Marijuana activists are revolting over an appropriations bill in the House further restricting D.C. pot law.
“It’s a pretty aggressive escalation of Congressional authority,” Kaitlyn Boecker of the Drug Policy Alliance told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “It really sets up a dangerous precedent.”
Republicans in the House attached a rider to draft appropriations legislation which successfully passed through subcommittee Wednesday. Congress currently bars the D.C. Council from using appropriated funds for taxing or regulating marijuana, however the new language further restricts D.C. legalization by barring it from spending local emergency reserve funds to enact further liberalization of the law.
Appropriation bills are must pass legislation making it much more difficult to oppose. (RELATED: DC Council Folds To Congress, Approves Permanent Ban On Pot Clubs)
“Its a lot more difficult to make a veto threat on an appropriations bill,” Boecker said. “They tuck in these very controversial assaults on D.C. sovereignty, hoping they won’t be able to be stripped out because they are such large spending measures.”
Activist say it’s a subtle policy change that will further box in city legislators, despite the legalization of marijuana a year ago through a ballot measure. Without the ability to tax or regulate it, there is no way to establish an economic marketplace, which leaves lingering legal gray areas under current law. (RELATED: DC’s Legalized Weed Is One-Year Old, And Crime Has Cratered)
D.C. Council members have been discussing using the emergency funds to side-step congressional roadblocks. The Council can spend the contingency funds for a public health and safety emergency or unforeseen expenses due to federal actions.
“Its legally sufficient to use those funds to tax and regulate it,” Boecker told TheDCNF.
A standalone bill overturning a controversial measure granting the District budget autonomy passed through the House of Representatives Wednesday, however it faces an uphill climb in the Senate and a presidential veto threat. (RELATED: Obama Threatens To Veto Bill Undermining DC Budget Autonomy)
“I think the larger debate about D.C. autonomy and what we are allowed to do is going to influence this debate heavily,” Boecker said. “The connection between autonomy and marijuana reform is strong.”
Polling shows 63 percent of D.C. residents view marijuana reform as a statehood issue due to the repeated interference of Congress. Sixty-one percent of District residents support a regulated system to consume marijuana at private clubs.
“I think the Council is going to realize more and more that they should stand up on this issue,” Boecker told TheDCNF. “We are going to see them adopt the budget on May 31 and it seems the House will issue threats over that and the situation will likely escalate. If we’re standing strong on budget autonomy its time to take a stand on these other important issues as well.”
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