Congresswoman Norton: Legal Weed in DC isn’t Dead Yet and CM Grosso: “Don’t Blunt D.C.’s Election”

Photo by PoPville flickr user Clif Burns

From a press release:

“Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today said that, contrary to press reports, it is far from certain that the fiscal year 2015 Omnibus Appropriations bill blocks the District of Columbia from legalizing marijuana, but she called on Democrats, who control the White House and Senate and whose votes will likely be necessary for House passage, to erase any doubt by eliminating all restrictions and uncertainty on D.C.’s marijuana laws.

“The Republican-led House Appropriations Committee says it believes the omnibus blocks D.C. from legalizing marijuana,” Norton said. “However, based on a plain reading of the bill and principles of statutory interpretation, the District may be able to carry out its marijuana legalization initiative. The House-passed D.C. marijuana rider, introduced by Representative Andy Harris, and the omnibus D.C. marijuana rider are not identical. Unlike the Harris rider, the omnibus rider does not block D.C. from ‘carrying out’ enacted marijuana policies. D.C.’s Initiative 71, it can be argued, was enacted when it was approved overwhelmingly by voters in November and was self-executing – i.e., it did not require enactment of any rules for its implementation. Therefore, it can be argued that the legalization of small amounts of marijuana can proceed.

“The District of Columbia government and its residents should never be put in the position of uncertainty of any kind about any of their local laws. To avoid any confusion and to protect the city’s home rule, I will offer an amendment at the Rules Committee today to strike the rider.”

And helluva a pun from a Council Member Grosso press release:

Grosso to Congress: Don’t Blunt D.C.’s Election

Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) issued the following statement on a potential rider on Initiative 71 that House Republicans are negotiating in the omnibus spending bill to prevent a federal government shutdown:

“It is disheartening and frustrating to learn that once again the District of Columbia is being used as a political pawn by the Congress. On Election Day, residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of Initiative 71, which would legalize the limited possession and cultivation of marijuana by adults who are 21 or older. To undermine the vote of the people–taxpayers–does not foster or promote the “limited government” stance House Republicans claim they stand for; it’s uninformed paternalistic meddling.

The members of Congress and the residents of the 50 states they represent do not have to deal with the significant and growing collateral consequences of the marijuana arrests and convictions in the District as a result of the failed “War on Drugs”. The people have spoken and they have voted. We are tired of a criminal justice system that has too often focused on vengeance and punishment, and does not allow for social and economic reintegration of returning citizens into our communities so that they do not turn to crime again. Initiative 71 was our start for a common sense approach to these issues. It’s about social justice.

The District’s medical marijuana program was delayed by Congress for over a decade and we will not stand by and allow this to happen again with Initiative 71. I urge the residents of this city to take a stand along with the Council in our continued fight for legislative and budget autonomy and call members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committee to ask them to pass a clean CR and leave the District of Columbia out of their politics.”

TAKE ACTION: Call and tweet the chairs and ranking members of the Senate and House Appropriations Committees to express your frustration with this proposal.

Senate Appropriation Committee:

Chair: Senator Barbara Mikulski, D-MD
(202) 224-4654

Ranking member: Senator Richard Shelby, R-AL
(202) 224-5744

House Appropriations Committee:
Chair: Rep Hal Rogers, R-KY

Ranking Member: Rep Nita Lowey, D-NY

70 Comment

  • Made my calls. I urge everyone to do the same.

  • It’s important that DC voters contact Congressional offices about this. Tweeting amongst ourselves and leaving comments to blogs will not make an impact in Congress.

    The best chance for the DC rider to be removed from the bill is probably at the House Rules Committee. That’s where Norton will introduce an amendment to remove the rider. So, in addition to contacting the House Appropriations Committee, I think people should melt down the phone lines for the House Rules Committee.

    The House Rules Committee phone line is 202 225 9191.

    The three most important Members of the Committee are
    – Rep. Pete Sessions (R), Chairman, 202 225 2231
    – Rep. Virginia Foxx (R), Vice-Chairman, 202 225 2071
    – Rep. Louise Slaughter (D), Ranking Member, 202 225 3615

    Talking points should be that this is not just about legalizing weed. This is about Congress perpetuating a big government nanny state, violating Home Rule and principles of federalism, and disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of American voters. They should support the Norton amendment to remove the DC rider from the CRomnibus.

    A surge of voter backlash direct to the Members’ offices may not work in the end, but it’s the only thing that will give Norton’s amendment a fighting chance. Spread the word.

    • Do you think that these members will really care about a bunch of non-constituents calling them? (This is a genuine question, not a snide comment.)

      • This is just my experience in 1 House office…but no. No, we never really cared when non-constituents called.

        It could be different in those offices, though!

      • They won’t care as much as they would if we were constituents. However, the difference here is that we’re calling about a particular provision that is specifically targeted at our district. Also, I think House Appropriations and Rules are used to getting calls from all over the country, since they deal with sprawling legislation.

        Again, the calls aren’t a game-changer (unless many, many people call in and email and raise hell). But it does help. And the alternative is demonstrating that DC voters’ response to disenfranchisement is to grumble quietly among ourselves.

  • called to support congress’s ban. thanks for the reminder!

    • Extremely shortsighted. You are not just supporting a ban on legalizing marijuana, but also a ban on even reducing penalties. Another provision in the CRomnibus (Sec. 806) would actually ban DC from using local funds to petition the federal government for voting rights! In supporting this ban you are supporting Congress’ power to nullify any action by our city government. Just remember this is a lot bigger than just pot.

      • your concern is noted, but so far they only seem to step in when i agree with them, so i’ll take my chances. I dont’ mind drug laws being federal.

        • Do you agree with the CRomnibus provision forbidding the use of DC or federal funds to petition the government for federal representation (Sec. 806 in the last draft I saw)? I presume you disagree with that, but have you called in about it?

          • Wait what? I have not heard about that provision!

          • SEC. 806. (a) None of the Federal funds contained in this Act may be used by the District of Columbia Attorney General or any other officer or entity of the District government to provide assistance for any petition drive or civil action which seeks to require Congress to provide for voting representation in Congress for the District of Columbia.

        • Accountering

          What a joke you are. They step in when you agree with them (presumably on abortion, needle exchange, here on marijuana) which were all things democratically decided. You were in the minority on those things, and the city saw fit to act differently. In that case, you are willing to let congress override the voice of DC voters, and usurp the democratic process to get your way? How childish. You are honestly worse than the republicans in congress. They think they should be doing this as they have some sort of responsibility too, you just don’t like democracy, and are willing to sell your fellow citizens up the river to accomplish it. Again, how childish.

      • clevelanddave

        No matter where you stand on this, the initiative was terribly worded and confusing.

        • Ummm….no it wasn’t. I can’t imagine many things being as straightforward and plain as the initiative. Don’t confuse your lack of knowledge about how the process works with what was actually written in the initiative.

    • Genuinely curious: Are you against marijuana decriminalization/legalization, or DC’s right to self-govern?

      • not an either or. Every state up until last year has thought they were subject to federal drug laws, not a DC rights issue at all – if anything, it’s going to make enemies we don’t need. But, for the record, pro-decriminilization, anti-legalization.

        • As noted, the CRomnibus rider you just called in to support bars DC from de-criminalization as well, not just legalization.

          • That too. I should’ve clarified that I was saying “decriminalization/legalization” because they are targeting both.

        • Even then, it’s a fundamental issue of fairness. Congress wouldn’t dream of the disregarding the will of voters in Colorado, Oregon, and Alaska, or of the 18 states that have decriminalized weed. Why is it acceptable for Congress to single out DC? Because they can? This is a DC rights issue. It’s the latest in a long line of instances where Congress has meddled in local DC affairs.

          • clevelanddave

            Oh yes they would, but the current interpretation is that enforcing the law is not a priority (except for certain circumstances, such as selling within 1000 feet of a school etc). So it is still against federal law to possess or to sell marijuana. Enforcement priorities could change. Further, there is a requirement that the rules created by states are “well regulated and enforced” and there is some question if that is in fact being done in Washington and Colorado.

        • I agree with you.

        • We aren’t a state. As everyone on Capitol Hill is so quick to remind us. So what other states do or do not do is irrelevant.

          That said, the federal government has allowed these states to self-determine on this issue and there is no reason they should not grant the 600K taxpaying residents of DC the same. It’s doubly insulting to do it considering no one has voting power in that building to represent our views.

          We either have home rule or we do not as far as I am concerned. If states can determine this issue without interference from the feds, there is no reason we cannot in DC.

    • Obvious troll is… obvious

  • I vote in support of the marijuana law. However, DC is a federal city subjected to Congress having oversight of all District laws under the ‘Home Rule Charter’ of 1973. There’s nothing that Eleanor Holmes-Norton can do. She gets no respect from both majority Republican houses.

    • She can introduce an amendment. That’s what she is doing. And if you support the law and any semblance of DC self-government, you should call the numbers above and say so.

      • +1000. Accepting the above as a given is ridiculous. The fact in 2014 over half a million taxpaying citizens of this country have absolutely no voting power in their own federal government in the nation that prides itself on leading the free world is mind boggling. The fact those half a million taxpayers put up with it is even more mindblowing.

        We need to grow a set and demand Congressional representation or elimination of the federal tax burden we carry. There is no in between if we are really a free people.

  • I’m not even a staunch democrat (more of an independent), but can I just say that Congressional Republicans are some of the most disgusting politicians in modern history? It’s hilarious how hypocritical they are– in theory all about local decisions over federal, self-determination, the spirit of “patriots”, etc. And then they do this. And this is just the most recent and blatant attempt. This happens all the time. It’s also pretty pathetic that Congressional Dems are gutless and/or just don’t care, and allow it to happen.

    Lastly, our democraZy is fundamentally broken. With gerrymandering now fully ingrained, we now how an engineered democracy that sends mostly die hard partisans who do not represent the nuanced opinions of the American center. And with money as speech and corporations as people, the laws will be made through the input of people and companies with the most money.

    • Follow the votes, $$$$$$$$$$$$ and power. That’s all the GOP cares about. Seriously, 80% of the GOP politicians don’t believe a damn word they say. And neither do their staff. Their words and viewpoints are for sale. Plenty of GOP operatives have told me the party establishment have personally supported gay marriage, drug legalization, and abortion for decades. But they need those wedge issues to garner votes and remain in power. It’s utterly gutless pandering.
      But I guess fundamentally that’s what being an American nowadays is all about – the right to stick your head in sand while the world is burning, so long as you can count your money.

    • You can say whatever you want, but doing so could make you appear unhinged or bigoted.

  • While I support the legislation, it seems we’ve already achieved de facto legalization. Does MPD even care any more? I’ve seen so many open smokers on the street, sitting at bus stops, etc. (including a cloud passing right in front of a gaggle of cops right in front of the Chinatown gate) that it doesn’t even seem to matter. (I realize that smoking on the street would still be illegal under the new law, but no one seems to care.)

    • Blithe

      Well, one reason it matters is because as long as it is a law — it can be legally enforced, however haphazardly, punitively, or unfairly. Yes, I’m thinking of the Eric Garner case as I write this. Your personal observations may — or may not — reflect the overall situation, and even if they do, moving from de facto to de jure (sorry if I’ve muddled the jargon, not my field) seems like the fairest, clearest way to go, IMO.

    • If criminalized, the police can still (and often do) use it as probable cause to search a person. Often police officers conduct warrantless stop and frisks based on the smell of marijuana or observation of someone smoking it. That usually gives them the ammunition to book someone on additional charges based on whatever they find during a search. Decriminalizing it would prevent police from using it to establish probable cause for a warrantless search.

  • I think we should all stop spending any money in Harris’ district. See map here

    • I think that is a great idea. I also liked Accountering’s idea of calling his office with concerns that I’d normally address to my local representatives.

    • justinbc

      I already spend 0% of my money there. Is there some way to spend less?

    • Maybe we should all donate to his primary opponent next time (assuming it’s a safe seat for the Rs). Even if the opponent were no better, DC could send a message by voting with its dollars that if you mess with us, we will mess with you.

    • That seems like it would amount to nothing more than a small, symbolic gesture. If anyone even noticed the decreased spending, would they know the reason, and even then would they care?

    • clevelanddave

      Yea, because there are a lot of people reading this blog who donate money to a random Maryland Republican congressman who wins his seat by a consistently wide margin.

  • Just finished making my calls in support of blocking the DC marijuana law. I’m glad Congress is stepping in to manage DC’s affairs. Seriously: until DC can figure out a way to bot have the worst public schools in the nation, sky-high crime rates, absurd amounts of litter and punlic urination, and constant street harrassment, punblic drunkenness, and corrupt / incompetent leaders, well…I just don’t think pot will improve those issues. I applaud Congress on this. Self-determination for DC sounds nice in theory, but the realities I see every day make it obvious that DC is simply unable to competently manage itself. Maybe we can revist the issue in 10 years.

    • Everything you wrote could be applied to nearly every major city in this country. New York, SF/Oakland, etc.
      All of them.

    • Clearly the education you received paid off. You almost had one coherent, correctly spelled sentence in that rant of stupidity.

      • justinbc

        I see several coherent, correctly spelled sentences in his/her rant.

      • I attended DC public schools, hth.

        It’s too bad that your feeble attempt to respond to my post relies on ad homs rather than anything relevant or substantive. So sorry about Congress disrupting the pot party you and the other deep thinkers had planned.

        • You think its about getting pot or being able to smoke it? I guarantee you that anyone who wants to get it and smoke it will do so, regardless of legality, and especially with decriminalization in effect. So naive.

          • clevelanddave

            Making something illegal generally makes it more difficult and more expensive to get. Anyone who does not believe that legalizing marijuana won’t make it more widely available and used by both adults and kids is fooling themselves.

    • You know what? I actually voted against the legalization measure, but I still disagree with everything you said. A majority of D.C. voters approved legalization, and thus it ought to go forward.

    • Yikes. Sounds like you should probably move huh?

    • Virginia’s last governor is going to prison on federal corruption charges, and you’re telling us that WE can’t govern? Okay, troll.

      • Yes, because a random event in VA is somehow relevant to the constant failures of DC government. Nice try, troll.

        • Clearly you haven’t heard of Chicago, IL.

        • Except it wasn’t a random event, it was an example of a systemic problem in Virginia. Guess we should take away their senators and representatives for ten years, until we can be sure they won’t be so corrupt again.

        • You just support a plantation culture of DC governance. Admit it, we know it.

      • clevelanddave

        Is it normal that everyone who disagrees with you is called a troll, no matter how articulate and thoughtful their comment is?

    • west_egg

      We are tax-paying citizens of the United States, just like the voters in Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Des Moines, Austin, Boulder, Los Angeles, Seattle, Anchorage and every other city and town in between.
      It’s completely asinine that Congress should exert this kind of control over DC residents. The provision in the Constitution dealing with Congressional oversight (1) was written without consideration that this city might some day grow 600,000 strong, and more importantly (2) is meant to protect the Federal government’s ability to operate within the city. The spending of local funds on the enactment of laws relating to marijuana (or abortion, or needle exchanges) has ABSOLUTELY. NOTHING. to do with whether or not the government can continue to do business here.
      That you think DC residents need to be “managed” like a bunch of children says more about you than it does about us.

      • clevelanddave

        We are a teeny, tiny place, less than 10 by 10 miles square, made from land given to the federal government by the states of Maryland and Virginia. There are many other cities that are much larger in terms of size and population. Should they be carved out and made states too? It seems fundamentally counterintuitive to me that being right here only a few miles from Congress that we do not, de facto, have more influence over the federal government than any other state or territory. Yes, we may only have a non-voting member in the house and a shadow senator but our ability to protest, to interact with members, to make our voices heard is far greater than those with more representation. My 2 cents.

        • west_egg

          Thanks for sharing your opinion, but I have to disagree. Yes, it’s easy for us to ride the train down to the Capitol and talk to the people who work there. Too bad they’re not listening. We can “interact” and “make our voices heard” all we want but they’re not accountable to us. They vote how the people in their home districts want them to (and that’s how it should be!). It’s easy for people in Alexandria to get there, too — shall we take away Virginia’s senators, then?
          You bring up square mileage. First proximity, now we have to meet some threshold set by ClevelandDave? But to answer your question — “Should [larger cities] be carved out and made states too?” — well, if any of them are in places where they don’t get to send voting senators and representatives to Congress, then we should fix that. If not, your comparison is irrelevant.
          That residents of the District are subject to Federal taxation and yet left without democratic representation in the Congress is unequal and wrong. Full stop.

    • Maybe we can revisit the issue of equality under the law in ten years. Maybe we can revisit the issue of taxation without federal representation in ten years. Maybe we can revisit the idea of self determination through the democratic process in ten years.

    • Yeah, let’s sweep this under the rug for another decade. 70% of voters voted for this.

      Just say no…to throwing more minorities in jail.

    • Accountering

      This one didn’t bother me in the least. He is clearly trolling. If not, you sir, are a fool.

    • Never presume that just because you disagree with an idea that you must be correct.

  • Here are the provisions:
    “SEC. 809. (a) None of the Federal funds contained in this Act may be used to enact or carry out any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution of any schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 801 et seq.) or any tetrahydrocannabinols derivative.
    “(b) None of the funds contained in this Act may be used to enact any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution of any schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 801 et seq.) or any tetrahydrocannabinols derivative for recreational purposes.”
    The first paragraph prohibits the use of federal funds to “enact or carry out” legalization or decriminalization. Paragraph (b) prohibits using DC funds to “enact” legalization or decriminalization. Both have already been “enacted” and so that term seems to have no effect. If Del. Norton is correct that the legalization initiative is self-executing, then the “carrying out” language shouldn’t prevent legalization. It would prevent the development of a regulatory system for sale and distribution.

  • I called. they told me to call Eleanor Holmes Norton. I expressed my displeasure with congress going against home rule and the results of an election that reflects the will of residents.

  • Pot is one issue and everybody is focused on that. What about the rider on abortion coverage ?
    This contempt for US citizens in DC is getting out of hand

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