On Friday, the District of Columbia Superior Court upheld the Local Budget Autonomy Act of 2012, which 82% of D.C. voters approved in spring of 2013. Then, on Tuesday, D.C.’s Attorney General and Chief Financial Officer said they would not appeal.
Now, instead of having to wait for Congress to appropriate funds to D.C., the budget will simply be reviewed in the same way as every other law passed by the D.C. Council. So, the appropriations rider that has blocked the council from making any improvements to D.C.’s marijuana policies will expire on September 30, 2016. This means that the council can move forward to determine how to tax and regulate marijuana and pass a law to do so this fall.
While Congress could still block a tax and regulate bill or a D.C. budget that includes funds for the regulation of marijuana sales, it would have to do so by passing a joint resolution in both houses that would be subject to presidential veto. Thanks to congressional gridlock and President Obama’s support for D.C. choosing its own marijuana policy, this would be much more difficult than simply adding a rider to a lengthy appropriations bill funding the federal government.
On Saturday, The New York Times repeated its editorial support for ending marijuana prohibition, this time calling on Congress and President Obama to be less timid in their support for regulating marijuana.
Even as support for ending marijuana prohibition is building around the country, Congress and the Obama administration remain far too timid about the need for change.
Last year, residents in Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia voted to join Colorado and Washington State in making recreational use of marijuana legal. Later this year, residents of Ohio are expected to vote on a ballot measure that would legalize it. Nevadans will vote on a legalization proposal next year. And Californians could vote on several similar measures next year.
Instead of standing by as change sweeps the country, federal lawmakers should be more actively debating and changing the nation’s absurd marijuana policies, policies that have ruined millions of lives and wasted billions of dollars.
You can read the full editorial here.
In July 2014, the paper of record published a series of editorials covering a variety of marijuana policy issues and supporting making marijuana legal for adults and regulating it similarly to alcohol.
Obama’s Nominee to Lead the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division Supports the Decriminalization of Marijuana
According to the Washington Post, President Obama plans to nominate top lawyer from the American Civil Liberties Union, Vanita Gupta, to head to the civil rights division of the Department of Justice.
Gupta is a longtime civil rights lawyer and deputy legal director of the ACLU, as well as the director of the Union’s Center for Justice.
She stated in a New York Times op-ed about ending mass incarceration:
“Those who seek a fairer criminal justice system, unclouded by racial bias, must at a minimum demand that the government eliminate mandatory minimum sentences, which tie judges’ hands; rescind three-strikes laws, which often make no distinction between, say, armed assault and auto theft; amend “truth in sentencing” statutes, which prohibit early release for good behavior; and recalibrate drug policies, starting with decriminalization of marijuana possession and investment in substance-abuse prevention and treatment.”
According to administration officials, Gupta will be appointed acting head of the civil rights division Wednesday by Attorney General Eric Holder.
When U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced last year that the federal Department of Justice would no longer prosecute medical marijuana patients and providers complying with state law, reform advocates cheered it as the greatest victory in over a decade.
The shift in federal policy was indeed a breakthrough for the medical marijuana movement, but did little good for Bryan Epis of Chico, California.
Last week, a federal judge ordered Bryan to prison for a 2002 conviction involving 100 marijuana plants he maintained for several state-legal patients. Under the current administration’s policy, Bryan would likely be left alone by the feds, but the problem is that his arrest and conviction occurred well before the new policy was implemented.
Bryan was sentenced to ten years in federal prison and has already served two years behind bars, but has been out on various appeals since 2004. Today he’s sitting in the Sacramento County jail awaiting transfer back to a federal penitentiary.
Friends and family are hoping President Obama pardons Bryan so that he isn’t forced to waste more of his life locked in a cage because of his compassion towards sick and suffering patients.
Bryan’s partner is circulating a petition urging President Obama to grant a pardon and she requests your help. A printable petition form can be downloaded here. Please help Bryan by collecting as many signatures as you can and mailing the petition back to the address at the bottom of the page.