President Obama's $4-trillion budget released Monday would allow for the legal sale of marijuana in Washington, D.C.
The proposal allows for the legal sale of marijuana in D.C. by adding provisions that remove restrictions made by Congress in December's budget deal, which barred the city from spending funds — federal or local — on pot sales.
Washington, D.C., voters overwhelmingly approved the sale of marijuana for recreational use with Initiative 71 during the November election.
The initiative legalizes possession of two ounces of marijuana and allows for the cultivation of six plants at home for people over the age of 21. It does not set up a market for marijuana sales, but it is assumed local officials would establish pot shops.
Since Congress has the authority to tell the city how to spend its money, the provision added to the Congressional budget left the state of the initiative in limbo.
The additional provision says federal and local funds can not be used "to enact any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or reduce penalties associated with the possession, use or distribution" of marijuana.
Obama's proposal would allow pot sales in D.C. by letting city officials use local funds to create a marijuana tax and regulatory system, as Initiative 71 had intended.
"The president's proposed FY16 budget would limit that prohibition to federal funds only, allowing the District to use local funds to enact laws or regulations to decriminalize or legalize the possession or use of such substances," D.C. Council budget director Jennifer Budoff wrote in an email to Roll Call on Monday.
Obama's budget must still pass through Congress, but if its approved, pot stores could open in the U.S. capital before the end of the year.
D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said Congress should either allow or stop Initiative 71 through the review process, which has been used only three times in the last 40 years to end a D.C. law, according to Reuters.
Mendelson sent Initiative 71 to Congress on Jan. 13, creating a Feb. 26 deadline for the review process.
Rep. Andy Harris, a Republican from Maryland, told Roll Call he believed Congress would continue to fight the legalization, noting that those who added the restrictions made their intentions clear.
"It's great to see the president taking this subtle but important action to clear the way for the District to sensibly regulate marijuana," Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, said in a statement.
"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," he said.
Michelle Broder Van Dyke is a reporter and night editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Hawaii.
Contact Michelle Broder Van Dyke at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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