PoP Ed. Marijuana Decriminalization and DC Home Rule by Justin

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Photo by PoPville flickr user jacquesofalltrades

Justin lives in the H Street, NE neighborhood. PoP-Ed. posts may be written about anything related to the District and submitted via email to princeofpetworth(at)gmail please include PoP-Ed. in the subject line.

“Recent events have made it perfectly clear that the United States Congress shouldn’t play any role in the day-to-day operations of the District of Columbia. For years, D.C. has been an unfortunate pawn in the partisan warfare that consumes the United States Congress, and it’s wrong.

Just last week, Congressman Andrew Harris, MD (R-MD) decided to turn D.C. into his own cheap prop during an appropriations meeting by filing and ultimately passing an amendment to kill the “The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Amendment Act of 2013”.

This decriminalization act was passed by the democratically elected D.C. Council with overwhelming support. It was signed into law by the District’s elected executive, Mayor Vincent Gray. I don’t know why Congressman Harris believes that his role as a representative of Maryland – where decriminalization is the law, by the way – entitles him to overrule the democratically-enacted statutes of our city.

Small amounts of recreational marijuana in the hands of non-violent offenders shouldn’t ruin lives. As D.C. struggles to increase high school graduation rates and decrease violent crime, we should focus on removing barriers to education and employment by encouraging treatment and rehabilitation in lieu of imprisonment. Decriminalization makes good fiscal sense as well: we should not be paying to house non-violent marijuana users in a Department of Corrections facility.

But unfortunately the merits of the policy have been overwhelmed by the crusading ego of Congressman Harris. This is simply unacceptable.

While we may not have direct representation in Congress, we need to band together and rally for a united and fully independent Washington, D.C.”

51 Comment

  • great editorial, couldn’t agree more

  • Dear Mr. Rosen,

    Your editorial misses the point of Congressman Harris’ amendment, which is that possession of marijuana is a FEDERAL crime. As a nation of laws, it is very important that our country and our Congress prevents our capital city from extending a welcome mat to drug users and all other sorts of undesirables. As our lovely former first lady Nancy Reagan once said, we need to just say no to drugs. As a senior citizen of the District of Columbia, I believe that allowing criminal drug users to freely roam our streets is a pox on the city. What will the children think when they see these criminals smoking their dope-cigarettes in our parks. Unacceptable. For shame.

    God Bless,

    Beatrice Morton

    • +1

    • Accountering

      Won’t someone think of the children!?!?!

    • saf

      “What will the children think when they see these criminals smoking their dope-cigarettes in our parks.”

      Do you think that isn’t happening now? You must not get out much.

    • The children will think the adults have finally come to their senses and look back with pride thinking my Mom and Dad helped to correct that!

      Look up our history, it is repeating itself like always. This is almost exactly what happened with prohibition – 18th and 21st Amendments – 1919 to 1933. I believe the first state to pass a law against prohibition was NY and just 14 years later it was repealed only this time it has taken what 60 years.

      While I agree with Mr. Rosen 100% changing the constitution will not be easy – much less with the old folks who think the parks will be filled with pot heads. Their emotions lead them to vote and not think correctly. Just like there are laws against public drinking so too will there be laws against public smoking – not that everyone abides by that, but nonetheless, it sounds like the same story to me.

      Rather than recognize this as a gross infringement of our rights as citizens of DC and the country, they just get so upset because of the past this city has had with drugs and crime, not recognizing this would indeed be part of the solution for that. If you think opposition to this is not part due to race wake up. Remember they denied us the right to use our tax money on abortions for poor women in our city after we voted yes.

      Just like people voted for President Bush – because he was the kind of guy you could have beer with – the same will happen here. Lets not forget the biggest voting block are the elderly.

      I have no doubt the day will come when it is legal throughout our country – very soon I am sure.

    • True, it is a federal crime to possess marijuana. It also happens to be legal in the states of Colorado and Washington. Funny how the Feds weren’t so gung ho to interfere in the rights of those states to decide their own laws. Because no other state or municipality would tolerate it, and the general public would never support them if they tried it. Mr. Rosen’s point is that the Feds trample on DC’s right to self-rule all the time, and they shoudn’t be allowed to get away with it. And his point is sound, whether you agree with marijuana legalization or not.

    • I frequently see people smoking crack pipes in our parks, and I’m pretty sure that is already very illegal. I think it’s a little late to stop drug users and other undesirables from populating our fair city, and decriminalizing marijuana (not legalizing it) with likely have no difference.

    • I guess you’d rather put those children in jail when they get older and try pot? You’d be happier with them behind bars then? There is no federal enforcement mechanism for drug laws. Just look at how easily the west coast is able to decriminalize…

    • TempleCt

      Well what about all the flavored alcohol drinks that kids are attracked to??

  • Recently received an invitation to rent a couple houses and hang out with several other couples in Ocean City later this summer. Ummmm, yeah. Me and my SO, and two other couples, can’t make it. We’re going to be a little busy here in DC, supporting DC businesses, restaurants and bars, and maybe smoking a little weed. So that’s one less house being rented in OC and at least $5,000 that WON’T be spent in the Wicomico county economy (hi, Andy!). I’d suggest other DC residents planning to visit the Maryland part of the Eastern Shore look instead at Rehoboth, Chincoteague, Fenwick Island, or Bethany Beach. Y’know, places where the elected representatives don’t trample on the rights of District residents.

  • Please elaborate on these “consequences” of decriminalization that you speak of because I’m in need of a good laugh.

    But you’re correct on one point (although not on purpose) when you say that we have enough handicaps and problems in DC, decriminalization is the first step in removing some of these handicaps.

    • Rep. Andy Harris, a physician, introduced the amendment to the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Bill, saying today marijuana is “dangerous to the developing brain.”

      “It’s not a jurisdiction issue,” Harris said of blocking a law passed by the D.C. Council. “Whether or not we should, we can debate.” Harris also said his constituents on the Eastern Shore are concerned about Maryland’s decriminalization law, adding that D.C.’s law has much lower fines “with no referral for help,” even for younger people.

      http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fpsyt.2013.00053/full

      • “dangerous to the developing brain.”

        As is alcohol, which is why it’s illegal for those under 21 to drink, and why it will remain illegal for those under 21 to smoke. This is such a non issue that it’s disgusting.

    • I am surprised, Popville, that you would publish this “Pop Ed”.

      If marijuana decriminalization was a good idea for public health and safety, France would have done it. But it’s not. It’s a potential cash cow for investors looking for a new niche and not caring about public health and safety; It’s a demagogic move by ignorant and ruthless state and local political figures and wannabees. It is most certainly not a good move for the good health and safety of a city or a state. We have enough handicaps and problems in the District of Columbia, no thank you to marijuana decriminalization and its consequences.

      Here is your “good laugh”, concerned popviller :
      http://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/legislative-activities/testimony-to-congress/2014/mixed-signals-administrations-policy-marijuana-part-four-scientific-focus-adverse-health

      And if you have internet access via a university library :
      http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMra1402309

      It’s really sad that scientific and medical data gets scoffed at in this discussion, in favor of ignorance.

      • Prince Of Petworth

        Well, had I known you’d be surprised – I never would have published this! Apologies.

      • Is that seriously all you have? This is your argument as to why people should continue to be jailed and have their lives ruined for consuming a plant?
        Because it has markedly lower negative effects than both alcohol and tobacco.
        I’m sorry that you’re choosing to be so willfully ignorant. Maybe if you got high you’d chill out a little bit.
        And for the record i’m not laughing, i’m scoffing.

        • Ah yes, because France should be the pole star guiding us as to what’s good for public health and safety. Let’s pass the Raw Milk Decriminalization Act of 2014 next.

      • What is significant about France not decriminalizing marijuana use? The Netherlands have decrimininalized it. So have a number of other countries. What’s special about France?

        Also, you are confusing terms. Decriminalizing marijuana is not a potential cash cow. Decriminalizing just means that police won’t arrest people or issue citations for possession of limited quantities of marijuana. Legalization – allowing for the growth and sale of marijuana – is the potential cash cow. Hence the reason why more and more states will end up legalizing marijuana. I don’t agree that there is a lack of concern about public health and safety. Removing a drug from the realm of criminal enterprises comes with certain benefits to health and safety.

      • While were at it let’s ban fast food, junk food, deserts, riding in cars, going outside our homes, and all other things “dangerous.”

        Or how about let people make their own choices in what’s in their best interest.

        Society is so much fun when it’s 100% safe.

      • You see something new every day – I admit, I’ve never before run across the logic, “France hasn’t done it, so it must not be a good idea.” (And I’m using the tem logic in the very loosest possible sense.)
        .
        Also – demagogic? In the words of the philosopher Inigo Montoya, I do not think it means what you think it means.

  • Frank Wolf voted for the amendment too, (along with 27 others), so don’t forget him when you all bring your pitchforks.

    Also, I’m confused how is OK to ‘treat and rehab’ recreational users, but not imprison them. Why should we treat and rehab users of small amounts anyway? Aren’t they harmless?

    And the rest of this part:

    “As D.C. struggles to increase high school graduation rates and decrease violent crime, we should focus on removing barriers to education and employment by encouraging treatment and rehabilitation in lieu of imprisonment.”

    How much violent crime do the imprisoned commit? How much violent crime do marijuana users commit? Hint: One is greater than the other. And legalizing marijuana removes barriers to an education?

    • the question isnt “how much crime do the imprisoned commit compared to how much violent crime marijuana users commit.” it is, “does a person who smoked weed, and commits no violent crime, deserve to be thrown in jail?”

      Hint: the answer is no. second hint: you don’t understand.

      • That wasn’t the intention of my comparison, but you combined variables – the person who smokes weed and commits no violent crime. I don’t disagree, that person should not be in jail.

        But independant of one other, do marijuana users commit more violent crime than non-users?

        Can I have a third hint?

        • yeah, wall street and CEOs, oh my bad those aren’t “violent crimes” just morally ethically horribly evil crimes

        • Answer to “do marijuana users commit more violent crime than non-users?” is “No!” My favorite comment on this issue comes from Quora from a police LT. (http://qr.ae/Y37qO).

          “I’ve never had to fight a bar room full of stoners, or go to guns because one of them pulled a knife on me. I’ve never had to call out a field force deployment because a block full of stoners went on a rampage, or authorize a SWAT callout because one became a despondent hostage taker, or decided his shotgun looked better from the business end but wanted to serve us a buckshot sandwich before saying goodbye. Nope, none of these things. Neither did any of the hundreds of officers that reported to me. I would’ve known, since I was the watch commander. Pot just doesn’t rate on the social harms meter. I have however, experienced many flavors of the above related to the ‘hard drugs’, lest you think I’m saying that only alcohol has the keys to Hell itself.”

  • clevelanddave

    “This editorial has been brought to you by NORML.” Why does “Justin” get an op-ed when the rest of us get “rant and raves?”
    a) The District of Columbia was set up as a district, set apart from the states, as the capital of the United States. You knew about it when you or your forbearers moved here, as did I. Get over it.
    b) While we may not have full elected representatives in Congress, however we, due to our proximity do have an outsized influence on Congress, the executive and the federal judiciary.
    c) Why should this part of a city (10 miles square only) get two senators and a congressperson? Look on a map- how tiny is it compared to even the smallest states, much less the largest? Why shouldn’t LA or Chicago or New York City also get a couple more senators each?
    d) We accept hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies and assistance that other states are not entitled to and do not get. If you take the money, you accept the influence.
    e) For decades DC government has proven to one degree or another to be quite inept, in a way few states have ever been. Further, it is and always has been overwhelmingly uncompetitive for one major political party. Until it becomes less partisan and more capable, I wouldn’t expect the position of Congress accede to this change in status.
    f) The city marijuana law is a case in point. No matter how you feel on the issue, no matter about the conflict between district/state and federal law (in the nation’s capital!) it was simply badly written. See (d) above.

    • Prince Of Petworth

      Sometimes the italics makes it difficult to read:

      “PoP-Ed. posts may be written about anything related to the District and submitted via email to princeofpetworth(at)gmail please include PoP-Ed. in the subject line.”

      There have been no contrary opinions submitted. But you’ve done a good job here.

    • north dakota has a population of 699,628. DC has a population of around 635,000. no one is claiming we should take away north dakota’s senators or congressman, right?

      • +1

        It’s not about whether or not we have enough space or people to be represented, it’s the idea that a population COULD be unrepresented.

      • And Wyoming even less, the land of Dick Cheney.

    • Clearly you don’t represent NORML. I would be careful of that.

      a. PoP-Ed. posts may be written about anything related to the District and submitted via email to princeofpetworth(at)gmail please include PoP-Ed. in the subject line.

      b. clearly we don’t or this posting would not be here.

      c. 67 sq. miles – and clearly LA, Chicago, and NY have representation that can vote, we do not. Not to mention, all three states have many representative that can VOTE, we do not.

      d. So do most all states…

      e. clearly the majority of the city is Democrat – but being majority Republican should make no difference when the people vote.

      f. “simply badly written” – in 1788 or 89 right – about 60,000 people lived in the colonies then. Now we have 660,000 in DC. Big difference.

      Good try through… by the way, the Nation’s capitol is really only about 27% percent of the city and most of that is parkland. The rest is private businesses and private property held by US citizen.

    • “[W]e, due to our proximity do have an outsized influence on Congress, the executive and the federal judiciary.” If only that were the case!

    • All you needed to say is that the Constitution provides for the District of Columbia to be administered by Congress. All that other stuff about population and square mileage is irrelevant – and as pointed out by others, flatly contradicted by the representation accorded to some other states.
      Yeah, DC may get some subsidies, but DC can’t tax commuters and collects no property taxes on some of the most valuable real estate in the country because it’s federal land.
      The argument about the ineptitude of DC government is old and wrong. Yes we have had our bad actors. But most other states and cities have had them as well.
      And the argument that DC has an outsize influence on the various branches of government is just laughable. If that were true, we would have had statehood a long time ago. The fact is that some folks in Congress see DC as their lab, where they can institute all kinds of policies that would never fly in their home states or districts.

    • “Why should this part of a city (10 miles square only) get two senators and a congressperson?”
      .
      You seem to be under the misimpression that representation is allocated by land mass. It isn’t – otherwise, Alaska would have more Representatives than any other state. Rather, it is determined by population. Trees don’t vote, people do. Do schools in Cleveland really not teach this? That’s sad.

    • “d) We accept hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies and assistance that other states are not entitled to and do not get. If you take the money, you accept the influence.”
      .
      If you want to govern by that metric then NY, NJ, and California should be allowed to tell what policies most states in the South and Midwest, since NY, New Jersey, and California are net tax contributors (i.e. they send more tax dollars to DC then they get back in Federal appropriations; the opposite is true for the Southern states).
      .
      Then again, you have a financial bone in the Drug War, so I guess as long as you’re getting paid you’re happy to watch the world burn?

    • According to the Founding Fathers, all of your reasons are irrelevant. Why? “No taxation without representation,” end of story. Now, if they want to stop taxing us, then the current state of affairs might be more equitable. But as it is, we get all of the responsibilities of citizenship and few of the rights, and that is crap. The fact that we live in a distric rather than a state is no excuse to treat us like second class citizens.

  • I would imagine that we could get tens of thousands of DC residents to march to the Capitol and start to show our anger over this. Why aren’t we?

    • Because 95% of the residents of this city have no idea anyone says things like this in the chambers of Congress. If it were not for this op-ed, even I wouldn’t have known about it. And because, for the most part, Congress has allowed the city home rule and has not interfered. They didn’t even poke their noses in when DC passed marriage equality. You also have a large percentage of the population of the city that is underprivileged and under-served all the time, in DC or outside of DC, so why should they march? You can’t oppress a class of people for decades and be surprised when they feel helpless to act.

      Anonymous at 10:10am said it best – I don’t think our Founding Fathers would have believed that a population 10 times bigger than existed in the entire American colonies would be taxed without representation. They fought an entire war for independence over less.

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