A recently passed D.C. bill decriminalizing marijuana must now pass through a GOP-controlled committee before going into effect, allowing the public and politicians alike to light up without facing criminal charges.
The bill, signed by D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D), now goes before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee headed by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA.), and the Government Operations sub-panel, led by Rep. John Mica (R-FL.), according to The Hill.
Both panels will review the law when Congress returns from their two-week spring recess.
Under the new law, smoking marijuana in public would remain a jailable criminal offense, but carrying small amounts of the herb or smoking it in the privacy of a home would only be subject to a $25 fine with no criminal charges filed.
Because of the unique nature of Washington D.C., Congressional approval is needed for the bill to go into effect.
Under the rules governing the nation's capitol, Congress is given 60 days to review – and possibly block – the proposal before it takes effect. Rejection of the bill would require action by both the House and Senate.
Committee Chairman Issa has been noncommittal on the proposal, saying, “I'm going to wait until after the hearing.”
“The will of a city versus the will of the nation is always going to be a bit of a challenge, and we're seeing this unfold [with the marijuana law]," Issa said in an interview. “This is an area in transition where The District neither should lead nor be held unreasonably not to be able to follow. And so how it gets reviewed in light of the federal enforcement and so on I think remains to be seen.”
Mica has expressed concerns of passage of the bill, worrying that it could promote drug use, serve as a 'gateway drug', and create further problems for the city.
“You don't want the nation's capital to become the drug capital,” Mica said. “You find usually when you lower the penalties – whether its the Netherlands or some other jurisdiction – that you attract a lot of undesirable narcotics traffic.”
Referring to drugs like cocaine and heroin, Mica said, "“There are gateway concerns as well."
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD.), top Democrat on the Oversight panel, said that, although he has some reservations about allowing the bill to go forward, he wouldn't attempt to derail it.
“I wouldn't stand in the way of D.C. passing its law,” Cummings said.
[Business man furtively sneaks a hit on Shutterstock]