Updated: December 9, 2014 at 4:50 PM
Marijuana legalization advocates will want to pay close attention to a massive spending bill meant to keep the government from shutting down: there might be a provision in there stopping marijuana legalization in Washington D.C.
That’s despite the fact that 7 in 10 voters in DC supported a ballot initiative legalizing marijuana in the District of Columbia on Election Day.
Now though there are reports that budget negotiators have agreed to a provision limiting marijuana legalization. The Washington City Paper reported “rumors” Tuesday that Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) have “struck a deal” with House Republicans to block legalizing marijuana in the district. The Washington Post reported that advocates monitoring the the measure say the provision effectively stops legalizing marijuana in Washington D.C.
National Journal reported that the deal seems to be that the ballot initiative legalizing marijuana will still be in effect (so it won’t be illegal for D.C. residents to own or grow marijuana, beginning in 2015).
Instead, according to National Journal, there will be language in the omnibus bill that will stop Washington D.C. from using funds on regulations or collect taxes related to the initiative legalizing marijuana going through September 2015. The congressional deal will allow for marijuana to be technically legal but handcuff the D.C. government on its implementation.
In other words, the provision in the omnibus stops expansion of the marijuana ballot initiative but the legalization is still going to happen.
Note also that the Washington D.C. City Council passed a marijuana decriminalization law in 2014 and that law will stay in effect.
Spokespeople in the House and Senate involved in the negotiations only noted that the budget deal is not finalized yet.
Adam Eidinger, a supporter of marijuana legalization and one of the people the Post cites as saying that the provision is in the bill, called the move “old school, backroom, dirty politics.”
“It is fundamentally undemocratic,” Eidinger said to the Post.
As the Post noted, stopping marijuana legalization in the Capitol is something some conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives have been pushing for. Eidinger said though that Democrats would get his blame.
“They have the power to decide this, and if they want to shut down the government to protect a vote by the people, I think that would play well nationally,” Eidinger said. “If they don’t, there will be a reaction, and it won’t be to go campaign again for Democrats.”