President Obama opposes a measure in a congressional spending plan that would block the District from legalizing marijuana — but he won’t veto the $1.1 trillion plan over it.
“We do not believe Congress should spend a lot of time interfering with the ability of the citizens of the District of Columbia to make decisions related to how they should govern their community,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said at a Thursday briefing.
Despite reservations about the budget rider — just a small component of a 1,600-page spending plan — Mr. Earnest said the president would sign the proposal if it lands on his desk.
Marijuana legalization was approved in a Nov. 4 referendum by 70 percent of D.C. voters.
Republicans have sought to block legalization from taking effect in the District by inserting a budget rider in the spending plan that prevents the city from spending its own money to enact legislation that would loosen drug penalties.
Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s nonvoting congressional representative, tried but failed to remove the restrictions from the bill on Wednesday. She has floated a theory in the meantime suggesting that the District has already enacted the referendum by manner of its passage by D.C. voters and that the bill in question would not be able to block it.
However, the D.C Council has yet to transmit the referendum to Congress for a mandatory congressional review period, and Republicans have argued that under the rider the city would be banned from so much as spending money on postage to mail the referendum to Congress.
Mr. Earnest reiterated that Mr. Obama is supportive of the District’s desire for statehood adding, “We do believe this kind of congressional interference does interfere with this home rule principle of which the president is strongly supportive.”