The current state of affairs in DC shows how short-sighted lawmakers can be. Here’s a recap: DC voters approved an initiative last November that legalized limited possession and growing of marijuana. The initiative did not have any provisions authorizing businesses to grow and sell marijuana, so those actions still defaulted to the old legal regime. DC’s city government understood that this was an issue. As one individual puts it in this article, “It’s the dealer-protection act of 2015.” So, the mayor and city council got to work on some legislation of their own to create a regulated commercial market place.
Congress, as happens far too often, decided to muck things up without considering the consequences. As a sidebar, the Constitution’s treatment of DC governance is one of the most asinine parts of that document. Of course people were going to live there. By disallowing congressional representation and authorizing Congress to veto any actions by DC at the city level, our framers subjected its citizens to a type of tyranny with which no other U.S. city must deal.
Congress prohibited DC from using any money to create and implement a system where marijuana could be taxed and sold. There was a lot of back and forth about whether Congress could block legalization outright, but by choosing to work via spending powers, Congress was not able to go that far.
Maryland Republican Representative Andy Harris spearheaded the campaign to stop DC from implementing its legalization regime and business reforms. Who knows why he decided to care about this. What is truly incredible is that, according to the Post, “[He] blamed city leaders, insisting that they should have forbidden possession when he and other lawmakers prevented Washington from creating a controlled marketplace. . . . There’s no question that demand will go up, and there’s no legal source of supply. . . . Clearly this was not thought out rationally by the city government, which chose to go forward with legalization without regulation.”
What a load of crap.
Harris is blaming city leaders for moving forward with unregulated legal regulation, when he is the one who made it unregulated. It’s like he just expected the city to fold. In reality, the voters demanded that DC move forward with regulation, and the mayor and council tried to do it in a smarter way. Representative Harris, on the other hand, prefers that marijuana be bought and sold illegally.
And let’s remember that illegal markets are bad. Not everyone is buying marijuana from a friendly college kid in his dorm room. Black markets can and do generate income for organized crime in the U.S. and abroad. They lead to violence and more crime. A black market dealer doesn’t have the protection of law enforcement if he gets robbed, so he has to learn to protect himself against potential threats. In a regulated business marketplace, he could use insurance money to replace lost inventory and could work with police to investigate the crime. In the black market, the dealer has to take matters into his own hands. This is why states have been legalizing.
So, Andy Harris and his Congressional allies, we really do blame you for gumming up the works in DC. It’s not the mayor’s responsibility to back down when you succeed in ruining a system that can improve things there. What most people are really starting to comprehend is that we are not having a debate about having marijuana in our communities or not. Marijuana is already there and it will be there forever. We are debating whether we want marijuana to be sold in a legal regulated businesses or in a pure black market. The DC voters are for the former, and Andy Harris’s team is for the black market. Let’s hope they change their minds.