News & Politics

John Boehner Says Congress Will “Look” at DC Marijuana Decriminalization

The House Speaker’s home state decriminalized pot in 1975.

Photograph by Flickr user Gage Skidmore.

After Mayor Vince Gray signs it into law, DC’s decriminalization of marijuana possession will be subjected to a 60-day review period on Capitol Hill. Although marijuana reform backers were confident yesterday that no random federal lawmaker will jab their fingers into the District’s business, House Speaker John Boehner says Congress won’t ignore the bill outright.

“I really haven’t seen what the DC Council did, but I’m sure we’ll look at it,” Boehner said today, according to the Associated Press.

Congress has not upended any recent District legislation, but it does have a history of doing so when pot is involved. Meddling from Capitol Hill was a leading reason why it took 15 years between DC voters approving medical marijuana in 1998 and the first clinics to finally open in 2013.

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton put out a statement after yesterday’s Council vote saying she would “stoutly defend” the decriminalization law if any of her voting colleagues attempts to block it from taking effect, although her office says it is unaware of any plans to do so.

But even if Boehner’s statement today simply means he will give it the same cursory glance he does to all DC legislation, perhaps he’ll take into consideration that his home state of Ohio was one of the first states to decriminalize marijuana, replacing criminal penalties for possession with fines all the way back in 1975. Ohio’s decriminalization regime allows possession of up to 100 grams of pot, three and a half times DC’s level of one ounce.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.