White House Opposes Republican Efforts Undermining D.C. Marijuana Reform


washington dc marijuana decriminalizationIn a Statement of Administration Policy yesterday the White House expressed strong opposition to a Republican amendment by Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) that is directed at blocking implementation of a recent law the District of Columbia passed replacing jail time for possessing small amounts of marijuana for personal use with a small fine. The statement calls marijuana reform a “states’ rights” issue, a groundbreaking policy position for the White House to take. The D.C. Council also passed a resolution condemning congressional interference yesterday.

“It is great to see the White House accepting that a majority of Americans want marijuana law reform and defending the right of D.C. and states to set their own marijuana policy,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs. “The tide has clearly shifted against the failed war on drugs and it’s only a matter of time before federal law is changed.”

The White House Statement of Administration Policy reads:  ”Similarly, the Administration strongly opposes the language in the bill preventing the District from using its own local funds to carry out locally- passed marijuana policies, which again undermines the principles of States’ rights and of District home rule. Furthermore, the language poses legal challenges to the Metropolitan Police Department’s enforcement of all marijuana laws currently in force in the District.”

On June 25th, the House Appropriations Committee adopted an amendment by Rep. Harris that is directed at blocking implementation of a recent law the District of Columbia passed replacing jail time for possessing small amounts of marijuana for personal use with a small fine. If included in the 2015 federal budget, the rider would block the District from carrying out any law, rule or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce criminal penalties for marijuana.

Advocates warn the rider would overrule the will of D.C. voters should they pass Initiative 71 this fall and block efforts to tax and regulate adult sales of marijuana in the District. If passed by D.C. voters, Initiative 71 would allow adults over the age of 21 to possess up to two ounces of marijuana on their person at any time, and allow for the cultivation of up to six marijuana plants at home. District law prevents the ballot initiative from addressing the sale of marijuana. However, the D.C. Council is currently considering a bill that will tax and regulate marijuana within the District. Washington, D.C. residents have begun organizing a boycott of Ocean City, MD, part of Rep. Harris’s congressional district, as a show of their disapproval of Rep. Harris’s intervention in D.C. affairs.

The “Marijuana Possession Decriminalization Amendment Act of 2014,” adopted by the D.C. Council in April, replaces criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana with a $25 civil fine for possession as well as forfeiture of the marijuana and any paraphernalia used to consume or carry it. This new D.C. law is expected to take effect on Thursday following the expiration of a federally mandated review period before Congress. However, House Republicans could halt local implementation of the marijuana decriminalization law if the Harris rider is attached to any federal spending measures that pass later this year.

“That Congressman Andy Harris would try to kill D.C.’s efforts to stop arresting people for marijuana possession is beyond disturbing,” said Dr. Malik Burnett, D.C. policy manager with the Drug Policy Alliance. “This amendment is an affront to the District’s right to home rule, while ensuring that thousands of District residents continue to be arrested and suffer the collateral consequences associated with a criminal record. Congress should be following D.C.’s example and end racist marijuana arrest policies, instead of defying the will of the people and reversing their decision.”

Recent polls show broad support among District residents for following in the steps of Colorado and Washington and legalizing marijuana.  The District of Columbia currently has the highest per capita marijuana arrest rates in the U.S.  In 2010 African Americans in the District accounted for 91 percent of all marijuana arrests – even though African-American and white residents use marijuana at roughly similar rates.

Source: Drug Policy Alliancemake a donation


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  • mike1188

    Our government just need to get it over with and Legallize marijauna. It will happen because everyone is tired of the political bullshit, the unjust laws of forfeiture, the racist arrest of our citizens, we are tired of these laws tearing up families, we are tired up loosing our homes, our jobs, our life’s just because of a unjust law made by ignorant people for an ignorant reason, by the big bussiness corruption the threw money into the pockets of the people who agreed to these unjust laws. The only thing prohibition did is make the drug cartels richer, our politicians richer, and big bussiness richer.
    Legalize marijauna America put an end to probition, put an end to these unjust laws and give people there choice.

    • David

      And yet a mere 14% of Americans vote in elections unless the ballot includes executive branch (Presidential) candidates. America should make it easier for citizens to vote, Not more difficult. Having an election day holiday on Tuesdays would help voter participation. The far end alternative would be like Australia’s making it illegal to not vote

  • Valient

    The enforcement of the laws tends to be more racist, which is undeniable. However, they really need to start addressing the fact that this is more of a civil rights and completely unjust law issue. We are destroying peoples’ lives for nonviolent, almost harmless behavior.

    The only harms that can even be argued are possible personal health issues and providing money to gangs/cartels. We don’t criminalize any other activity that has the possibility to cause personal injury, even if it’s proven. Ex – Boxing/fighting sports and football have undeniable extremely high potential of serious, irreversible injury both to the individual and their opponent. We allow them but lessen the chance of injury through rules, regulations, and protective gear . We also do not criminalize people who choose the play personal football games without those protections in place, and as long as it’s for sport/no one calls the cops to press charges, personal martial arts matches are not criminalized.

    The gang/cartel problem is also greatly removed by legalizing and regulating. Though last I checked, the DEA was working with the cartels.

    Law in the US and most civilized countries is supposed to be justified. Why aren’t more civil rights groups arguing this?

  • StevenAlex

    Cannabis prohibition should never have happened. This period of cannabis prohibition has done nothing but harm the citizens of the United States and insult our intelligence and restrict our civil rights. The incarceration of adults who prefer cannabis as their adult recreational drug of choice is absolutely pathological. The four most dangerous recreational drugs in the U.S. in order are Alcohol, Tobacco, Sugar and Caffeine. Even horseback riding has a higher risk for injury than smoking cannabis. In addition hemp is a fantastic, multi-purpose plant which also should never have been made illegal.
    Cannabis should be legal, medical cannabis should be legal and adults should be able to grow their own supply for recreational or medical use. End the oppression, help the economy, reduce the prison population, allow adults the right to the very low risk recreational herb cannabis and help the planet and the small farmers by encouraging hemp cultivation. Legalize all forms of cannabis for adults now and free the non-violent prisoners who have been wrongfully incarcerated.