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Federal: Congress Attempts to Undermine District of Columbia's Decriminalization Law

Congressman Andy Harris (R-MD) has introduced an amendment to the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill, which includes D.C.’s local and federal funds, to restrict the city's ability to implement marijuana decriminalization and to hinder city officials from moving forward on further marijuana law reforms. 

"What the amendment will do is prohibit not only federal funds but D.C. funds to be used to decriminalize marijuana under the current statute,” said Rep. Harris.

The Harris amendment recently passed the House's Appropriations Committee in a 28 to 21 vote, with 27 Republicans and 1 Democrat voting in favor of it. The Appropriations bill now awaits action from the entire House of Representatives. If approved, it then has to pass a vote with the majority of the Senate, after which it still needs to be approved by President Barack Obama.

Harris’ rider was criticized by House Democrats across the country. Rep. José E. Serrano (D-N.Y.) called Harris’s amendment a misplaced effort by Republicans to appear tough on drugs. Rep. Serrano stated that Republicans’ interference amounted to D.C. “colonialism."

Longtime marijuana law reform supporter Representative Jim Moran criticized the move stating that, “The D.C. voters elected people. They made the decision, and it seems to me that we ought to respect that. It just doesn’t seem right that the Eastern Shore of Maryland can reach over into D.C. and make laws for D.C. It’s not the way this country is supposed to function.”

This action was also decried by the Washington Post Editorial Board in a recent opinion piece, writing that "the only thing that seemed to matter to House Republicans as they trampled on the District’s home rule is that they could. As Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) baldly put it: 'Whether or not we should do it, we can debate it, but we have the jurisdiction to do it.'"

District officials overwhelmingly approved legislation this spring to reduce marijuana possession offenses to a $25 fine-only offense. The new law is set to go into effect on July 17th, well before this amendment will be approved or implemented. However, passage of the amendment could jeopardize its continued implementation.

Please take a moment of your time to enter your zip code below and contact your elected officials to urge them to oppose federal government overreach into local DC laws.


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