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Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

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-approvedmarijuana law.

A law that legalizes marijuana use is now in effect in Washington, D.C.

The new law, which voters passed in a referendum last November, took effect shortly after midnight local time Thursday. The law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess up to 56 grams and grow small amounts of marijuana indoors. Buying, selling and smoking in public still would be against the law.

The U.S. capital city joins Alaska, Colorado and the state of Washington in legalizing recreational marijuana. But unlike the three other states, Washington, D.C. is not completely autonomous, as the U.S. Congress has final authority over the city government.

Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz, who chairs House Oversight Committee, warned D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser that she and other city officials could go to jail for implementing the law.

But Bowser ignored Chaffetz's threat Wednesday when she said the measure would take effect as planned. "Bullying the District of Columbia is not what his [Chaffetz] constituents expect, nor do ours," she told reporters. "We do disagree on a matter of law. There are reasonable ways to resolve this without us threatening him or he us."

A spending bill passed in December by the House 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 would be jailed over the new law. But there are other punitive measures Congress could take against the city.

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