Murder Rise Is Collateral Damage as Congress Blocks Legal Weed in DC

Murder Rise Is Collateral Damage as Congress Blocks Legal Weed in DC

(Michael Mathes/AFP/Getty Images)

For the uninitiated, constituents of Washington, D.C. don't receive the same kind of representation that those of us in "typical" states are afforded. John Oliver – as always – does a great job explaining these intricacies in the most entertaining way. 

Now, I don't need to rag on Congress too hard. By now, we know they're a group of government employees only capable of showing up to cause gridlock. Otherwise they wouldn’t nearly force a government shutdown over $500 million at the potential cost of $12-$24 billion – a government shutdown that would cost billions of taxpayer dollars over very small stakes.

But I’m not talking about the government shutdown; thankfully, that was narrowly avoided two days ago with mere hours left before running out of funds. The issue at hand is that Congress uses excuses like the shutdown to impose on the local government in D.C. Even though D.C. voters passed a ballot to legalize weed last fall by a huge majority, Congress has the ability to undermine the city government's ability to use funds in order to implement a legal marijuana market.

Think about that. While Colorado is set to collect about $125 million in marijuana tax revenue, D.C. cannot stop arresting black people eight times more than whites, even though we all smoke the same amount of weed. Even worse, D.C., along with many other cities, has seen a sharp increase in homicides over the summer. This increased murder rate is thought to be related to the rise of marijuana's legal alternate, synthetics. 

While nothing is definitive as to what is causing this spike in murders across America, there is no doubt from officials that an increased use of synthetics causes more people to act both erratically and violently. Half a decade ago, synthetics like K2 and Spice were closer to cannabinoids and thereby "much safer when they were legal," said the writer of last year's ballot initiative to legalize marijuana, Adam Eidinger. 

Manufacturers were then forced to go underground and reformulate after a ban, causing synthetics to become closer to PCP as their proponents continuously tweak the formula to stay ahead of regulators

Do not call it synthetic marijuana. "This drug is not at all like marijuana, and the effects are very different," said D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier. She noted that "it is an extremely dangerous drug" and 30% of police departments have reported more violent crimes by those using synthetics. 

The solution is simple. 

"There would be no demand for synthetic drugs if marijuana could be bought at any corner store in the city, the same way alcohol is sold," Eidinger said.

Get off your big collective ass, Congress. I understand that the Constitution gives you ultimate power over D.C., but the detriment you cause by inaction or blockade is unconscionable.