Obama: Congress should stand down on DC pot law

President Obama believes Congress should not interfere with local District of Columbia law, the White House said Thursday as lawmakers were poised to pass a budget deal blocking a measure that would legalize marijuana in the capital city.

Press secretary Josh Earnest said that the president generally backed D.C. statehood and that the administration did “not believe Congress should spend a lot of time interfering with the citizens of District of Columbia.”

Asked specifically if Obama backed the marijuana referendum, Earnest noted that the legalization measure had succeeded on the ballot last month and that the president believed, “on principle,” Congress shouldn’t intervene with home rule.

But Earnest also said that the president supported the $1.1 trillion spending bill that would overturn the legalization measure.

The “cromnibus” bill includes provisions prohibiting the use of federal and local funds “to enact any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or reduce penalties associated with the possession, use or distribution” of marijuana.
And House Republicans voted down an amendment offered by D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) at Wednesday’s Rules Committee markup to strike the rider. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said he does not support the measure but that it would be difficult to remove from the spending bill.

In an interview with The New Yorker earlier this year, Obama appeared to tacitly endorse a Colorado referendum that legalized marijuana in the state.

The president said that it was “important for it to go forward because it’s important for society not to have a situation in which a large portion of people have at one time or another broken the law and only a select few get punished.”

In the same interview, Obama said he did not think pot was more dangerous than alcohol, although said he still saw use as “a bad habit and a vice.”

But the president later told CNN that “what is and isn’t a Schedule I narcotic is a job for Congress.”

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