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UNITED STATES – DECEMBER 17: Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., speaks during the news conference on legislation for displaying territorial flags on U.S. military installations on Monday, Dec. 17, 2012. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images)

legalization | 12.20.2019

Congress Blocks Recreational Marijuana Sales In Washington, D.C.

The nation’s capital has a long history of being controlled by federal officials who want different things for the city than local ones.

It Will Be Awhile Before Washington Has Its Own Pot Shops

The U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government has passed a bill that continues to block Washington, D.C. from spending money to further legalize cannabis. The measure effectively bars retail marijuana sales from the city. It also adds a new prohibition on using funds to support safe consumption sites for illegal drug users, reports Marijuana Moment.

The powerful subcommittee included the provisions in Fiscal Year 2019 funding legislation approved last week. They’re continuing a long tradition of the GOP-controlled Congress interfering with the ability of District of Columbia officials to set their own cannabis and drug policies.

A press release from the office of Democratic Congresswoman   of D.C. mentions cannabis funding as part of her efforts to foster home rule in the District. “Although Republicans are getting started early this year on attacking D.C.’s local laws, we got our home-rule coalition started even earlier in helping to stake out our defense,” Norton said. “We expect to have the same success we had last year, working with the Senate, to remove most of these undemocratic riders.”

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Photo by Brett Levin via Flickr

D.C. voters legalized possession of small amounts of weed and allowed limited home cultivation of marijuana plants in 2014. The D.C. Council supported expanding that measure with retail sales but has been unable to go forward due to being blocked by Congress.

The ban on expanding cannabis legalization applies to both federal funds and those raised locally by the District. But the safe drug consumption site ban only covers federal funds. That means D.C. could conceivably still set aside local tax money to pay for safe consumption facilities.

Advocates say those facilities save lives by making sure intravenous drug users can receive medical attention from on-site personnel if they overdose. A study of a safe injection site operating in Vancouver, B.C. found overdose deaths dropped sharply in the neighborhood, compared with the rest of the city.

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