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White House drug czar: DC should be allowed to legalize marijuana

Michael Botticelli, acting head of the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Michael Botticelli, acting head of the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy.
The Washington Post via Getty Images

The head of the White House's drug policy office on Friday suggested Washington, DC, should be able to legalize marijuana without federal obstruction.

"As a resident of the District, I might not agree about legalization," Michael Botticelli, acting director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, "but I do agree with our own ability to spend our own money the way that we want to do that."

The White House showed similar support for DC home rule in previous statements. But the comments from the drug czar, a position typically held by hardliners in the war on drugs, signal a significant change in the politics of US drug policy.

In November, Washington, DC, voters overwhelmingly approved legalizing the possession, growing, and gifting of marijuana in the nation's capital. The initiative is currently in front of Congress for a mandatory 30-day review period; if Congress doesn't act — as is widely expected — it could become law in DC.

Congress passed a spending deal in December that attempted to block the legalization initiative from taking effect. But DC Council bypassed the spending deal, pushing the measure to the congressional review period anyway.

This is the second time this week the White House has made comments widely praised by marijuana legalization advocates. Earlier this week, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said "marijuana can be helpful" for some medical conditions and symptoms.

Further reading: 6 questions about Washington, DC, statehood you were too disenfranchised to ask.

Hat tip to Dan Riffle of the Marijuana Policy Project for tweeting about the comment, and Tom Angell of the Marijuana Majority for pointing out the CSPAN video.