Newspaper article Roll Call

Hazy Outlook for D.C.'S Effort to Decriminalize Marijuana, Following House Hearing

Newspaper article Roll Call

Hazy Outlook for D.C.'S Effort to Decriminalize Marijuana, Following House Hearing

Article excerpt

Other props included a map of marijuana arrests showing that the vast majority occur in low-income areas on the far eastern side of the city, and a colored map of D.C. with federal property -- comprising 22 percent of its turf -- colored in green. The visuals helped reveal the motivation behind what proponents have called a social justice measure, as well as the unique character of the city, which skeptics claim might be pose one of the biggest problems to carrying out decriminalization.

"The District of Columbia is not a state. It's not a territory. It's not a possession," Mica said. "In fact, it is a federal district that's provided for under the Constitution in a specific statute."

After holding multiple hearings on the administration's approach to enforcing the federal prohibition on pot in the states that have legalized the drug, Mica emphasized he was not "singling out" D.C., but wanted to look at the potential conflicts that decriminalization could create. On Friday, the chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Operations heard testimony from law enforcement officials representing the Metropolitan Police Department, the Department of Justice and the Park Police on those issues.

The consensus was that D.C. had the same authority as states and localities to decide its own policy on pot; the approach to enforcing the law on federal turf, like the National Mall and downtown McPherson Square, would depend on officer discretion and situational circumstance, and that arrest rates would likely fall if the law was implemented.

At the hearing's conclusion, Mica said he was still unsure if Congress would intervene to stop the bill during the 60-day review period that lasts through mid-July.

"We will continue this series ..." he said, later telling reporters that he wants to know, "Has the narcotic changed in its potency? …

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