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Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

Representing the District of Columbia

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Norton Points out Members for Hypocrisy and Inconsistency on D.C. Marijuana Decriminalization Vote

Jun 26, 2014
Press Release
Norton Points out Members for Hypocrisy and Inconsistency on D.C. Marijuana Decriminalization Vote

Washington, DC – The Office of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today released the names of the seven Members of the House Appropriations Committee who voted yesterday to block the District of Columbia’s marijuana decriminalization bill despite the fact that their own states have either decriminalized or legalized marijuana.  The amendment, sponsored by Representative Andy Harris (R-MD), passed 28-21.  The members, all Republicans, are: Ken Calvert (CA), Jeff Fortenberry (NE), Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA), David Joyce (OH), David Valadao (CA), Harris, and Mark Amodei (NV).

“These Members violated their own principles of limited government by using the power of the federal government to dictate to a local government how it can use its own local funds,” Norton said.  “They apparently could not keep their own states from decriminalizing marijuana, so they have turned to a district where they are not accountable to the citizens to do what they couldn’t convince their own states to do.  Their constituents may be surprised to learn that their Members are spending their time interfering with the local laws of another district instead of devoting their time to issues affecting their districts and the nation.”

The hypocrisy displayed by Amodei exceeds that of the other Members.  Last month, he joined a majority on the House floor in favor of an amendment blocking the federal government from interfering with medical marijuana in those states in which it is legal, including his own state of Nevada.  “Just last month, Representative Amodei didn’t want the federal government interfering in the local affairs of Nevada, but yesterday he was quick to interfere with the local affairs of the District and to condone the federal government interfering in the local affairs of the District,” Norton said.  Norton also noted that three other Members who voted for the Harris amendment also voted in favor of the medical marijuana floor amendment.  The three members, all Republicans, are: Tom Graves (GA), Joyce, and Chris Stewart (UT).  Although their states have not passed laws permitting medical marijuana, they so subscribe to the principle of non-interference that they nevertheless voted against medical marijuana interference by the federal government, while enabling such interference into the affairs of the District.

“All of these Members justify their interference with the District by saying that they have the authority under the Constitution over the local affairs of the 650,000 Americans who live in the nation’s capital, an authority that only a tyrant could claim,” Norton said.  “However, Congress itself sought to take away the authority of the federal government to interfere with the local laws of the District when, in the Home Rule Act, it delineated areas where the federal government still had some rightful authority, such as the prosecution of local criminal laws by the U.S. Attorney, but not other purely local matters.”

The District’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.  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 try to block D.C.’s marijuana decriminalization bill.  For more than 10 years, Republicans used an appropriations rider to block the District from legalizing medical marijuana.  Norton was able to remove that rider in 2009.