The entire fate of Washington, DC's legalized marijuana program apparently rests on the statutory definition of one word: "enactment."

In November, DC voters—as is their wont—chose to to legalize recreational marijuana.

But unfortunately for them, Congress, which has budgetary and veto power over the District, opted to block the law by inserting a provision in a December federal spending bill.

The wording of the December provision bars the DC Council from enacting future legal marijuana laws.

Except the DC Council believes it enacted the law—technically—a month before Congress passéd the provision, the New York Times reports:

But district officials believe they have identified a loophole in the provision's language. The marijuana law, lawyers here argue, had already been enacted and certified by the Board of Elections before Congress passed the spending bill, so there was no "enacting" for the House to prevent.

"The issue becomes: What does enactment mean?" said David Zvenyach, the counsel to the Council of the District of Columbia. Like other officials here, he believes that the city got ahead of Congress in enacting its law, which it intends to start carrying out this spring.

"Their language was either careless or hasty," said Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat and the district's nonvoting delegate to the House. "If you are working on an amendment to an appropriation bill, you better be really careful. They say we shan't enact. Well, we don't have to enact anything."

In the end, a federal court will likely decide the "enactment" question, legal experts tell the Times.

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