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D.C. Attorney General Unsure How Marijuana Rider Affects District

Is it legal or not? D.C.'s top law enforcement officer won't say. (Hannah Hes/CQ Roll Call)

Interim District of Columbia Attorney General Eugene Adams has still not determined the implications of an appropriations rider targeting marijuana legalization in the District.  

"The Office of the D.C. Attorney General is continuing to actively review the legislation," the statement, released on Friday, said, "and will continue through the Senate legislative process and President’s signature on the budget bill to assess how it may provide District policymakers opportunities to implement the will of the people reflected in Initiative 71." In a sweeping spending package known as the "cromnibus," House and Senate appropriators attached a policy rider prohibiting federal and local funds from being used to enact any measure that would legalize or reduce penalties for marijuana-related activity. The spending package narrowly passed the House Thursday night, while the Senate has yet to schedule a vote on the bill. Should the Senate pass the bill, the president will sign it, putting the rider into effect.  

The question facing District officials is whether Initiative 71, which legalizes small amounts of marijuana, and was passed by an overwhelming number of D.C. voters in November, has already been enacted.  

In addition to Adams, incoming Attorney General Karl Racine has yet to take a position on whether the initiative has been enacted and whether legalization can go forward.  

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., believes the initiative has been enacted and possessing and cultivating small amounts of marijuana in the District will be legal under the measure.  

Norton even launched a "Frequently Asked Questions" section of her House website Friday to make the argument for her interpretation of the rider. However, many of her answers to the questions include the qualifier "most likely," indicating that few effects of the rider are certain.  

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