Newspaper article Roll Call

Norton Raises Questions about D.C. Pot Rider in 'Cromnibus'

Newspaper article Roll Call

Norton Raises Questions about D.C. Pot Rider in 'Cromnibus'

Article excerpt

Updated 4:45 p.m. | Just hours after news broke that the House and Senate spending package included a rider targeting the District of Columbia's marijuana policy, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., raised questions as to how the rider's specific language would actually affect the District.

The rider prohibits federal and local funds from being used "to enact any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or reduce penalties associated with the possession, use or distribution" of marijuana in D.C.

At issue is whether the ballot initiative approved by nearly 65 percent of D.C. voters in November would need to be enacted after Dec. 11, when the new spending bill would take effect.

In the opinion of the House Appropriations Committee, the referendum is required to undergo a 30-day congressional review period before it can become law. Both Kentucky's Harold Rogers, R- Ky., and New York's Nita M. Lowey, the top House Republican and Democrat on the panel, concur that the spending agreement would prohibit federal and local funds from being used to implement the referendum.

But, after learning Norton's interpretation of the amendment, Lowey switched her position. According to her spokesman, Lowey agrees with Norton that the rider should not block the referendum from going into effect.

The District attorney general and the D.C. Council have yet to weigh in on the issue. But under Norton's logic, the initiative to legalize limited-home cultivation and possession of up to 2 ounces of marijuana was "self-executing."

Norton said she is disputing what she characterized as a Republican interpretation of the bill in a statement about 12 hours after the text was released. She said, "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."

Norton points out that the omnibus rider does not block D. …

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