Holmes Norton skeptical of hearing on DC pot

Anne Wernikoff

The lone congressional delegate from Washington, D.C., warned that a House hearing next month could be the first step in an attempt to overturn the district's decriminalization of marijuana. 

Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) is slated to testify in May at a House Oversight subcommittee hearing on the decriminalization bill that passed the city council and was signed by Mayor Vincent Gray (D) earlier this month. 

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Holmes Norton said it is inappropriate for the Government Operations panel to single out the district's legislation for a hearing when 18 states have also decriminalized the drug and 21 have approved medical marijuana. 

"There is nothing that distinguishes the District from these states except for Congress’s illegitimate power to overturn the democratically enacted local laws of the District," she said in a statement Tuesday. 

Washington state and Colorado have also both legalized the drug for recreational use. 

"It is appropriate for Congress to examine how the Obama administration will enforce the federal prohibition on marijuana in jurisdictions that have legalized or decriminalized it, as the subcommittee has done in two hearings this Congress," she added. "It is also appropriate to examine whether the federal marijuana prohibition preempts such local laws, but no local officials were called to testify at those hearings."

Holmes Norton has celebrated the passage of the D.C. legislation, saying enforcement of marijuana laws have a disproportionate effect on the black community. 

Rules governing the District allow Congress to review the legislation for 60 days before the proposal becomes law. It would be unusual for Congress to attempt to block the legislation, requiring action from the House and Senate as well as the signature of the president, which has not happened in more than two decades. 

The House subpanel has held a number of similar hearings about the discrepancies between federal and state law as decriminalization and legalization have become increasingly common in states around the country. 

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said earlier this month he would not comment on the substance of the D.C. proposal until after the hearing.

Holmes Norton did applaud Government Oversight subcommittee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) for letting her testify. She has blasted the House Judiciary Committee in the past for restricting her testimony at other hearings affecting the district.

— Updated 9:25 a.m.