Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 6, 2016

Andy Harris Ready to Treat ‘D.C. and Maryland Differently’ on Marijuana Policy

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Maryland Rep. Andy Harris plans to use his power as an appropriator to try to stop the District of Columbia from moving forward with decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana.

The Republican lawmaker confirmed to CQ Roll Call that he intends to introduce an amendment during a Wednesday markup of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill, which includes D.C.’s local and federal funds, to “target” decriminalization.

“What the amendment will do is prohibit not only federal funds but D.C. funds to be used to decriminalize marijuana under the current statute,” said Harris, a physician in his second term on the Hill.

The attack did not surprise Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., who has been prepared to defend the District’s decriminalization bill from the GOP since it was transmitted to Congress on April 8. The bill is currently in the midst of a 60-day review period.

“We will simply have to fight, and fight we will,” she said in a statement.

Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee singled out the D.C.’s legislation during a May 9 hearing to look at the implications of decriminalizing small amounts of pot in a city that is home to 26 different law enforcement agencies and the nation’s center of government.

Rep. John L. Mica, R-Fla., who chaired the panel with a fake joint in hand, confirmed Wednesday that he would support efforts to block decriminalization with an appropriations rider. He said the District has Home Rule but, “you don’t want the nation’s capital to become the nation’s drug capital.”

Fellow Republican John Fleming, a doctor from Louisiana and one of the House’s most outspoken pot critics, also said he would support the amendment. After the Oversight hearing, he had been considering other routes to block the bill, including a formal resolution of disapproval, which would be more challenging to pass.

Though the House voted less than a month ago to block the federal government from interfering with state laws on pot and hemp, Harris thinks the rest of his colleagues are likely to support blocking decriminalization in D.C.

“You have to separate medical marijuana from decriminalization, and I think what the House did is took an action that spoke I think very specifically to medical marijuana,” Harris said, referring to the May 30 vote. “I think when you go to decriminalization, I think the bar is much higher to make that happen.”

Back home in Maryland, Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley recently signed a bill to move possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana from a criminal to a civil offense. Harris said he opposed that move, and his amendment would “send a clear message, I think, that the House is not in favor of going any further.”

Norton said she hoped that D.C. was in good company with the 17 states that already decriminalized marijuana, and said it would be “particularly ironic and offensive” if the House votes to block D.C.’s local bill only a few weeks after moving to clear the way for medical marijuana in the states.

In response to such criticism, Harris told CQ Roll Call: “The Constitution treats the District of Columbia and Maryland differently.”

The activists at DC Vote, who are leading a coalition of 41 local and national groups in a campaign against appropriations riders on D.C., called Harris’ proposal “deeply offensive.”

“Just like in the states, the District’s elected leaders should determine practical policy related to local laws,” said DC Vote Executive Director Kimberly Perry.

Emma Dumain contributed to this report.

  • tennesseetuxedo59

    someday we’ll look back on this day and laugh as we spit on the grave of prohibition

  • claygooding

    The funny thing is that decriminalization will save tax dollars and here is a legislator that wants to continue spending it,,even willing to spend more to keep it from happening.

  • Hugh Stoner

    OK you now know who to vote out, Always find out your senator’s opinion on MJ. Vote losers like Harris and Mica out. They are working against the will of the electorate.

    • tennesseetuxedo59


  • AntiIgnorant

    “you don’t want the nation’s capital to become the nation’s drug capital.” Shouldn’t they be more concerned with the long standing image of being the nation’s corruption capital?

    Keeping marijuana scheduled with hard drugs is just meeting the corruption status quo.

    The majority of Americans support decriminalization, medical marijuana and outright legalization. The will of the people has reached a tipping point just like it did with alcohol prohibition. WAKE UP politicians!

    • tennesseetuxedo59

      were winning and Andy cant stop us

  • Zach

    So much for the party of less government.

  • Immortal Illumined

    the greatest plant in the universe is almost free, LET FREEDOM RING! 13

    ENLIGHTENMENT…i was a brainwashed evil, mean, christian conservative until i tried it at 17 years old…i hated gays, immigrants, women’s rights, blacks, marijuana, i was Rush Limbaugh’s #1 fan….until i smoked marijuana….changed the world, hope the EVIL POPE is enjoying the marijuana revolution around the globe, keeping the flock brainwashed and against marijuana, gays, and women’s rights

    1000s of my friends and family have grown 30-99 plants for 20 years, thanks for keeping prices high and NORCAL wealthy…#1 crop in cali = $15 Billion Untaxed…

    “any doctor against marijuana is a doctor of death” – cali secret 420

    from 0 states to half the country, from low 20% approval to almost 70%, cali runs this planet by 2 decades, time to tie marijuana to the 2014, 2016 elections, out with the old, in with the new

    20 years behind us southern states, sad and scary….nobody denies freedoms like the south, nobody…the top ten incarcerators on the planet are southern states and more blacks are in prison then were slaves before the civil war…even if marijuana reforms did pass the republiCANTS in charge would deny you all your freedoms, centuries of practice…no matter though, we never planned on getting your backwards brethren from day one, half the country already but not one southern state, lol…not 1….the new generations are taking over in the south and they are nothing like their freedom denying parents, let’s ride…

    Deaths by Alcohol: Millions
Deaths by Tobacco: Millions

    Deaths by Prescription Drugs: Quadrupled in last decade
Deaths by Guns: Millions
Deaths by the food we are fed: Millions
Deaths by Marijuana: 0, ever…they are killing my American family while denying freedom

    love and freedom forever, marijuana revolution 2014


    • tennesseetuxedo59

      good job but leeching off smokers , esp patients is hypocritical

  • citizenw

    “The Constitution treats the District of Columbia and Maryland differently.”

    Yes, it does. Separate and Unequal. Like it once did for blacks (Dred Scott) and women (Minor v. Happersett) –qv– And just as wrongly.

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