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Saturday, May 10, 2014

District of Columbia's Proposed Marijuana Decriminalization Illustrates Federalism Conflict

The New York Times reports:

If Congress allows a District of Columbia law to take effect that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana, and someone with one foot on the National Mall and another foot on city property is caught carrying the drug, would that person be charged with a crime under federal law? 
That was just one of the questions raised in a congressional hearing on Friday examining the potential complications of relaxing marijuana laws in a city controlled by Congress and policed both by federal and local law enforcement agencies.
State decriminalization of marijuana is becoming increasingly common, and this trend raises conflicts with federal law. Commentators like Erwin Chemerinsky (et. al) have labeled this "one of the most important federalism conflicts in a generation."

The District of Columbia's push to decriminalize marijuana is particularly interesting because of the large percentage of federal land in DC and the high number of federal personnel that patrol the area. If Congress and the Senate don't stop DC's decriminalization efforts, the city may end up becoming a hotspot for interesting cases of differentiated drug enforcement.

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