Pubdate: Tue, 03 Feb 2015
Source: Washington Times (DC)
Copyright: 2015 The Washington Times, LLC.
Author: Andrea Noble


President Obama's $4 trillion budget plan would allow the District to 
spend its own tax dollars to legalize and regulate marijuana by 
rolling back restrictions put in place by Republican lawmakers last year.

Congress passed a spending bill in December that blocks the District 
from spending any money - federal or local tax dollars - to enact 
legislation that would legalize or reduce penalties associated with 
the recreational use of marijuana or any other Schedule 1 drugs.

The congressional action leaves the District in the lurch as D.C. 
residents voted to legalize recreational marijuana but lawmakers have 
yet to adopt a regulatory scheme that would allow its sale and taxation.

The president's fiscal 2016 plan, released Monday, would allow city 
lawmakers to use local funds beginning in October to pay for the 
legalization and regulation of marijuana. Mr. Obama's plan slightly 
alters the wording in the congressional spending bill to restrict the 
District only from using "federal funds" to enact laws legalizing pot.

With both houses of Congress led by Republicans, Mr. Obama's budget 
faces an uphill battle. But marijuana legalization and local 
democracy advocates hope increased support nationwide for marijuana 
decriminalization and legalization will make federal lawmakers think 
twice about altering that portion of the proposal.

"It's great to see the president taking this subtle but important 
action to clear the way for the District to sensibly regulate 
marijuana," said Tom Angell, chairman of the Marijuana Majority. "Now 
it remains to be seen whether leaders in Congress will stand with the 
majority of the American people or if they'll do everything they can 
to protect failed prohibition policies."

The District is still wrangling with Republican members of Congress 
over the fate of the marijuana legalization initiative. City 
lawmakers assume the legal stance that Initiative 71 was 
self-executing and took effect when voters approved it - well ahead 
of the adoption of a spending bill by Congress. A 30-day 
congressional review period of the law is winding down, with the 
initiative estimated to become law on Feb. 26.

But the referendum only sanctions the possession of two ounces or 
less of the drug and allows residents to grow a small number of their 
own marijuana plants. Sale of marijuana would remain illegal under 
Initiative 71, a key point D.C. lawmakers hope to address in future regulation.

The president's proposal, if kept intact by Congress, could give D.C. 
lawmakers their first opportunity to enact legislation regulating the 
sale of marijuana in October. The spending bill adopted by Congress 
keeps the provisions on marijuana legalization through fiscal 2015, 
which ends in September.

"We are pleased and encouraged to see the president attempt to 
correct the unfortunate attack on the District's local democracy 
carried out in the 2015 spending bill," said Kimberly Perry, 
executive director of DC Vote. "The need for local budget control is 
apparent as the president also recognizes in his budget. Congress 
should not be overriding the vote and the will of the people in a 
district for which they were not elected."

The president's budget proposal contains several other provisions 
that drew praise from Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the city's 
nonvoting Democratic representative, including one that would grant 
the city budget autonomy.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom