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Last Word: Will Congress Really Let Washington, D.C. Become “The Wild West of Marijuana?”

Leave it to The Washington Post to perfectly capture what the District of Columbia is going to be like when marijuana legalization kicks in next week.

Yes, there’s a good chance that Washington, D.C. WILL be “the Wild West of marijuana.”

Of course, it doesn’t need to be so, but it shows — yet again — how the federal government seems to enjoy meddling in matters that they need to keep their nose out of.

Here’s how The Post describes it:

In 10 days, a voter-approved initiative to legalize marijuana will take effect, D.C. officials say. Residents and visitors old enough to drink a beer will be able to possess enough pot to roll 100 joints. They will be able to carry it, share it, smoke it and grow it.

But it’s entirely unclear how anyone will obtain it. Unlike the four states where voters have approved recreational pot use, the District government has been barred from establishing rules governing how marijuana will be sold. It was prohibited from doing so by Congress, which has jurisdiction over the city.”

A new marketplace likely to explode into view

Yes, you read that right. Congress seems to love getting involved in what the DC city government is doing, which is head-scratching given how many federal issues they seem to be chronically unable to take any kind of reasonable action on.

How big a problem is this? Well again, according to The Washington Post:

Barring ­last-minute federal intervention, the District’s attorney general said that pot will become legal as early as Feb. 26 without any regulations in place to govern a new marketplace that is likely to explode into view.

Even some supporters of the initiative are worried. At best, they predict an uncertain ­free-for-all where marijuana enthusiasts immediately start growing and smoking at home — and testing the limits of a law that does not allow for public consumption or sale. At worst, they say, as entrepreneurs push ahead with the business of pot, unregulated businesses will start popping up with no means to judge the safety of their product.”

I’m not a big fan of government regulation because that usually adds a lot more cost, bureaucracy, and headaches. But when it comes to marijuana, government regulation is our friend because it means that government has bought into the legalization process and is, at least at some level, a partner in making safe and legal marijuana available to the masses.

In other words, government involvement in lawful regulations beats government involvement in imposing criminal penalties.

“Let the city govern itself”

The District of Columbia, should it continue on this path, is going to be Ground Zero in spotlighting the massive split in our national attitude about marijuana. What happens when the people decide they want it but the federal bureaucracy decides they know better and works against the will of the people?

Well, here’s what may happen in Washington, D.C., according to The Post:

Boxed in by Congress, (Mayor Muriel) Bowser and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) said they would rather err on the side of supporting city voters. With little ability to control what might come next, they declared the ballot measure “self-enacting.”

With Bowser’s blessing, Mendelson sent Initiative 71 to Capitol Hill to start a congressional review period imposed on all new city laws. Mendelson was essentially throwing down a gauntlet, challenging Congress either to take action to block Initiative 71 altogether or to let the city govern itself.”

So, what will Congress actually decide to do? Nobody really knows, but know this: It is going to take some concerted effort, either by Congress or the courts, to sort this all out because something has got to give.

Until then, well, Washington, D.C. probably will become “the Wild West of marijuana” — and all because the federal government can’t figure out which way the wind is blowing when it comes to cannabis legalization.

The people are speaking, and they have spoken in the District of Columbia just as they have in Washington and Colorado and in so many other places across America. Maybe one of these days, the federal government will wake up and really listen.

Rob MeagherRob Meagher

Rob Meagher

Rob Meagher, CBE’s Founder, President and Editor-in-Chief is a 30 year veteran of the media world. His career has spanned from stints representing the Washington Post, USA Weekend, Reader’s Digest, Financial World & Corporate Finance to the technology world where he worked at International Data Group and Ziff Davis where he was part of the launch team for The Web Magazine, Yahoo Internet Life, Smart Business and Expedia Travels before starting his own marketing and Publisher’s Representative Firm. He also ran all print and online media sales and marketing for the Society for Human Resource Management before partnering with Forbes and then Fortune to create Special Sections covering a variety of topics. Rob, who started CBE Press in 2014, can be contacted at [email protected]

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