The District of Columbia defied threats from Congress and moved forward Thursday with legalizing possession of marijuana after a voter-approved initiative.
Despite last-minute maneuvers by Republican leaders in Congress and threats that city leaders could face prison time, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said the city was implementing marijuana legalization as approved by voters. The new law took effect at 12:01 a.m.
Bowser, a Democrat, said the city’s plans haven’t changed despite a letter from two leading House Republicans warning of repercussions if the city moves forward with legalization.
“This is a major milestone on the road to ending marijuana prohibition in the United States,” said Robert Capecchi of the Marijuana Policy Project, a group that advocates for legalization. “If the president can brew and drink beer in the White House, adults should be allowed to grow and consume a less harmful substance in their houses.”
Congress has final say over the laws in the District of Columbia, and the two sides disagree about whether Congress acted quickly enough to block an initiative legalizing pot, which was approved by nearly two-thirds of city voters in November.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican who chairs the House Oversight Committee, urged Bowser in a letter late Tuesday to reconsider her plans to implement the initiative, saying that doing so would clearly violate federal law.