But the police department said individuals could still be arrested for selling any amount of marijuana to another individual, or for "smoking, eating or drinking marijuana ... in any public space" or "selling any amount of marijuana to another person."
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, sent a letter to Mayor Muriel Bowser late Tuesday asking her to reconsider moving forward with legalization, The Associated press reported. Chaffetz chairs the House Oversight Committee, which has authority over the District of Columbia’s government.
Congress in December approved language that appeared to block the initiative, but District leaders argued that they could still legalize pot because the initiative was enacted before Congress took action. Chaffetz said that interpretation is wrong, and that legalizing pot on Thursday as Bowser plans would be clearly illegal.
"If you decide to move forward tomorrow with the legalization of marijuana in the District, you will be doing so in knowing and willful violation of the law," Chaffetz said in his letter.
A key argument of the referendum, which was approved by 65 percent of District voters, was that marijuana laws unfairly victimized black people in Washington, who represent about half the city's population.
"This is a significant milestone in the movement for racial justice, civil liberties, and drug policy reform," Malik Burnett, D.C. policy manager at the pro-legalization Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement. "The racially-biased enforcement of marijuana laws in the nation’s capital is officially a relic of history."
Al Jazeera and wire services