Congress is set to kill marijuana legalization in the District of Columbia — and the people who fought for the policy change are furious.
"We have a non-voting delegate in Congress; that's all we have for 660,000 U.S. citizens," Councilmember David Grosso told Fusion on Wednesday. "We pay taxes to the federal government, we fight in wars, we serve our time for the country. So D.C. should be pissed, and I certainly am."
Residents of the nation's capital voted to legalize marijuana this November, but language in a new federal spending deal would block the law from taking effect. Since D.C. isn't a state, Congress has special authority over the city's budget and laws.
That sort of babysitting has long irritated D.C. residents, but supporters of legalization are particularly bitter this time around. Staffers in the office of Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) — the leading voice against the city's new pot law — reportedly weathered some of the outrage.
While Republicans have led the charge against legal pot in D.C., Democrats in Congress haven't shown much will to fight them on it. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday that he opposes rolling back legalization, but that once such language is placed in the spending bill, "it's going to be hard to take it out."
On Wednesday, a crowd led by marijuana-activist Adam Eidinger — who assembled the coalition to pass the marijuana law — staked out Reid's office on Capitol Hill. They're planning a march in the evening.
D.C. doesn't have voting representation in Congress. But the city's delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton, expressed hope in a statement Wednesday that the District government could find a way around congressional restrictions on legal pot.
"Based on a plain reading of the bill and principles of statutory interpretation, the District may be able to carry out its marijuana legalization initiative," she said. Norton said the law was "self-executing" and would not require any further regulatory action — or congressional approval — to proceed.
Even some folks who don't support marijuana legalization were bothered by the congressional interference.
Delroy Burton, the chairman of the D.C. Police Union, opposes the legalization measure and believes it will make police work more difficult for officers. He grew up in the District, however, and thinks members of Congress who meddle with D.C.'s affairs are just "playing politics" for their own gain.
"It would be irritating if I were to go to their home state and try to impose the thoughts of the voters of the District on them," he said. "They probably wouldn't like it very much."
Ted Hesson was formerly the immigration editor at Fusion, covering the issue from Washington, D.C. He also writes about drug laws and (occasionally) baseball. On the side: guitars, urban biking, and fiction.