The District of Columbia defied threats from Congress and moved forward Thursday with legalizing possession of marijuana after a voter-approved initiative.
The initiative legalizes possession of up to 2 ounces (57 grams) for use at home, and people are also permitted to grow up to three mature plants. Smoking marijuana in public remains illegal, as does buying or selling the drug.
Despite last-minute maneuvers by Republican leaders in Congress, and threats that city leaders could face prison time, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said the city was implementing marijuana legalization as approved by voters. The new law took effect at 12:01 a.m.
Bowser, a Democrat, said the city’s plans haven’t changed despite a letter from two leading House Republicans warning of repercussions if the city moves forward with legalization.
Congress has final say over the laws in the District of Columbia, and the two sides disagree about whether Congress acted quickly enough to block an initiative legalizing pot, which was approved by nearly two-thirds of city voters in November.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who chairs the House Oversight Committee, urged Bowser in a letter late Tuesday to reconsider her plans to implement the initiative, saying that doing so would clearly violate federal law.
“Bullying the District of Columbia is not what his constituents expect, nor do ours,” Bowser said. “We do disagree on a matter of law. There are reasonable ways to resolve that without us threatening him or he us.”
The District becomes the first place east of the Mississippi River where recreational pot is legal. Alaska also legalized pot this week, joining Colorado and Washington state.
The report compiled information from Associated Press.