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Ron Johnson

Some cheer for marijuana advocates: Ron Johnson wants a hearing on marijuana legalization for Washington, D.C.

The district this month voted 2-1 in favor of legalizing up to two ounces of pot for recreational use. But before the controversial weed hits the store shelves, the federal government, which oversees the district, has to approve the measure. 

Johnson, the Republican senator from Wisconsin who's set to take charge of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, will have the issue dropped in his lap after a 30-day review process, which starts when election results are certified on Dec. 3. 

While his counterpart in the House, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said he opposes marijuana legalization outright, Johnson told reporters that he thinks it should be a local issue.

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“I can’t support it myself because I think it sets a really bad example for young children,” Johnson said in a Roll Call article. “But states are doing that. Let the voters decide … Again, I like local control of those issues and then what we can do here in Congress is hold hearings, find out, how’s it working? What kind of problems are there?”

Four states — Washington, Colorado, Oregon and Alaska — have voted to legalize recreational use of the drug. Washington and Colorado voters approved legalization in 2012, and systems are in place by which it can be sold. Nineteen others have limited forms of legalization for medical use. Johnson didn't say whether he'd be in favor of legalization in D.C.

“I guess right now I’m just sitting here watching the states’ experiment and seeing how that happens," he said. "If anything I’d want to use the committee to hold a hearing, see how it’s working.”

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Steven Elbow joined The Capital Times in 1999 and has covered law enforcement in addition to city, county and state government. He has also worked for the Portage Daily Register and has written for the Isthmus weekly newspaper in Madison.