While President Obama recently announced that he didn’t have any plans to reform the marijuana laws in the United States before turning over his key to the White House, a proposed federal budget released by his administration earlier this week seems poised to disable a Congressional rider that has prevented the District of Columbia from establishing a taxed and regulated pot market for the past couple of years.
According to an analysis provided by Tom Angell with the Marijuana Majority, the proposed Fiscal Year 2017 budget would go against the grain of the current policies preventing the D.C. Council from enacting legislation to legalize retail pot sales by giving the city the freedom to utilize its own funds to bring this concept to fruition.
As Angell points out in his breakdown of the budget, the language is not drastically different from the current law, only that it comes with the addition of the word “Federal,” which if approved, would serve as swinging axe against the District’s Congressional chastity belt.
Basically, the current language states, “none of the funds contained in this Act may be used to enact any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution of any schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 801 et seq.) or any tetrahydrocannabinols derivative for recreational purposes.”
However, the latest proposal specifically defines the type of funds prohibited from being used to legalize marijuana: “None of the Federal funds contained in this Act may be used to enact any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution of any schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 801 et seq.) or any tetrahydrocannabinols derivative for recreational purposes.”
Although the cultivation, possession and transfer of marijuana is legal in the nation’s capital, a rider introduced by Maryland Representative Andy Harris back in 2014 has prevented the District from creating a full-scale cannabis market similar to what is taking place out West. There was some hope that Congress would not support the amendment in the Fiscal Year 2016 budget plan, but all of the marijuana riders from the previous year simply ended up being renewed without much consideration for growth.
Last year, D.C. Councilmember David Grosso told HIGH TIMES that the council would “act expeditiously” to pass the Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Act on an emergency basis the second Congress lifted the Harris rider. Grosso predicted that retail pot sales could be up and running within a year once federal interference was no longer an issue.
Of course, there has been an on-going discussion about the District having reserve funds they could use to bypass the Congressional ban, but this option has not be seriously explored for over a year. Therefore, it seems more likely the District will wait until after they are pulled out of the mud on Capitol Hill before moving forward with any plans to establish a retail cannabis trade.