Speak Outs
Speak Out
Should voters in D.C. or the federal government decide local laws?

December 10, 2014

By Jeremy Quattlebaum, Student Voices staff writer

On Election Day, Oregon and Alaska joined Colorado and Washington as states that have legalized marijuana, but passage of Initiative 71 in Washington, D.C., faces additional hurdles. The initiative, approved by 61 percent of voters, needs federal review before becoming law.

D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said she respected “the clear intent of District voters” in their support of Initiative 71. “However, we need to recognize that the initiative cannot be immediately implemented,” she said in a statement.

Congress and the president must approve District of Columbia laws, a power granted to the legislative branch in Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. The article grants the creation of the federal district, “and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature.”

Congress and the president can nullify a law passed by the city council or initiatives approved by the voters, like Initiative 71, but it is more complicated than a veto. Congress and the president must agree on a resolution of disapproval within 60 days after the law is submitted for review. This process has been used only three times in the past 40 years, and it looks unlikely that the federal government would take up this cumbersome process.

Congress could also postpone implementation of the law to a much later date. Members of Congress who oppose a law passed by the District can attach provisions to spending bills – which need to be passed to keep the federal government running – that prevent the D.C. law from taking effect for several years.

The District, which is represented by a nonvoting delegate in the House, must accept the provisions passed in the spending bills and postpone the implementation of the law, or scrap it altogether.

This isn’t the first time marijuana advocates have been left waiting for a law to take effect. In 1998, voters in the District approved allowing doctors to prescribe medical marijuana within city limits. Congress waited 11 years before it allowed implementation of the District law.

Maryland Rep. Andy Harris has said that he would use a similar tactic to block implementation of Initiative 71. “Actions by those in D.C. will result in higher drug use among teens,” Harris said in a written statement to The Washington Post. “I will consider using all resources available to a member of Congress to stop this action.”

Sen. Rand Paul, who is expected to chair a committee that has oversight over the Capitol, has stated that while he hasn’t taken a stance on legalizing marijuana, he believes that voters should decide local laws, not the federal government. “I haven’t really taken a stand on [Initiative 71], but I’m against the federal government telling them they can’t,” Paul told reporters outside a Kentucky polling precinct.

The issue of legal marijuana has led to friction between state governments and the federal government. Although the federal government still classifies marijuana as an illegal substance, the Justice Department has allowed Colorado and Washington state to let the legal marijuana industry establish itself. But the Justice Department also has been slow to act on changing regulations to allow banks to lend money to the new businesses.

What do you think?

Should local voters or the federal government decide local laws in the District of Columbia? Should Congress nullify or delay the law? Does the fact that the D.C. initiative contradicts federal marijuana policy matter? Join the discussion and let us know what you think!
Join the Discussion
 
 
 
limited to 2000 characters including spaces  



Thank you for commenting.
Your comment is awaiting approval.
Click here to view all Speak Outs
Comments
1/19/2015
texas
Lidia
Bradley/Nimitz
The fact the federal government has opposed to nation wide law being passed that approves the usage of marijuana legal does matter in the decisions that will affect the District of Columbia. Because the District of Columbia is run by the federal government it only makes sense that it follow what the federal government preaches. On the other hand if the district was ran by local governments then it would allow for the voters voice to be heard and respected. I believe that the people who live in that town should have a say in how they want to run their city which would only be so if it was being lead by a local government who could focus on the town and its citizens as opposed to what the entire nation feels is best.

1/19/2015
Irving Tx
Alejandro
Ms. Bradley Nimitz High School
As D.C. is a state, the local government should be in charge of local policy. The only reason the federal government has a keen interest in the local issues of this state is simply because it serves a dual role as the capital to the federal government. But, this does not make it fair to submit all local laws to national policy, D.C. is a state like any other and deserves the same treatment as any other state. Having Congress decide local policy only serves to delay legislation and cause problems. Congress should give this power back to the states. For better or worse the initiative to legalize marijuana in a state is a state matter . When a nation wide proposal is made then and only then can Congress decide for the states.

1/16/2015
Irving/Texas
Rachel
Bradley/Nimitz
If the DC governing officials are the only ones who have the right to meaningfully vote on issues, then the entire civilian population of the District is disenfranchised. Governing officials in every other region of the nation have as much weight in elections as regular citizens would, and it should not be any different in DC just because it's the capital. The law is unconstitutional, and while the issue in question is the legalization of something which for so long has been classified as an illegal substance, that is inconsequential. The question here is: does the United States government have the right to nullify the votes of Citizens just because of where they live? The answer is a clear and defiant "No."

1/15/2015
Irving/Texas
Rachel
Bradley/Nimitz
If the DC governing officials are the only ones who have the right to meaningfully vote on issues, then the entire civilian population of the District is disenfranchised. Governing officials in every other region of the nation have as much weight in elections as regular citizens would, and it should not be any different in DC just because it's the capital. The law is unconstitutional, and while the issue in question is the legalization of something which for so long has been classified as an illegal substance, that is inconsequential. The question here is: does the United States government have the right to nullify the votes of Citizens just because of where they live? The answer is a clear and defiant "No."

1/15/2015
Irving/Texas
Kierria S.
Bradley/Nimitz
Even though I consider marijuana to be a harmful drug use that often create horrifying social issues and self esteem problems, I will say that if a law is wanted to be permitted in a district, then local government should have the floor of what a law concerns and why it is necessary. Although, the federal government needs to oversee the addressing of the bill before it is finalize. Federal governments should be allowed to alternate any conflicts and give specific order of how the law should be implemented or use. This would also provide ideas for other states that run into similar situations and need guidance. Nullifying shouldn't be used if the draft of a new law interferes with governmental service on national and state level, and with the rights of people already law.

1/14/2015
Irving/Tx
Alex K
Ms.Bradley/Nimitz High School
The federal government should decide local laws in D.C. because D.C. is not a state to have a local government. Congress should nullify the law so it won't keep delaying the law and cause a bigger mess. Yes because D.C. is still controlled by the federal government. This would technically break the federal law and it should be changed.

1/14/2015
Irving/TX
Victor
Bradley/Nimitz
According to the constitution, the federal government should decide the local laws in the District of Columbia. I think that Congress should delay the law. This will give them the opportunity to look at the law later as opposed to not being able to which would be the case if it was nullified.

1/9/2015
Irving/TX
Marilynn
Ms.Bradley/Nimitz
The Constitution states that the federal government has the final authority in the District of Colombia, so, in other words, the federal government is within its right to approve or disapprove the initiative. If D.C wants the local government to have the authority to implement their own laws, then they should ask for an amendment to the constitution that would allow them to do so. Congress should delay the law to see if it has a negative or positive effect in other states where it's already in effect.The federal government is the governing authority in D.C so if it implements the initiative it will be breaking its own law.

1/8/2015
Irving,TX
Miguel
Bradley/Nimitz
In most places, it would be outrageous if voters weren’t the ones to decide local laws, in Washington D.C. though, things are different. D.C. is a federal district, it was created to host the nations capital in a place not under any state government. Cities are below state law, they are subject to their own state governments rules. Washington D.C. residents, because they do not live under any state government, and instead is a federal district, have to live under the laws passed by congress and the president. The power over the city is guaranteed to the legislative branch in the constitution in Article I, Section 8. Even though voters may be frustrated that they don’t have much say over the laws of the district, they must realize that they are free to move out. As citizens, they can freely live in any other state, having then more representation for themselves. But unlike them, the government cannot simply move. For over 200 years the seat of government has been in the same place. Because it is seemingly the permanent house of the government, it has to be able to make its own law. The laws should not be made by voters in D.C, they can move out in the future, they should be made by the federal government since it is its permanent home.

1/7/2015
Irving,TX
Martin
Ms.Bradley/ Nimitz High School
Every state in the U.S decides it own law apart from the federal laws. With that being said the District of Columbia should be treated like a state in that aspect and let the local voters decide the laws. Congress should not nullify or delay the law of legalizing marijuana because it is what the people want.

1/6/2015
Irving,TX
Claudia
Bradley/Nimitz
When deciding local laws in the District of Columbia, there should be equal input from both federal government and local voters. The federal government should be willing to hear the point of views from the local voters, since they are the ones that will be most directly affected by the laws. In Washington DC, Congress should nullify the legalization of marijuana, since most local voters do support the legalization of marijuana. Nationwide, the state government and federal government should both be able to come to come together and conclude whether marijuana should be considered legal, or not. They should have a unified decision to make sure there is no confusion regarding marijuana with legal matters.

1/5/2015
Irving/Texas
Peyton
Bradley/Nimitz
Much discussion has been had over the legalization of marijuana. There has also been a significant amount of discussion over who has the authority to make and enforce laws such as the legalization of marijuana. I think that local voters should decide the local laws simply because they are the ones living the law. The Unites States government puts itself off as a democracy, which puts high emphasis on the people having a say. I think that Congress should not "put off" or delay the law in any sense. The way to keep things running smoothly would be to make decisions when the problem arises in situations like this. I think that one persons opinion is minuscule if he is standing alone, no matter how high on the totem pole he/she is. I think that the legislative branch should consider the wishes of the people when they approve the laws of D.C., as stated in the constitution.

12/29/2014
Irving,TX
Noemi
Bradley/ Nimitz High School
Marijuana has been a controversial issue within the government. However the issue is not with making marijuana legal or not. The issue lies,yet again, with the question of who has more authority to make such laws legal in the District of Columbia, federal or local government? However, there should be no argument. In the Supreme Court’s eyes, the question is not if marijuana should be legalized, despite local votes.It is about the constitutionality of the authority. The legislative branch must approve District of Columbia laws as stated in Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. The article grants the creation of the federal district, “and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature.” Just like the Supreme Court believes, citizens of the District of Columbia must also understand that the Constitution is the law of the land and there is no way to avoid it.

12/29/2014
Irving/TX
Briana
Bradley/Nimitz
Federal officials should not decide of the District of Columbia, the people that live there should since we live in a Democracy and they should be able to vote in the same manner states do. The local voters should be able to decide over the community instead of Congress, because what they decide affects those living in the area. Therefore, Congress should neither nullify or delay the law since the voters already have decided over the matter and just like states can legalize marijuana so should the District of Columbia. It doesn’t matter that the D.C initiative contradicts federal marijuana policy because the District of Columbia should have the same right to legalize marijuana like other states.

12/19/2014
Irving, TX
Jonathan
Mrs. Bradley Nimitz High School
Due to the fact that the people of The District of Columbia are citizens with the same rights as all other citizens, they should be able to change or review the local laws like all others. I do support the legalization of marijuana but for medical purposes only. But the only concern would be with the government officials would misuse it.

12/18/2014
Irving/TX
Erik
Ms.Bradley/Nimitz High School
The District of Columbia is not considered a state and their fore is governed by congress. That being said the people of D.C are also american citizens with the same rights as every other citizen. Therefore they should be able to change local laws if votes for.

12/18/2014
Irving/Texas
Mark
Bradley/Nimitz
While I thoroughly support the legalization of marijuana, I believe that it is the federal government's decision on whether or not it should be legalized in DC. This is the reason why DC is not counted as a state in the first place, for the federal government decides the laws. If congress believes that marijuana should not be allowed in DC it should nullify the law. Furthermore, as a grand major it of Congress members live in DC then there is a higher risk of drug use among our government officials.

12/17/2014
Murrieta/ CA
Miguel C.
Jabro/ Creekside High School
In my opinion i think it depends on what and what law they plan on taking out or editing. For example the marijuana passing in those following states, in my opinion its things like that that people are still going to abuse. So it just made sense to them to go with the times. Because it sometimes is good to let the people of their town to decide what is appropriate to edit and vote for. Only top notch laws and serious matters are up to the higher power.

12/16/2014
Irving/Tx
Luke
Bradley/Nimitz
Local voters should decide laws in the District of Columbia, and until that gets decided, the federal government should nullify the law. Delaying the law only delays the problem. Some states and the federal government disagree on marijuana right now, but that will have to be fixed later.

12/15/2014
Irving/TX
Jessica
Ms. Bradley/ Nimitz High School
In deciding for local laws in the District of Columbia, it seems the federal government has the higher authority to decide for the laws. However, it seems logical to leave it to the people to decide the laws for their state. The only way the federal government can be involved, is if it has to do with big controversial issue. Other than that, the people can decide what will happen in their state and decide what is beneficial for them. Giving them this opportunity will make them feel more involved and equal to the federal government. Having the federal government be involved in everything will make it seem that their choice is the only choice acceptable. The federal government needs to allow the states to decide for themselves. Congress should delay the law, because it will still be considered to be viewed maybe not now but in the future. This is a better option because it still leaves the doors open instead of completely nullifying the law. Nullifying it completely can stir more trouble and anger because it’s not giving the law a chance. Once the law is heard and a decision is made, that decision should please people since it took a while to be decided.

12/11/2014
Hoover, Alabama
Adam
Spain park high school
I think voters who live in the District of Columbia should be able to vote for their laws. The federal government should not have any jurisdiction over that. Even though the federal government rests in D.C., Washingon should still be treated like the rest of the states and the people should be able to vote. Congress should not be able to delay the law, because congress should not have jurisdiction over it either. 1. So the person accused of a crime will not be detained for and unreasonable amount of time, and so witnesses or victims have evidence fresh on their minds. 2. Most of the time trials are open to the public, but in extreme cases trials can become private. 3. A jury that will give a fair verdict on the case without any prejudice. 4. A jury is selected randomly, but if you know the plantiff or the defendant you can not be on the jury. 5. Being able to confront witnesses is important so the full story is attained. 6. One is appointed to them.

Related News
Related Resources
Share