CANNABIS CULTURE – U.S. President Barack Obama supports legalizing marijuana in Washington D.C. but will sign a government bill blocking marijuana reforms in the district, according to a White House spokesman (see update at bottom for more details).
“We do not believe Congress should spend a lot of time interfering with the ability of the citizens of the District of Columbia to make decisions on how they should govern their community,” secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at a White House press conference. “The president believes, on principle, that members of Congress shouldn’t be interfering in this way.”
Despite the supportive lip service, Earnest said Obama would sign Congress’s funding bill that contains a rider blocking funding to future marijuana reforms in the district.
“The president supports the passage of this compromise proposal and would sign it if it arrives on his desk,” Earnest said.
More than 70% of voters in Washington D.C. approved the Initiative 71 ballot measure in the November election that would legalize possession of up to 2 oz of pot and the home cultivation of six plants.
Residents of Washington D.C., unfortunately, do not have representation in the United States Congress, leading some to criticize the actions of lawmakers as undemocratic.
“This rider is an affront to the concept of democracy,” NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri said on the activist group’s website, “Seven out of ten voters in Washington, DC cast their ballot in favor of ending prohibition and legalizing the adult possession and limited cultivation of marijuana, this attempt by members of Congress to flout the will of the people is a gross injustice to these voters and to the democratic system.”
Meanwhile, the protests have already started in Washington D.C., with activists holding a sit-in at Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid’s office.
“Members of Congress of both parties are willing to sell us down the river to get some of their priorities through,” D.C. Council member David Grosso – a supporter of legalization – said. “Hopefully, people will stand up this time and say, ‘Enough is enough.'”
In a positive twist, Congress also voted to block the Drug Enforcement Administration and Department of Justice from using tax dollars to interfere in state medical marijuana programs across the U.S.
UPDATE: Is legalization still alive in Washington D.C.? Phillip Smith of Stop the Drug War is reporting that “A close reading of the relevant language in the bill shows that while it would block the District council from enacting a pending bill to tax and regulate marijuana, it would not undo DC’s decriminalization law. The language around Initiative 71 is less clear, but Democrats involved with the negotiations say it is clear that the legislative intent of the rider in question was to allow both decriminalization and Initiative 71 to stand.”
Watch for more updates to this story as information becomes available.