Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

Representing the District of Columbia

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Norton Alerts Residents to Expect a Fight Over Republican Amendment to Block D.C.’s Marijuana Decriminalization Bill, Wednesday

Jun 24, 2014
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – The Office of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) was informed today that Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee are considering offering an amendment to the District of Columbia Appropriations bill on Wednesday to block the District from implementing its local marijuana decriminalization bill.  While no amendment has been filed yet, reports of an amendment from multiple sources compelled Norton to alert D.C. residents of the risk.  The bill will be marked up at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, June 25, 2014, in 2359 Rayburn House Office Building.

“Considering the recent House hearing on the city’s decriminalization bill, but on none of the states that have decriminalized marijuana, we certainly are not surprised, and we have been preparing for Republicans to try to block D.C.’s marijuana decriminalization bill,” Norton said.  “I had hoped that D.C. was in good company with the 17 states that had decriminalized marijuana before the city did.  It would be particularly ironic and offensive if only a few weeks after the Republican-led House approved an amendment to block the federal government from prosecuting users and sellers of medical marijuana in states that permit it those same members voted to block D.C.’s local marijuana bill.  However, it took us more than 10 years to remove the congressional prohibition on implementing our medical marijuana law.  We cannot depend on consistency or an aversion to hypocrisy to save our law.  We simply have to fight, and fight we will.”

The city’s local officials passed the marijuana decriminalization legislation largely to combat racial injustice. A 2013 study by the American Civil Liberties Union of the Nation’s Capital found that, in the District of Columbia, where about half the residents are Black, African Americans are eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than non-Blacks, and in 2010, 91% of all marijuana arrests in D.C. were of African Americans. 

Twenty-three states have legalized medical marijuana, 18 states have decriminalized marijuana, and two states have legalized marijuana.  Indeed, a February 2014 Pew Research Center poll found that 54% of Americans support marijuana legalization.

D.C.’s marijuana decriminalization bill is undergoing a 60-day congressional review period and is expected to take effect in mid-July.  As expected, Republicans are using a rider rather than the disapproval process set forth in the Home Rule Act to block D.C.’s decriminalization bill.

Published: June 24, 2014