THE FEDERAL spending bill now pending before Congress includes a provision that bars the Justice Department from spending any money to undermine state medical marijuana laws. It also includes an amendment that prohibits the Drug Enforcement Administration from interfering with a federal law that allows industrial hemp research in states that have approved it.
But for the District of Columbia and its effort to legalize marijuana, it’s a different story, with Congress showing no shame or compunction in trying to upend local authority. The hypocrisy is stunning even by the standards of Capitol Hill.
“None of the funds contained in this Act may be used to enact any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution of any schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act,” reads a rider that targets the initiative approved by D.C. voters to allow possession and growth of small amounts of marijuana. Attorneys for the city were examining the language to see if, as Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) argued, it might contain a loophole that would allow the city to forge ahead with legalization. It appears that decriminalization of marijuana, which went into effect in the District in July, won’t be affected.
The inclusion of this noxious rider in the giant, must-pass spending bill came at the instigation of House Republicans, but the real blame falls on the White House and Senate Democrats who give lip service to the District’s home rule but don’t think twice about selling it out. “I’m opposed to what the House is trying to do,” Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday of the measure as he sent a signal that he pretty much planned to sit on his hands. “If they put it in there, it’s going to be hard to take it out over here.”
So just as they did three years ago with abortions for low-income women, Democrats are prepared to take the path of least resistance. They — and the Republican sponsors of the marijuana measure — are further empowering those who see the District as a place to score political points and not as a home to Americans who should have the right to self-determination.