Norton Calls Cannabis Reform a Civil Rights Issue and Urges Jurisdictions to Conduct Studies on Racial Disparities in Cannabis Arrests

May 17, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today joined the National Cannabis Industry Association and her fellow members of the bipartisan Congressional Cannabis Caucus at a Capitol Hill press conference.  Norton called on Congress to act on responsible cannabis reform for the country and to remove the undemocratic appropriations rider that blocks the District of Columbia from spending its local funds to tax or regulate marijuana. 

Norton’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below.

“I welcome the National Cannabis Industry Association and its leaders to the nation’s capital, and thank you for leading the charge for responsible cannabis reform in the states and here in Congress.  Momentum for action is at a historic high, with eight states and the District of Columbia having legalized cannabis for recreational use, four states in 2016 election alone.  Public support is on our side: 94 percent of Americans support allowing adults to legally use cannabis for medical purposes, and 57 percent of Americans support legalizing cannabis altogether.  District of Columbia residents overwhelmingly voted in a referendum to legalize cannabis.  In the District of Columbia, we discovered another vital reason to make use of cannabis legal.  Two independent studies found racial disparities in the enforcement of marijuana laws in the District—91 percent of all cannabis-related arrests in D.C. were of black residents, even though blacks and whites use marijuana at the same rate—making cannabis reform a civil rights issue in our city.  I urge cannabis advocates and my colleagues to conduct similar studies in their jurisdictions on the impact of continued cannabis criminalization on African Americans and other minority communities.  We are continuing to make strides as our coalition broadens and as more states legalize cannabis.”