DC delegate girds for pot legalization fight

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) on Wednesday vowed to fight any effort by Republicans to block residents of the District of Columbia from voting on or implementing a proposal to legalize marijuana in the District. 

The delegate said in a statement she would "not let history repeat itself" after Congress blocked the legalization of medical marijuana in the district for nearly a decade. 

"We are not surprised that Republicans are threatening to again use the power of the federal government to block the will of the voters of a local jurisdiction," she said, adding, "We have already begun working with our allies to protect the will of D.C. voters.”

Her statement came shortly after the D.C. Board of Elections certified that supporters gathered enough signatures allow the legalization question to be placed on the November ballot. 

Earlier polling has shown residents overwhelmingly approve of legalization. Holmes Norton's office would not say whether she personally supports legalization, asserting only that she "supports D.C.'s democratic process and its right to self-government."

However, she championed an earlier marijuana decriminalization law for combating racial injustice.   

Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) has already vowed to try to block the proposal if voters approve it. 

"Yes. Congressman Harris will most likely continue the fight against the legalization of marijuana in D.C.," his spokeswoman, Erin Montgomery, said in an email. 

Harris successfully pushed to attach a proposal blocking funding for the marijuana decriminalization law to a House appropriation bill earlier this year. However, the Obama administration strongly opposes the measure. 

In March, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D) signed legislation to change penalties for marijuana possession, requiring only a $25 fine for those caught with small amounts of the drug. 

Holmes Norton also alluded to a 1998 ballot measure that would have legalized medical marijuana, one of the first in the nation. However, congressional appropriators blocked funding for the proposal until 2009. 

“We will not let history repeat itself,” she said. “Republicans tried to prevent D.C. from voting on an initiative in 1998 to legalize medical marijuana, and after voters approved it, blocked its implementation with an appropriations rider for more than 10 years.”

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