On Election Day last month, voters in Washington, D.C. chose by a margin of more than 2-1 to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes.
A month later, Congress decided to overturn those election results. District residents pay taxes to the United States but have no Congressional representation and their elected city council's actions can be overturned by Congress for any or no reason. That's why D.C. license plates have the slogan “Taxation without Representation.”
The House Appropriations Committee put out a three-page press summary (available in .pdf form here) including three paragraphs dedicated to the District of Columbia. The first paragraphs mention the size of next year's federal payment to D.C. ($680 million) and offers a partial breakdown of how that money's been earmarked ($479 million for “public safety and security costs” including “DC Courts” and “supervision of offenders and defendants.” The second paragraph discusses money spent for schools and other educational costs in D.C. And the third paragraph says this:
In addition, the legislation maintains a longstanding provision prohibiting federal and local funds from being used for abortion in the District of Columbia, and prohibits both federal and local funds from being used to implement a referendum legalizing recreational marijuana use in the District.
In the actual spending bill, which is 1,603 pages long, this paragraph is on page 660:
None of the funds contained in this act may be used to enact or carry out any law, rule or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution of any schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act or any tetrhydrocannabinols derivative for recreational purposes.
The Will of Congress
In other contexts, various members of Congress and especially the House Appropriations Committee have surely said nice things in favor of democracy, voting, the Will of the People and other things mentioned in civics textbooks.
Yesterday, various protesters (incuding members of D.C.'s city council) gathered in the city's downtown. Some of them were specifically protesting the marijuana issue, others the larger issue of D.C. self-rule (basically, demanding that residents of the district have the same voting rights as any other American citizens, including the right to vote on local issues rather than have Congress manage their local affairs for them).
NBC's Washington blog reported late last night that the “marijuana protesters” (some of whom were protesting not in favor of legal marijuana, so much as the larger issue of self-rule for D.C. residents) joined up with another group demonstrating against police brutality against ordinary citizens.
Rep. Andy Harris (R-Maryland), who firmly opposes marijuana legalization, led the behind-the-scenes strategy to overturn election results in D.C. He told Politico magazine that if D.C. residents don't like Congressional oversight, they should live somewhere else: “That’s the way the Constitution was written …. If they don’t like that oversight, move outside of the federal district to one of the 50 states that is not covered by the jurisdiction of Congress as a whole.”
Of course, in America as a whole, a slight majority of polled voters now support marijuana legalization, which is why some political analysts predict the Republicans' short-term victory in successfully overriding the will of D.C. voters will hurt them on the national stage in the long run. For now, Congressional oversight of Washington, D.C. will continue to ignore the wishes of the majority of voters in D.C. and the rest of the country, at least where marijuana laws are concerned.