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Obama's budget would let D.C. marijuana sales move forward

President Obama's 2016 budget proposal would seemingly give the District of Columbia the freedom to move forward with legal marijuana sales, over the objections of the Republican-led Congress.

After Washington, D.C. voters last November overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in the district, Congress included a provision in its December budget bill that barred the local government from using any funds to enact the initiative.

Local D.C. lawmakers contend that Congress' budget bill can't stop marijuana legalization in the district, arguing that the initiative was "enacted" when voters approved it in November. However, it could prevent the use of funds to enact laws to regulate the tax and sales of marijuana.

Mr. Obama's budget could change that, marijuana reform activist Tom Angell noted. Deep on page 1,248 of the budget, the administration proposes amending that rule so that the District of Columbia can't use "federal" funds to enact laws legalizing or reducing penalties for the sale or possession of certain drugs. That would allow the district to use its own funds for the implementation of new drug regulations.

With Republicans in control of Congress, Mr. Obama's budget has no chance of becoming law, but the provision does further demonstrate that the administration is willing to let states (and the district) experiment with marijuana legalization -- even though marijuana (including medical marijuana) is still illegal under federal law. It remains to be seen how the District will try to implement the initiative, or how the federal government will respond.

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