Written by Kevin Akpan, SSDP Stories Intern, and Greg Gaffney-Bills, Policy and Legislative Affairs Director at George Washington University
A recent article in the Express Newspaper questioned what initiative 71 would accomplish if it were passed, as even if a yes vote were allowed to stand, it would be legal to possess and cultivate small amounts of marijuana however one would not be able to legally purchase or sell it. The article stated that allowing sales, taxes, regulation and eventually dispensaries would still be a long ways away, especially with congress’s right to nix D.C. laws if and when they see fit.
Though these are valid arguments, neither should stand in the way of legalization and home cultivation, and the fact that the nation’s capital is leaning towards legalizing marijuana is a statement in itself. Despite the fact that congress has the ability to overrule laws in the district, they would need the majority opposed to legalization to do so. Even if republicans were to gain control of the senate in next months elections, there are many republicans who would likely vote yes, as marijuana legalization has gained support from both parties in recent years. Just this past July, republican Dana Rohrabacher from California came out as the first republican congressman to openly support the legalization of recreational marijuana. Rohrabacher also co-sponsored the Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act of 2013 which allowed state-legal marijuana businesses to receive services from financial institutions. Prior to this act, which was passed this July, marijuana based businesses were required to operate on a cash only basis, which doesn’t bode well for any business, especially a marijuana based business, as the risk of robbery or burglary are higher.
Regardless of how fast legal marijuana storefronts were to come into play, legalization, especially in the nation’s capital, sets a precedent for the entire country and it would then force congress to act and work towards regulation, taxation etc… like they do alcohol. The revenues from which can be used to assist the struggling D.C. school system and community improvement programs like the state of Colorado did when they legalized. Though it took nearly a year to get establish laws regarding sales, regulation, taxation and dispensaries, they are now reaping the benefits both legally and financially. For these reasons, it is my opinion that the District of Columbia, Congress and the D.C. City Council would be making a mistake if it say no to legalization, regardless of the possibly lengthy process required to tax and regulate.
Students For Sensible Drug Policy