Legalizing Marijuana
May 22, 2015
Is prohibition coming to an end?

Legalization advocates cheered as marijuana bills passed by voters in the District of Columbia and Alaska took effect in February. Alaska, D.C. and Oregon were the latest to legalize possession and use of the drug through 2014 ballot initiatives, joining Colorado and Washington, both of which legalized recreational marijuana in 2012. Lawmakers also have proposed measures to mitigate the looming threat of legal action against states that already have laws permitting the use of medicinal marijuana. However, despite growing public support for legalization and emerging research that suggests potential medical benefits, legal conflicts related to drug research, substance abuse and contradictory state and federal laws remain unresolved.

Kathy and Ryan Reed on April 16, 2014, discuss their plans to move to Colorado from Kansas to obtain medical marijuana extracts to treat their son, Otis, who suffers from a seizure disorder. Twelve states have legalized limited use of medical cannabis oils known to help treat severe seizure disorders. (Getty Images/Kansas City Star/Keith Myers)   Kathy and Ryan Reed on April 16, 2014, discuss their plans to move to Colorado from Kansas to obtain medical marijuana extracts to treat their son, Otis, who suffers from a seizure disorder. Twelve states have legalized limited use of medical cannabis oils known to help treat severe seizure disorders. (Getty Images/Kansas City Star/Keith Myers)

The District of Columbia on Feb. 26 legalized possession of up to 2 ounces of marijuana and six indoor plants within the city limits, defying U.S. House of Representatives members’ written requests to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser not to allow the measure to become law. Sales, outdoor cultivation and public consumption of marijuana remain punishable offenses in the District, and possession and consumption are still illegal on federal property, which makes up 29 percent of the city’s land area. 1

In December, Congress blocked D.C. from taxing sales of the drug, as Colorado and Washington state do, when House members added language to the federal budget prohibiting the use of federal money to legalize or regulate marijuana sales. Under the Constitution, Congress maintains control over the enactment of laws in the District and prohibits the use of federal funds without congressional approval. 2 Before the first day of legalization, members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform urged Bowser to reconsider carrying out the law and requested information on city employees who helped to enact the law. 3

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