Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Lame duck Congress, in keeping government open, goes both directions at the same time on marijuana
In a “lame duck” agreement intended to avoid a government shutdown, Congress has apparently held Washington DC “home rule” hostage and included a rider overruling a Nov. 4 referendum result by District of Columbia residents to decriminalize some use of marijuana, as detailed in many media sources, such as this story in the Huffington Post today (Wednesday, December 10, 2014) by Matt Ferner, link here. Some have argued that there may be a loophole that would allow the DC law to stand. Local television stations today made a lot of this. There may be some demonstrations in DC tonight over the issue. Other accounts say that the issue has to do with federal funds needed to implement the more lenient DC law!
On the other hand, as Ferner reports, Congress has ironically proposed blocking the use of DOJ funds to interfere with hemp (which can be industrial) and marijuana cultivation in states where it is legal. Why has Congress treated the District differently? It’s true that DOJ funding is part of budget appropriation, but not local DC misdemeanor law. The New York Times has an editorial on this issue (Dec, 11) here.
It’s scary to see Congress putting local riders on national bills. Conceivably other non-budget issues with social implications could come up in the future (like gay marriage in DC) if this is permissible. On the other hand some social issues (like Social Security benefits for spouses) really do have budget impacts.
It’s ironic that today I had just watched the film “Neurons to Nirvana” on Netflix, unaware of what Congress was doing in the meantime (see Movies blog).