Norton to Fight Harris Amendment Blocking D.C. Marijuana Decriminalization Bill, Wednesday

Jun 24, 2014
Press Release
Norton to Fight Harris Amendment Blocking D.C. Marijuana Decriminalization Bill, Wednesday

Washington, DC -- The Office of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) announced that Representative Andy Harris (R-MD), a second-term tea party supporter, confirmed today to Roll Call that he will offer an amendment to the fiscal year 2015 District of Columbia Appropriations bill tomorrow to try to block D.C.’s marijuana decriminalization bill.  Norton warned D.C. residents earlier today that Republicans were considering offering such an amendment.  The bill will be marked up at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, June 25, 2014, in 2359 Rayburn House Office Building.

“Representative Harris is not only trying to overrule the will of my constituents, to whom he is not accountable, he is acting contrary to the laws of his own state, which recently decriminalized marijuana,” Norton said.  “It is particularly offensive that he is trying to impose on another Member’s district what he was unable to do democratically in his own.  Before tomorrow’s markup, I hope Representative Harris realizes that his amendment violates his own professed principles of local control of local affairs.  Even those who profoundly disagree on particular local laws adhere to the most basic American principle of local control.  Representative Harris can’t overturn the marijuana decriminalization laws of the 18 states that have decriminalized marijuana so he has stooped to using autocratic, anti-democratic power to seek to overturn our local laws.  His constituents are going to be surprised to learn that their Member, who argues for limiting the federal government’s power over even traditionally federal matters, is offering an amendment that would insert the federal government into a local government’s local affairs.   Representative Harris has been in Congress for two terms, but has only managed to introduce 10 bills this Congress, and he has not introduced a single amendment on the House floor this Congress.  Surely, he should spend more time focused on bills and amendments to benefit his own Maryland constituents instead of introducing an amendment that will harm minorities, especially African Americans, in my district.  Our allies in Maryland and across the country are prepared to help us prevent this amendment from being enacted.”

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.  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 decriminalization bill.

Published: June 24, 2014