The District of Columbia will move forward with its plan to legalize marijuana, despite disapproval from Congress.
The law will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, according to Mayor Muriel Bowser. "D.C. residents spoke loud and clear," she said at an event on Tuesday with the City Council.
Voters in D.C. approved a marijuana legalization initiative in November, but because the District isn't a state, it's subject to special oversight by Congress (which decided to rain on the parade, of course).
Congress passed a spending bill in December that forbids D.C. officials from using federal funds to implement marijuana legalization. That's blocked the city from creating a regulatory framework for legal pot sales, but, according to Mayor Bowser, it doesn't stop the District from enacting legalization.
Once the law takes effect, District residents age 21 or older will be allowed to possess up to two ounces of marijuana and grow up to six plants, but not consume the drug in public. City officials describe the program as "home use and home grow," according to Martin Austermuhle, a reporter for WAMU 88.5 FM.
D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said preparing for the new law is "not as complicated as it seems." She's training police so that they know how to spot two ounces of marijuana (they won't have scales, she said).
Under the law, residents will be able to transfer up to an ounce of marijuana to another person, but not for payment (isn't this how the hippies once imagined it?)
The mayor said she would ask the City Council to approve an emergency measure that would prevent D.C. residents from forming private marijuana clubs, where residents would pay a membership fee to consume communally. A fact sheet released by the city said the District is not going to turn into another Amsterdam.
The move to legalize in Washington is complicated by the presence of the federal government. Marijuana will not be legal on federal land and residents in public housing could be subject to enforcement from federal agencies.
Congress could still spoil the plan — the new law is subject to a 30-day congressional review and it's currently on day 29, but stopping the measure from moving ahead would require an unlikely coalition of Republicans and Democrats and extremely quick action.
Things are so much easier when you can see Russia from your house.
Alaska became the third state to legalize marijuana on Tuesday, allowing residents to possess up to an ounce of weed and grow up to six plants.
The state joins Colorado and Washington in allowing legal cannabis and Oregon is expected to follow suit in July.
Residents won't be able to light up in public under the new law and sales won't begin until the state can set up a regulatory system, which could more than a year, according to The Associated Press.
Alaska is the first Republican-controlled state to approve legal pot sales, but the state has a long history of tolerating the drug.
One Alaskan seemed particularly happy about the news. Former television reporter Charlo Greene quit her job in spectacular, four-letter fashion last year to open an Anchorage marijuana dispensary, the Alaska Cannabis Club.
The message that marijuana is safer than alcohol has been out there for a while, backed up by the fact that no one has ever fatally overdosed after consuming pot.
A new study shows that marijuana may be waaaayyy safer than booze, at least when it comes to the chances of dying. The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, found that weed is 114 times less deadly than alcohol. The Washington Post writes about it here, along with a nice chart.
One of the more interesting parts of the study: alcohol ranked as the deadliest drug, when comparing a toxic dose and the levels of human intake. The drug finished ahead of heroin, cocaine, and tobacco.
Update, 12:40 p.m.: This piece was updated with additional information about the mayor's push to ban cannabis clubs before legalization goes into effect.
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.