News & Politics

Congress May Not Interfere With DC’s Marijuana Decriminalization Legislation, After All

An amendment blocking the new policy will likely not make it out of the Senate.

Odds are Congress will leave town without carrying out Republican members’ threatened interference in the District’s gun laws or marijuana decriminalization legislation.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s amendments to a sportsman’s hunting bill, aimed at killing DC’s gun control laws, were rendered harmless when the hunting bill itself died Thursday afternoon.

Meanwhile, amendments offered by Maryland Representative Andy Harris that would defund the District’s pot decriminalization laws will almost certainly not make it past the Senate.

DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton doesn’t expect any other attempts to change the District’s regulation of firearms to succeed now that Paul’s gun amendments flat-out failed. “They’re becoming less and less serious,” she tells Washingtonian. “The NRA has gone on to other things.”

Harris’s amendment has a good chance of making it out of the House. The Republican, who represents counties around Baltimore and along the Chesapeake Bay, amended a House appropriations bill to prevent the District from using funds to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. That bill is likely to reach the House floor next week and get approved.

“I’m having to fight a little harder on that one,” says Norton.

But the Senate will not consider the spending legislation with Harris’s language. Senate appropriations committees are done for the year and cannot take up the House bills. Congress will most likely fund the government with short-term, continuing resolutions. These resolutions rarely include amendments like the one Harris attached.

“While our goal is to include this language in any bill that will fund the government after September 30,” says Harris’s spokesman Chris Meekins, “that question is still up in the air.”

Translation: Congress will not interfere with the District’s legislation, and possession of small amounts of pot will be decriminalized in the nation’s capital.