A House committee has scheduled a hearing for May 8 on a recently passed law decriminalizing marijuana in the District — a move viewed with suspicion by local lawmakers who fear it may signal Congress‘ first step in attempting to overturn the legislation.
Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat and the District’s nonvoting congressional representative, said Wednesday that she will testify at the hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s subcommittee on government operations. A list of others who will testify was not available from the committee, though Ms. Norton said other local officials will participate.
The D.C. Council and mayor signed off on legislation this year that makes possession of 1 ounce or less of marijuana punishable by a civil fine of $25 while preserving criminal penalties for smoking pot in public. The legislation was transmitted to Congress on April 8 and is currently under a period of congressional review, a standard for most locally enacted laws.
Members of Congress could potentially derail the law by filing a disapproval resolution, though the difficult task would require approval in the House and Senate and the signature of the president. If no action is taken to otherwise block the law, it is expected to take effect on July 18.
But as Congress has a history of interjecting itself into local affairs in matters related to marijuana — a congressional rider postponed implementation of the city’s medical marijuana program for more than a decade — officials are skeptical of the motives.
“The hearing on D.C.’s decriminalization legislation is a unique and inappropriate overreach by Congress, targeting the marijuana laws of only one jurisdiction in a hearing before a national legislature,” Ms. Norton said in a statement. “We will insist on our rights as a local jurisdiction to be treated in the same way as the 18 states that have decriminalized marijuana and the two that have legalized marijuana.”