Monday’s public hearing to tax and regulate marijuana and terminate pot drug tests was scuttled by DC’s new Attorney General, backed by Congressional Republicans, who are playing hardball to block the District’s 70% legalization vote for recreational marijuana. Back in December, the so-called CRomnibus Bill had already seemingly reversed the overwhelming will of voters to possess and grow cannabis, and the DC Council’s plans to regulate and tax its sale. But in apparent retaliation, the Federal Budget, ushered in by Obama on Feb. 2, would allow DC to take charge of spending its own money on marijuana legalization, taxation and regulation.
“Of course, the President’s budget request is merely the opening volley in a months-long back-and-forth negotiation with Congress,” clarified Tom Angell, chairman of the Marijuana Majority. “It remains to be seen what language will be included in the appropriations legislation that actually gets enacted into law, most likely later this year.”
The DC Council, which last year decriminalized cannabis to merely a $25 fine, vowed to challenge House conservatives, nonetheless, saying that by March, the District would begin treating Initiative 71 as law: legalization without dispensaries, essentially.
But, on Feb. 9, the Council was confronted with a bazooka – AG Karl Racine’s threat of federal fines and jail time, in its alleged violation of Cromnibus – and opted to cancel its formal hearing on taxation and regulation.
Instead, the Council held an informal roundtable discussion with the heads of three committees, cannabis business leaders from Colorado and Washington, and dozens of assembled witnesses, thus skirting contempt of Congress. In the meeting, leaders vowed to confront Congress head-on, especially given that the Council’s own attorney had advised that the formal hearing was perfectly legal. In the big picture, more was at stake than marijuana legalization – the long-contested statehood and autonomy of the District of Columbia.
“We the citizens and elected leaders have capitulated,” said one leader. “The time for capitulation must end and the time for confrontation is upon us.”
Still, Initiative 71 remains in limbo. On the one hand, Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) says the ballot was self-enacting and will begin enforcing it as law by March. On the other hand, Congressional Republicans say Initiative 71 was blocked by Cromnibus.
Noteworthy is that Cromnibus not only threatens the liberties of the 70% of District citizens sympathetic to marijuana legalization but also the freedoms of the nation at large, via its ominous language for the pre-packaged Wall Street bailout for the next financial crisis, putting taxpayers on the hook for the $303 trillion derivatives held by banks. Our friendly advice for American readers susceptible to paranoia under certain circumstances is to steer clear of whatever else lies beneath the bill’s remaining 1,600 pages. I know I will!
By: Robert Brand