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It’s High Time D.C. Became a State, Say Residents

D.C. residents are campaigning hard for statehood in the aftermath of Congress’ push to undermine local marijuana laws. Residents are furious that the more conservative U.S. Congress recently passed the Harris Rider provision, which undermines the district’s effort to legalize recreational marijuana.

In 2014, D.C. residents voted in favor of legalizing marijuana, but  their effort to establish and oversee a recreational, adult-use cannabis market is undermined by U.S. legislators, who have authority over many aspects of D.C. government, despite not being DC residents. The municipality is most often thought of as the home of Congress and the White House, but it also contains almost 700,000 residents who have little control over their own government. Residents argue that D.C. has a higher population than many states, including Vermont and Wyoming. It’s high-minority population, with African Americans comprising more than 45 percent of residents, recalls the nation’s dismal history of denying Black people political representation.

The district has been campaigning hard for statehood, but congressional Republicans don’t want more Black U.S. citizens with voting power because that could swing Congress further from GOP control. However, this latest issue concerning marijuana sales and distribution is adding to the fire. As of now, D.C. residents may legally possess, grow, and consume their own marijuana, but sellers and dispensaries have been left to operate under a grey area, making use of a loophole in which customers must be “gifted” the drug after buying another product or service.

On Thursday, March 10, Congress doubled down on its opposition to recreational marijuana usage in the district by passing the Harris Rider, a provision attached to a $1.5 trillion government funding bill that bars the legalized sale of marijuana in D.C. Federal lawmakers were forced to choose between the funding for their “big priorities” which includes $14 billion in aid for Ukraine and granting D.C. natives the right to legally sell marijuana.

Washington D.C. has no representation in the U.S. Senate, and its sole U.S. representative, Elanor Holmes has little power compared to representatives in states like Mississippi. Holmes is a non-voting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives and can’t vote on final passage of legislation. She says D.C. residents deserve just as much power as Mississippi and other states. She adds that this lack of representation is costing the municipality dearly in terms of apportionment.

 “D.C.’s lack of Senate representation cost D.C. an estimated $90 to $200 million in the fiscal year 2022 omnibus appropriations bill. This unequal treatment is particularly egregious because D.C. residents pay the same federal taxes as residents of states, and because D.C. pays more federal taxes per capita than any state and more federal taxes than 21 states,” Holmes said.

Residents claim Congress’ passage of The Home Rule Act of 1973 is a particularly egregious infraction, having  granted Congress the right to block any laws passed by D.C. lawmakers.  The federal body has used it to weaken the district’s gun control laws, ban the use of local funds to subsidize abortions for low-income mothers, prevent students from learning about systemic racism, and challenged the district’s fight for statehood. House Republicans have even threatened dissolve D.C.’s elected government if they gain control of the chamber this fall.


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