Congressman Andy Harris (R-MD) has announced he will attempt to block Washington DC from implementing the marijuana law recently passed by the DC City Council and signed by DC Mayor Vincent Gray, which lowers the penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana to a misdemeanor.
How does he plan to do it? Harris sits on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, and says he plans to propose an amendment to an upcoming Financial Services and General Government funding bill (PDF). Since DC exists as a neo-feudal state that does not have elected congressional representatives, the US Congress has appointed themselves overlords of the district and reserve the right to approve or disapprove anything they do — including passing a budget.
According to a congressional staffer, Harris’s amendment would strike the word “federal” from a spending measure currently before the committee, which would prevent the district not only from spending federal funds to change drug-related penalties, but its own funds as well. It could also prevent DC from expanding its access to medical marijuana.
Harris was also a vocal critic of the Rohrabacher amendment that passed last month, which prevented the DEA from raiding marijuana dispensaries legally approved by the state they are in.
“Marijuana is not safe or legal. There is more evidence every day that it is not safe,” said Harris, who is a physician. What exactly that evidence is, he did not say.
Congress pulled a similar stunt ten years ago when it blocked DC from starting a medical marijuana program.
Harris’s move is ironic, because in his home state Governor Martin O’Malley recently signed a bill making possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana a civil offense rather than a criminal one.
“The Constitution treats the District of Columbia and Maryland differently,” says Harris.
So much for state’s rights.
Photo by Gage Skidmore under Creative Commons license