While the elected officials of our nation’s capital have already decided that decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana is the best thing for their city, the move still has to be approved by the U.S. House as per federal law. More accurately, the bill has to be disapproved in 60 days or less, giving congress the option of ignoring the move and letting it become law by default.
But that doesn’t look like it will be the case, as a Republican-controlled House subcommittee plans to discuss the matter.
According to a House Oversight Committee spokeswoman, the decision to debate D.C.’s law changes stems from the growing debate on the often-contentious relationship between federal pot laws and state pot laws. She also pointed out to the Huffington Post that D.C. isn’t like the 50 states in the union in that it relies on federal court system for prosecuting crimes and noted that the city has very close and unique relationships with federal law enforcement.
D.C.’s representative in the U.S. House, Eleanor Holmes, questioned why the group singled out D.C. and called the hearing inappropriate.
“It is inappropriate to hold a hearing on the local marijuana laws of only one jurisdiction, the District of Columbia, when 18 states have decriminalized marijuana, 21 states have legalized medical marijuana and two states have legalized marijuana,” Norton said in a released statement. “There is nothing that distinguishes the District from these states except for Congress’s illegitimate power to overturn the democratically enacted local laws of the District. What is clear is that the enforcement of marijuana laws here and throughout the country has a disproportionately unfair effect on African American men and boys, leaving them with criminal records that often cripple them for the rest of their lives.”
The move by D.C. isn’t just a symbolic one. About 3,000 people were arrested in 2012, with about two-thirds being charged with crimes. About five percent served jail time, the rest were forced into diversion and treatment programs.
Lawmakers will hold the committee meeting next month.