The mind-altering-substance market got a little more crowded in Washington this past week when the District joined three states in allowing residents to possess and consume marijuana for recreational purposes.
And despite the objections of some congressional Republicans, initially led by Rep. Andy Harris (Md.), who’s quite keen to tell D.C. voters that he knows better than they do, the District is actually the best place in America for marijuana aficionados — in part because of Harris’s efforts to block the will of the voters.
For one thing, District residents can possess more pot than can residents of Alaska, Colorado and Washington, the states where it is legal. Washingtonians are allowed to grow the same number of marijuana plants as residents in Colorado and Alaska (six, three of which can be mature). But weed fans in D.C. can possess up to two ounces of marijuana for recreational use, twice the amount allowed in the three states. When marijuana becomes legal in Oregon in July, that state, too, will limit residents to an ounce.
D.C. voters are more enthusiastic about marijuana than those anywhere else. The ballot initiative that legalized weed passed in November with a whopping 64.9 percent of the vote, higher than the 56.1 percent in Oregon, 55.7 percent in Washington, 55.3 percent in Colorado and 53.2 percent in Alaska.
Now, here’s where Harris’s recalcitrance is paying off for marijuana users: A provision in the “cromnibus” bill, which funded the federal government through September, prohibited the District from writing rules governing marijuana, which means the city can’t levy taxes or set up a regulatory scheme like those in Colorado and Washington state.
So while selling marijuana is still illegal, growers won’t have to pay any taxes on the plants they cultivate. And despite the best efforts of law enforcement, the new rules could eventually mean more product available on the black market — none of which can be taxed or regulated in ways that drive up the price, as in the states where marijuana is legal. (D.C. isn’t completely without restrictions on marijuana use. Just as in other states where it’s legal, one can’t smoke in public, and federal property is off limits.)
The GOP efforts to block marijuana sales have created great conditions for dope-smokers: no taxes, a black market flooded with product and the ability to grow your own ganja legally. Well done, Rep. Harris, you’ve made Washington the best place in America for pot.