Norton to Defend D.C. Marijuana Legalization, Certified for November Ballot, from Congressional Interference

Aug 6, 2014
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – After the District of Columbia Board of Elections today certified an initiative for the November ballot to legalize marijuana in D.C., Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) said that she would fight any congressional attempt to block the District from voting on the initiative and, if it is approved by voters, implementing it.  The Office of Representative Andy Harris (R-MD), who sponsored a House-passed amendment to the fiscal year 2015 D.C. Appropriations bill that would block D.C. from using its local funds to decriminalize or legalize marijuana, told Roll Call that Harris would try to block legalization if the initiative appears on the ballot. 

“We will not let history repeat itself,” Norton said.  “Republicans tried to prevent D.C. from voting on an initiative in 1998 to legalize medical marijuana, and after voters approved it, blocked its implementation with an appropriations rider for more than 10 years.  We are not surprised that Republicans are threating to again use the power of the federal government to block the will of the voters of a local jurisdiction.  Many Republicans abandon their professed support of local control of local affairs when they have an opportunity to bully the residents of the District, who cannot hold them accountable at the ballot box.  We have already begun working with our allies to protect the will of D.C. voters.”

The Obama administration’s Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) on the House’s fiscal year 2015 D.C. Appropriations bill said it “strongly opposes” the bill’s prohibition on the District spending its own local funds to implement its local marijuana policies because it violates the “principle of States’ rights and of District home rule.”

This year, the D.C. government decriminalized marijuana 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, Blacks 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 Blacks. 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.