Dem infighting over DC pot law

Dem infighting over DC pot law
© Thinkstock

Washington's lone voice on Capitol Hill is sounding off against fellow Democrats who would accept a Republican proposal to undermine marijuana legalization in the nation's capital. 

Del. Eleanor Holmes NortonEleanor Holmes NortonBicameral group of Democrats introduces bill to protect immigrant laborers Overnight Energy: Mark Ruffalo pushes Congress on 'forever chemicals' | Lawmakers spar over actor's testimony | House Dems unveil renewable energy tax plan | Funding for conservation program passes Senate hurdle Maloney wins vote for Oversight chairwoman MORE (D-D.C.) said she can’t confirm reports that bipartisan negotiators working on a year-end spending package have included language to restrict Washington's new law to legalize small amounts of the drug for recreational use. 

ADVERTISEMENT

But the 12-term Democrat was incredulous that lawmakers in her own party would ever agree to such a measure while Democrats still have power in the Senate and White House, as well as leverage in the government spending debate.

“I do not know why Democrats would agree to block legalization while we still control the White House and we still control the Senate,” Norton said at a press conference scheduled hastily in the wake of the reports. “Who knows, they may need Democratic votes to even pass this omnibus. So I cannot tell you why Democrats would even want to give Republicans a head start on doing what they're going to be able to do, I suppose, in less than a month.”

D.C. voters last month overwhelmingly approved a measure permitting those over 21 to possess up to two ounces of marijuana, grow a small number of cannabis plants in their homes and transfer up to an ounce of the drug to another adult — if no money accompanies the exchange.

The referendum passed by a margin of 65 to 27 percent, with the balance of voters declining to weigh in.

Many Republicans have pounced, arguing that the new leniency is a public health threat, especially to teenagers and other youngsters.  

Several Republican appropriators — including Reps. Hal Rodgers (Ky.), the committee chairman, and Andy Harris (Md.) — have pushed to scale back the law as part of the GOP's government-funding bill, which is expected to be released Tuesday evening.

Several media outlets reported Tuesday that the Republicans have attached a provision allowing the legalization measure to remain, but denying D.C. the funding needed to tax or regulate the new law moving forward.

Democrats have publicly hammered such proposals, arguing, among other things, that they defy the wishes of D.C. voters. 

Still, some Democrats conceded that it would be hard to fight the GOP amendment if Republican leaders are able to push it through the House as part of the cromnibus.

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidNevada journalist: Harry Reid will play 'significant role' in Democratic primary The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - A crucial week on impeachment The Hill's Morning Report — Pelosi makes it official: Trump will be impeached MORE (D-Nev.) said Tuesday that he is opposed to the rider, but acknowledged, “If they put it in over there it will be hard to take out over here.”

House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump trade deal likely to sow division in Democratic presidential field Trump supporters at Pa. rally 'upset' after Democrats introduce impeachment articles California GOP candidate arrested on stalking charges MORE (D-Calif.) is another vocal critic of the Republican push. On Friday she warned that “destructive riders” could sink the package. She specifically named efforts to block D.C.'s newly enacted law legalizing marijuana, citing “concerns about treating the District of Columbia in a fair way [and] respecting home rule.”

Still, she emphasized that no one rider is a deal-breaker for the Democrats. And all sides are eager to pass the spending bill this week and get out of town for the long holiday break.

Norton, for one, thinks that's a mistake. 

“I would be very disappointed if our … 70-percent approved legalization referendum went down on the Democrats' watch.”

— Vicki Needham contributed.