26 May 2016
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives is taking steps to further crack down on Washington, D.C.’s ability to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana sales.
Possessing and cultivating small amounts of marijuana is already legal in the nation’s capital, as is medical cannabis, thanks to voter-approved ballot initiatives. But under a Congressional rider, the city is barred from spending its own money to create a system of marijuana stores where adults without medical recommendations could legally purchase the drug.
Now, Congressional Republicans are seeking to broaden the scope of the ban to prevent D.C. officials from using a loophole to get around the existing rider by using funds that are untouched by the current block.
Under current law, D.C. officials are barred from using money covered by annual appropriations bills to legalize cannabis commerce:
“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.”
That specific language has left open the possibility that the city could use other pools of money it has available, such as contingency reserve funds appropriated in previous years, to regulate marijuana sales. Officials told Marijuana.com last year that they were considering doing so.
But new language proposed this week by the House Appropriations Committee, if enacted as part of Fiscal Year 2017 funding legislation, would prevent the city from doing that:
No funds available for obligation or expenditure by any officer or employee of the District of Columbia government 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.
While a committee press release claims that the bill “maintains provisions prohibiting federal and local funds from being used…to further marijuana legalization,” the new language does more than maintain the provision. It significantly broadens it.
The appropriations panel’s Financial Services Subcommittee approved the bill on Wednesday morning. It now heads to the full committee and then, if approved, to the House floor.