D.C. marijuana activist Adam Eidinger is sitting in Sen. Harry Reid‘s office today, waiting to speak with the still-Democratic Senate majority leader. Rumor is circulating that Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have struck a deal with congressional Republicans to upend D.C.’s overwhelmingly voter-approved initiative to legalize marijuana in the city while upholding D.C.’s separate decriminalization law.
Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid made deal to keep Decrim and overturn I71 with GOP. Developing as we haven't seen legislation. #Badnews— DC Marijuana Justice
(@DCMJ2014) December 9, 2014
The Washington Post reported that two other people, in addition to Eidinger, closely tracking the issue say Initiative 71 is in serious jeopardy. The provision, known as a rider, would be tacked into a massive spending bill needed to prevent a government shutdown. No one has seen the language of the bill yet, so it is unclear exactly how it will block the law, or possibly block D.C. from spending money on it in a way that renders the law meaningless.
Under the Home Rule Charter, Congress has the opportunity to block any D.C. law it pleases, though using its official control of the District’s budget through the appropriations process, as in this case, is usually the easier way to do it.
“What country do we live in? That’s not how the rules of the game are played,” Eidinger tells City Desk. “Now we are told to suck it up, your elections don’t count… Democrats are demoralizing their base—-undermining democracy.”
Eidinger, chair of the D.C. Cannabis Campaign, which was instrumental in getting the initiative on the ballot and leading it to victory with more than 70 percent of voter support, said on Election Day that he predicted the initiative would face some hiccups along the way to passage, but would ultimately make it through Congress.
D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton‘s office says she’s was still waiting to see the legislation and to find out if Congress was trying to block the initiative. If Congress is trying to block the law, Norton won’t be happy. When voters approved the initiative Nov. 6, she promised to give anyone who tried to mess with the law the “fight of their lives.” But it’s not clear what she can do about it if other Democrats don’t go along with her.
D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson has not yet responded to comment to see if he has submitted the marijuana legalization initiative to Congress.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery