Washington, D.C.'s Legalized Weed Battle Comes Down to Word 'Enact'

Politicians spar over the definition and intention of an "enact" that was put in a Congressional provision meant to stop legalized weed in D.C.

A sign promoting the DC Cannabis Campaign's initiative to legalize marijuana is displayed on a corner in the Adams Morgan neighborhood on November 4, 2014 in NW Washington D.C. Credit: Allison Shelley/Getty Images

The fate of legalized marijuana in Washington, D.C. will come down to a single word: "Enact." Last Election Day, voters opted to fully decriminalize weed in the nation's capital, joining Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon. House Republicans then attempted to block the pot bill's passage by adding a provision into the $1.1 trillion spending deal that prevents the District of Columbia from spending money to "enact" the pot bill, the New York Times reports. However, Democrats are arguing that, because the bill had already passed at the time of the November election, there is nothing to "enact."

"Their language was either careless or hasty," Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, Washington, D.C.'s nonvoting delegate to the House of Republicans, told New York Times. "If you are working on an amendment to an appropriation bill, you better be really careful. They say we shan't enact. Well, we don't have to enact anything."

Democrats and drug policy reform activists argue that the city's pro-pot bill was already in action at the time of the Republicans' provision and therefore sidesteps the "enact" measure. Republicans – who believe the nation's capital shouldn't be "a haven for smoking pot," as one Republican representative said – counter that the intention of the provision was obvious and that it should apply retroactively to the marijuana bill. The situation could result in a showdown in Congress, which must decide by March whether to push for a "formal disapproval" of the city's marijuana law before it kicks into effect.

As opposed to states like Colorado and Washington where the legalization of marijuana has resulted in an influx of dispensaries, weed-dealing shops still won't be permitted in the District of Columbia even if their pot bill is victorious in the "enact" battle; Home cultivation will instead be allowed. If Republicans are successful in repealing the pot bill, the city had already passed measures to decriminalize possession of less than two ounces of marijuana.