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DC legalizes marijuana despite threats from Congress

[JURIST] The District of Columbia (DC) [official website] on Thursday disregarded pressures from Congress and went forward with legalizing possession of marijuana after a voter-approved initiative. Notwithstanding warnings of repercussions by leaders in Congress, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser [official website] affirmed that marijuana would be legalized as approved [text] by nearly two-thirds of voters [website] in November. Although Congress appeared to block the initiative in December, District leaders claim the legislation was enacted before, and is thus unaffected, even though it did not come into effect until Thursday. Although it is unlikely that the Department of Justice would enforce the penalties of jail time for District officials for complying with the newly enacted laws, as they are in opposition with federal legislation, Congress could sue the city over its actions.

The legal use and sale of marijuana [JURIST backgrounder] for both medical and recreational purposes has become a major political issue in the US with a number of states contemplating various legalization initiatives. In December Oklahoma and Nebraska filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] against neighboring Colorado over the new marijuana market. In November voters in Alaska, Oregon and Washington, DC, voted [JURIST report] to legalize recreational marijuana. In September the Pennsylvania State Senate approved [JURIST Report] legislation that would legalize several forms of medical marijuana. In July Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed [JURIST report] legislation that will allow adults and children suffering from seizures access to medical marijuana. In April the Maryland House of Representatives passed a bill [JURIST report] that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

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