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Fridays with Mary J: Obama joins in, BuzzFeed says it’s legal

It’s tough being a cannabis plant in the District of Columbia. The residents love you but Congress doesn’t. Due to the city’s limited self-governance, compounded with some Republicans’ intent to prevent D.C. from loosening its pot laws, the process to legalize the plant has stretched over months. To explain the fiasco, District Wire is here with a weekly roundup of the state of pot in D.C.

Mr. President takes a stand

On Feb. 2, President Barack Obama sided with the two-thirds of District voters who approved Initiative 71 to legalize marijuana in November. In his massive budget proposal to Congress, the president employed the same tactic Republicans used to try to block legalization: he inserted a “rider” (an unrelated addition) that would allow D.C. to spend local funds to loosen marijuana laws. Republicans inserted a rider in December’s “ Cromnibus” spending bill to prevent the District from using any funds to enact new marijuana laws, which infuriated marijuana activists.

WAMU 88.5’s Martin Austermuhle reports: “In the $4 trillion 2016 federal budget unveiled today, Obama specifies that while federal funds given to D.C. cannot be used to drop penalties on marijuana … the city would remain free to use its locally raised revenue.” —Read the full article

It’s questionable whether the Republican-controlled Congress will go along with Obama’s proposal.

“[S]ome Republican leaders have said that they would be open to freeing D.C. to spend its own money after the city's budget is approved by the Council,” Austermuhle wrote.

Washington Post’s Aaron C. Davis wrote Obama’s budget language can open the path for marijuana sales in D.C.

“President Obama’s $4 trillion budget would do a lot of things, but one of the most controversial may turn out to be allowing legal sales of marijuana in the nation’s capital,” according to Davis. — Read the full article

Republican cites constitution in opposition to legalization

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the committee that oversees D.C.’s affairs, told CNN “[T]he idea that this is going to be a haven for pot smoking, I can't support that.”

Per the constitution, since D.C. is not a state, he said, Congress can effectively override the wishes of the overwhelming majority of D.C. voters. — Full article

Adam Eidinger counts the days

Eidinger, head of the D.C. Cannabis Campaign, told the District Wire that Congress has until Feb. 28 to try and strike down D.C.’s submitted bill to legalize marijuana before it becomes law. D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson sent the bill carrying out Initiative 71 to Congress in January, starting the clock on a 30-day mandatory Congressional review period that all D.C. bills must endure to become law.

Only 27 days before #Initiative71 goes into affect allowing DC residents to grow marijuana in their homes. #CountdownToFreedom #Cannabis

— DC Cannabis Campaign (@DCMJ2014) February 2, 2015

Highs and lows

Washington Post reporter Perry Stein chronicled the the successes and subsequent buzzkills of Initiative 71. The article looks at the initiative’s last 18 months, including events such as residents voting to legalize marijuana and then Congress trying to block it. — Read the full article

BuzzFeed declares marijuana legal in DC

In another episode of the national media misunderstanding local D.C., a BuzzFeed article early this week led with the following sentence: “Over the past few years, as Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, D.C., have all successfully legalized recreational weed…” —Read the full article

Awkward. District Wire would like to remind Buzzfeed and others that recreational marijuana is not yet legal in D.C.

Follow us at @DistrictWire.

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