House Republicans advanced a budget plan Thursday that would prevent legal sales of marijuana in the District until at least 2017. Advocates for legalization, however, called it a victory. What the Republican budget does not do yet is roll back Initiative 71, the voter-approved measure from November that legalized pot for recreational use in the nation’s capital. Since early this year, D.C. residents have been allowed to possess, grow and, in the privacy of their own homes, smoke marijuana.
Many opportunities remain during the federal budget process for conservatives to target the law. But advocates for legal pot said the fact that an outright ban did not appear to be an early budget priority added to other signs that the GOP-controlled Congress may be softening its opposition to marijuana. Last week, the House approved a bipartisan measure to protect state medical-marijuana programs. For only the second time, it instructed the federal Drug Enforcement Administration not to target state dispensaries or medical-marijuana manufacturing or distribution facilities. The House also told the DEA to leave alone states that allow sales of cannabinoids or CBD oils derived from cannabis plants. House lawmakers also moved to protect production of hemp for industrial purposes.
On the Senate side, a handful of Republicans joined Democrats late last month in a committee vote to allow Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend medical marijuana to patients in states where it is legal. And on Thursday, a Senate committee adopted the House language protecting state medical-marijuana programs, meaning it will probably become law.