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Lawmaker Warns DC Mayor of Jail Time Over Pot Law

FILE - Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser, shown after taking the oath of office last month, defied a lawmaker's threat that she and other city leaders could face prison time for implementing a voter-approved marijuana law.

Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser said a voter-approved measure legalizing marijuana would take effect Thursday, despite warnings from some in Congress that the city would be breaking federal law.

Voters passed the marijuana law in November. It legalizes possessing and smoking in private a fifth of a kilogram of pot. It also legalizes growing small amounts of the plant. Buying, selling and smoking in public still would be against the law.

The District of Columbia joins Alaska, Colorado and the state of Washington in legalizing marijuana. But the district is not a state, and the federal government oversees its spending.

U.S. Marijuana Laws by State
U.S. Marijuana Laws by State

The Republican chair of the House Oversight Committee, Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah, warned the mayor that she and other city officials could go to jail for implementing the law.

Bowser was not intimidated. "Bullying the District of Columbia is not what his [Chaffetz's] constituents expect, nor do ours," she said Wednesday. "We do disagree on a matter of law. There are reasonable ways to resolve this without us threatening him or he us."

A House spending bill passed in December did not include funds for the city to implement the marijuana law.

City officials contend voters passed the law a month before Congress approved the spending bill.

Legal experts from both the city and Congress say it is highly unlikely the mayor or anyone else will be jailed over the new law. But there are other punitive measures Congress could take against the city.

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