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A marijuana legalization activist campaigns in DC. (photo: RT)
A marijuana legalization activist campaigns in DC. (photo: RT)

White House Drug Czar: DC Should Be Allowed to Legalize Marijuana

By German Lopez, Vox

07 February 15
 
he head of the White House's drug policy office on Friday suggested Washington, DC, should be able to legalize marijuana without federal obstruction.

"As a resident of the District, I might not agree about legalization," Michael Botticelli, acting director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, "but I do agree with our own ability to spend our own money the way that we want to do that."

The White House showed similar support for DC home rule in previous statements. But the comments from the drug czar, a position typically held by hardliners in the war on drugs, signal a significant change in the politics of US drug policy.

In November, Washington, DC, voters overwhelmingly approved legalizing the possession, growing, and gifting of marijuana in the nation's capital. The initiative is currently in front of Congress for a mandatory 30-day review period; if Congress doesn't act — as is widely expected — it could become law in DC.

Congress passed a spending deal in December that attempted to block the legalization initiative from taking effect. But DC Council bypassed the spending deal, pushing the measure to the congressional review period anyway.

This is the second time this week the White House has made comments widely praised by marijuana legalization advocates. Earlier this week, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said "marijuana can be helpful" for some medical conditions and symptoms.

Hat tip to Dan Riffle of the Marijuana Policy Project for tweeting about the comment, and Tom Angell of the Marijuana Majority for pointing out the CSPAN video.

Where is marijuana legal?

Four states have voted to legalize marijuana, and Native American tribes can grow and sell marijuana, even in states where it's illegal. But marijuana remains illegal under federal law, although the Obama administration said it will allow state-level rules to stand without much federal interference. 


Status of marijuana laws in the United States (photo: Drug Policy Alliance)

Drug policy and the marijuana laws within each state in the U.S. (photo: Drug Policy Alliance)

Washington, DC, voters approved legalization on November 2014, but a federal spending deal could block the initiative from taking effect through September 2015. DC Council transmitted the initiative to Congress, and it will take effect on February 26 if Congress doesn't act.

Outside of the United States, Uruguay became the first country in the world to fully legalize marijuana in 2013. The Netherlands allows citizens to keep and cultivate some marijuana, and police let coffee shops sell marijuana as long as they don't sell to minors or break other major rules. Spain also permits marijuana clubs where people can use the drug, although the drug is officially illegal to sell. And according to multiple reports from experts, visitors, and defectors, North Korea either has no law restricting marijuana or the law goes effectively unenforced. 




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