Only in Washington, D.C., could 69 percent of residents vote in favor of the use of medical marijuana but not have the program implemented. How could this overlooking of the public will occur? It’s simple. Congress controls the District’s purse strings, so all D.C. programs must receive approval from Congress to get funding.
Initiative 59, a 1998 referendum on using marijuana for medical purposes, has undergone a series of challenges from Congress. First, Republican leaders blocked the tallying of the votes for initiative. Then, after a federal judge ruled Friday that Congress could not ban the counting and release of the ballot, Representative Bob Barr, a Republican from Georgia, vowed that the D.C. medical marijuana initiative would never receive funding.
It is absurd that a politician from Georgia can tell a city of several hundred thousand residents that he knows what is best for them. Besides, he is acting in direct opposition to the majority of public opinion. Barr authored the ban on medical marijuana in D.C., which is part of a bill that President Clinton has promised to veto.
The Republican-led Congress is blocking the democratic process in the District, which is a bastion of Democratic-party support. Congress stripped much of former mayor Marion Barry’s powers because of mismanagement. But current mayor Anthony Williams has turned the city around and deserves backing from Congress.
The American Revolution was fought over the issue of taxation without representation. More than 200 years later, residents of the Capitol have no voting representation in either house of Congress. The medical marijuana battle highlights the urgent need for home rule in the District, the only place in America that lacks self-determination.
If the situation of congressional control of the District continues, District residents will remain at the mercy of the whims of politicians who have no real interest or accountability in the prosperity of the District.