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DC may vote on marijuana legalization this November

The District of Columbia may have the opportunity to legalize marijuana this November.

The DC Cannabis Campaign announced Monday that it submitted more than 58,000 unverified signatures to place its marijuana legalization initiative on the November ballot. That's more than double the 22,373 verified signatures required for ballot initiatives, but the campaign's signatures will need to be verified before the initiative is approved.

The initiative would allow the nation's capital to join other states currently pursuing marijuana legalization initiatives. Colorado and Washington already legalized marijuana, and Alaska and Oregon are pushing similar measures in the 2014 general election ballot.

DC's initiative, unlike other states' measures, wouldn't allow retail sales, since a voter initiative in DC can't address the sale of marijuana. The initiative would instead fully allow anyone 21 or older to possess up to two ounces of marijuana for personal use, grow up to six marijuana plants, gift up to one ounce of marijuana to someone else who is 21 or older, and use or sell drug paraphernalia for marijuana. That's a step further than DC's current decriminalization law, which removes criminal penalties, such as jail time, but keep a civil fine in place.

The legalization initiative seems to have strong support. A Washington Post poll found marijuana legalization is favored by DC residents almost two-to-one.

One potential obstacle to the measure: Congress. Because DC is the nation's capital and the federal government has some authority over the federal district, it's not uncommon for congressional leaders to set up blockades when DC's voters or officials do something that's politically unpopular at the national level.

House Republicans, for instance, previously voted to block funding for the implementation of DC's decriminalization law. (The House Republican measure, however, could backfire and effectively legalize marijuana in the district by only blocking funding for enforcement of DC's remaining marijuana penalties.)

In response, the DC campaign is calling on Congress to let the district's voters have the final say.

"We are proud of our petition circulators who braved the heat to further democracy in the District of Columbia," campaign chairman Adam Eidinger said in a statement, "but I am very concerned that members of Congress will use their power to stop District of Columbia voters from being able to fully participate in the democratic process. We deserve the right to vote on Initiative 71."

Further reading

Update: Added the final signature count and a mention of the Washington Post's poll.