By Andy Cush
In an effort to block Washington, D.C. from decriminalizing pot possession — a law it passed on its own back in March — House Republicans led by Maryland Rep. Andy Harris may have accidentally legalized it.
Congress, as you may recall, has the D.C. government under its thumb, and may intervene whenever it feels like if the district does something it doesn’t approve of. In this case, the city made possession of up to an ounce of pot punishable only by a $25 fine, and Harris amended a spending bill to forbid the city from spending money to “enact or carry out any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution [of marijuana and other drugs] for recreational use.”
The hole in Harris’s scheme, as laid out by the Washington Post, is that the pot law will likely go into effect sometime next month, before the bill and its Senate companion have a chance to be voted in. And if the Harris amendment does pass, D.C. will be left with a law that decriminalizes pot with no money behind it to fund going after defenders.
From the Post:
But the officials familiar with the matter said the amendment could prevent the police department from printing citations, prevent cops from writing and processing them, and prevent the city government from adjudicating them. The upshot is that there might be no penalty for minor marijuana possession, they said.
Pedro Ribeiro, a spokesman for D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, took the opportunity to jab at Congress for sticking its fingers in district affairs: “This potential unintended consequence only underscores why Congress should not meddle in local D.C. laws.”