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Norton: Negotiations Continue for D.C. Pot Rider

Norton has been talking with Reid about the rider. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Norton has been talking with Reid about the rider. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., on Tuesday responded to reports that negotiators have agreed to an appropriations rider targeting the District’s marijuana policy by saying nothing’s decided yet.  

“When I talk to Democrats they assure me negotiations are still continuing. And we certainly are continuing to fight and to talk to all the relevant leaders, particularly about our Initiative 71,” Norton said, referring to the D.C. ballot initiative legalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, which passed in November. Norton said her office was inundated with calls asking about rumors Democrats and Republicans agreed to block marijuana legalization in D.C. while allowing decriminalization to continue. Rumors of such a deal ignited a backlash from the marijuana advocacy community.  

But a source close to the negotiations confirmed to CQ Roll Call that the deal reached would allow the initiative to stand, while prohibiting the District from implementing a system to tax and regulate sales of marijuana. Norton said she had not heard if leaders were planning to attach that specific measure to the spending package, but she would be against limiting D.C.’s ability to legislate.  

“We are against pre-empting D.C. from doing what it hasn’t even done,” said Norton, “every bit as much as we are against taking out what we have done.”  

DC Vote, a group advocating for full District autonomy, echoed Norton’s sentiments that Congress should not interfere in home rule in a statement Tuesday.  

“Any attempt by Congress to pre-emptively block the elected government of the District of Columbia from passing any law is unconscionable.” said DC Vote Executive Director Kimberly Perry. “If reports are true, members of Congress from both parties bargained away the rights of the people of the District of Columbia and in doing so compromised the core democratic values of the United States.”  

Norton said she has been in constant communication with Democratic leadership, who have assured her they are rebutting GOP efforts to limit the District’s marijuana policy.  

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., also said Tuesday he has spoken with Norton about the issue. Though he is opposed to a rider targeting the District, he acknowledged if it is included in the spending package, it will be difficult to remove.  

“I am opposed to what the House is trying to do. If they put it in there, it’s going to be hard to take it out over here, but I oppose it,” Reid said.  

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report. 

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