DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: A proposal backed by most District of Columbia council members to decriminalize small amounts of pot may spur federal lawmakers to consider marijuana regulation for the first time since two states legalized recreational sales.
Congress has the power to block legislation approved by the Washington council. U.S. lawmakers can also stop local initiatives in the nation’s capital through the federal budget, which authorizes the city’s spending, as they did to stall the use of medical marijuana there for a decade.
The push to loosen local pot penalties, which few expect Congress to block, would set up what supporters say is the next step: legalizing recreational use. Growing support for legal pot and the billions in tax revenue and prison savings the change may bring has convinced some that Congress will ease laws.
“This is where you’re going to see federal movement coming in the next year or two,” said Erik Altieri, a spokesman for the Washington-based National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, which was founded in 1970.