On November 4, 2014, 70% of the voters of the District of Columbia agreed to legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana and its use. Congressional leaders have now agreed to void that legislation (at least for the coming fiscal year) as a provision in the 1600 page bill funding the government for the remainder of FY 2015 (other than Homeland Security). A throw-away piece of legislative language having nothing to do with the funding of the government, which is after all the purpose of the bill.
On one level, I guess I don’t care. I don’t use marijuana, and am sure I never will. I don’t care if others have the right to smoke pot or not. But there are two things I do care about. First, I value the vote of the people, and believe it should not be disregarded except for constitutional reasons. Second, analyses of arrests in DC show how many are for non-violent crimes involving the use of marijuana, and that these arrests affect our population unnecessarily negatively, and leads to extraordinary costs for the taxpayer.
I also object to Congressional override of DC legislation (perhaps in situations other than where the functioning of the federal government would be adversely affected). Just like I object to the inability of the 500,000+ voting residents of DC having no vote for members of Congress, either the House or the Senate.
I understand this latter problem as a constitutional problem, a fault of our basic constitution, written at a time when there were no residents in DC (there was no DC then), and I believe it to be a constitutional problem that needs to be resolved.
The fact that any member of Congress believes that we DC residents don’t deserve a voice in our legislature is astounding, and against all of our stated principles of democratic and republican government. We would never suggest that any other country disenfranchise a portion of their adult population. This is, after all, one of the reasons the colonies determined to leave the British empire.
Giving the Congress the right to override local DC legislation adds salt to the wound. Particularly where, as in this case, the decision to override was pressed by one particular Congressman, and presumably would otherwise have not have been suggested.
I can’t say that the marijuana decision was a partisan decision – I don’t know, and we never will. But the decision to keep DC from having legislative representation is clearly a partisan decision – Republicans do not want more Democratic representation from the highly Democratic district. I believe making this decision on this basis is shameful.
I am of course not the first to say all of this. But no one seems to care. This is partisanship at its worst. Period.