Norton Succeeds in Protecting D.C. Gun and Marijuana Laws in Spending Bill

Sep 10, 2014
Press Release
Historic provision also keeps D.C. safe from government shutdown

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Office of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) said that Norton was successful in keeping out the House-passed provisions prohibiting the District of Columbia from enforcing its own gun safety laws and from decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana from the fiscal year 2015 short-term continuing resolution (CR) released by the House yesterday.

“Yesterday’s victory was an important step in our efforts to protect the District’s right to self-government,” Norton said.  “Rep. Thomas Massie’s (R-KY) amendment that sought to block the city’s gun safety laws was a particular insult on two counts.  Public safety is a quintessential local concern because the public must have the confidence that those they elect will protect them from harm as they alone know it.  Second, the Massie amendment ran roughshod over the Home Rule Act, where Congress recognized the importance of local control by devolving local law-making to the District of Columbia.  Rep. Massie violated his own principles concerning deference to local government.  Rep. Andy Harris’ (R-MD) amendment singled out the District’s marijuana laws and tried to block decriminalization and legalization, notwithstanding the District’s racial justice reason for the two.  Before passage of the Harris amendment, the city provided statistics showing nine of ten residents arrested for marijuana-related instances were African American, even though Blacks and Whites use marijuana at the same rates.  Moreover, Rep. Harris’ action to impose his personal views was no more legitimate for D.C. than it was for the 18 states taking identical action.”

As a result of a provision Norton got included in the enacted fiscal year 2014 appropriations bill, even if Congress does not pass the CR and the federal government shuts down on October 1 or at any other point during fiscal year 2015, the District government will be able to continue to spend its own local funds and will not shut down.  Under the provision, the D.C. government, for the first time ever, is immune from shutting down during an entire fiscal year.  The pending House and Senate regular fiscal year 2015 D.C. appropriations bills include a provision that would allow D.C. to remain open for all of fiscal year 2016 even if the federal government shuts down.

In July, the House passed a fiscal year 2015 D.C. Appropriations bill that prohibits the District government, including the Metropolitan Police Department, from spending its local funds to enforce its local gun laws.  The bill also blocks D.C. from spending its local funds to decriminalize or legalize marijuana.