WASHINGTON – Residents of the nation’s capital voted overwhelmingly in November to legalize marijuana, but the fate of the initiative is now in the hands of a Republican-controlled Congress.


Without congressional authorization, the legalization issue would be in limbo.


Congress passed a rider in the 2015 spending bill that prevents Washington from using federal or local funds to carry out legalization, which is set to take effect by May.


Funds are necessary for regulation and licensing of marijuana production and distribution.


“The battle lines have been drawn,” said criminal lawyer David Benowitz, who has extensive experience with marijuana cases. “D.C. has over 500,000 people, and even after studies and research on the topic, these are educated people who voted to legalize.”


Former U.S. drug czar William J. Bennett and Robert A. White offer new research in their book, Going to Pot: Why the Rush to Legalize Marijuana is Harming America. The two examined societal and scientific arguments against marijuana legalization Wednesday during a presentation at the Heritage Foundation.


According to Bennett and White’s research, marijuana use sends more Americans to treatment facilities than any other illegal drug. Marijuana in 2015 contains nearly four times the THC that it did in the 1960s, the authors said.


That’s the difference between a 12 ounce glass of beer and a 12 ounce glass of 80 proof vodka,” White said. “This is ‘turbo pot.’ ”


But the current U.S. drug czar, Michael Botticelli, supports marijuana legalization in Washington.


“As a resident of the District, I might not agree about legalization, but I do agree with our own ability to spend our own money the way that we want to do that,” Botticelli said Friday in a meeting at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.


Based on President Obama’s proposed 2016 budget, it’s clear that he is of the same mindset. The budget allows D.C. to use its own tax dollars to legalize marijuana, overriding the regulations set by Congress last year.


In July 2014, the District decriminalized the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana. Now rather than facing criminal charges, offenders face a $25 fine.


Legalization would make possession of up to two ounces and three plants permissible.


To date, four states have legalized marijuana for recreational use, and 19 others have done so for medical use.


Colorado, the national leader in marijuana legalization, made so much money off marijuana taxes that the state may now be paying taxpayers back. Colorado made about $50 million off these taxes in the first year after legalizing in 2012, which exceeds the state constitution’s tax limit.


Still, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who opposed the 2012 legalization, believes that citizens don’t know the potential consequences of their decision.


He said that, because marijuana is still federally illegal, Colorado is navigating an unknown regulatory environment.


“If I could’ve waved a wand the day after the election, I would’ve reversed the election and said, ‘This was a bad idea,’ ” Hickenlooper said last month on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”