program and several other serious budget cuts to social safety net programs in the District. The letter included the caution that the President would likely veto the Appropriations Bill as it now stands Major groups, such as the Drug Policy Alliance and NORML have spoken out in support of this stance.

NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri is quoted as saying

It is encouraging to see the White House stand up for DC’s right to pursue the reformation of their marijuana laws,” stated, “Prohibition is a failed policy and we are pleased to see President Barack Obama beginning to act in accordance with the view of an overwhelming majority of Americans that states and localities should be free to pursue new approaches to marijuana, free from federal incursion.

“It is encouraging to see the White House stand up for DC’s right to pursue the reformation of their marijuana laws,” stated NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, “Prohibition is a failed policy and we are pleased to see President Barack Obama beginning to act in accordance with the view of an overwhelming majority of Americans that states and localities should be free to pursue new approaches to marijuana, free from federal incursion.” – See more at: http://blog.norml.org/2014/07/14/the-white-house-opposes-congressional-attempts-to-hinder-dc-marijuana-reform/#sthash.Qr1qQ4Of.dpuf
“It is encouraging to see the White House stand up for DC’s right to pursue the reformation of their marijuana laws,” stated NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, “Prohibition is a failed policy and we are pleased to see President Barack Obama beginning to act in accordance with the view of an overwhelming majority of Americans that states and localities should be free to pursue new approaches to marijuana, free from federal incursion.” – See more at: http://blog.norml.org/2014/07/14/the-white-house-opposes-congressional-attempts-to-hinder-dc-marijuana-reform/#sthash.Qr1qQ4Of.dpuf

Representative Harris has doubled down on his stance, stating that if residents of Washington DC want voting and representation rights, they should move to a state and not live in the District of Columbia. He has also said there should be a mandatory drug abuse treatment clause in the decriminalization law for any minor caught with cannabis.

Some cannabis activists are critical of the letter, believing it doesn’t go far enough. They would like Obama to take action on an executive level, not to just pay lip service to supporting states’ rights.

On the one hand, deferring to the individual states in this case will allow the steady march of progress. More and more states are overturning cannabis prohibition (at least partially), and if trends in polling and popular opinion are any indicator, plenty more will follow soon.

Of course, from an efficiency standpoint, a federal change in policy would be the fastest and most dramatic shift any cannabis activist could hope for. Instead of slowly working to win over 51% of the population in each individual state, activists could focus on ensuring a cost-effective and fair system of regulation is created for the cannabis market. It would ensure a uniform national policy, as there is with alcohol, instead of having vastly different policies from state to state, as there are with gambling.

For now, it appears that DC’s decriminalization law has gone into effect, as of midnight, July 16th, 2014. Yesterday, those caught with cannabis in the District of Columbia would face criminal penalties. Today, those penalties are officially replaced with a fine of $25. Even if it is imperfect, even if the law is under attack, it is still positive progress in an area with some of the worst racism in regards to prohibition enforcement (90% of those arrested for cannabis offenses in DC are black).

Congrats to the people of Washington DC! There’s still more work to do, but at least the President will be backing your legal right to govern yourselves.

Click here for previous Ladybud coverage of cannabis activism and legal reform in Washington DC.

 

Photo Credit:  Pete Souza for The Official White House Photostream (P042409PS-0122) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons