Harris wrangles with D.C. officials over marijuana decriminalization

Some call for boycott of Eastern Shore in protest

July 03, 2014|By John Fritze, The Baltimore Sun

WASHINGTON — — A proposal by a Maryland congressman to block the decriminalization of marijuana in the District of Columbia has devolved into a war of words — with some D.C. advocates calling on Washingtonians to boycott the beaches of the Eastern Shore this summer in protest.

Rep. Andy Harris, Maryland's only Republican in Congress, set off the controversy last week by attaching an amendment to a federal funding bill that would stop the district from enforcing the decriminalization law signed by Mayor Vincent Gray in March.

City leaders reacted angrily at what they view as the latest attempt by Congress to overrule their local authority.

"I'm deeply disappointed that the will of District voters is once again under assault by a member of Congress out to score political points," Gray said in a statement Thursday. "I urge every American who cares about fairness and democracy to stand up to this hypocrisy and bullying."

Gray, a Democrat, stopped short of calling for a boycott of Ocean City and other beaches in Harris' district. But some, including the advocacy group DC Vote, have issued such a call.

Harris, meanwhile, has stoked the debate.

"People aren't going to stop coming [to the shore] from the District — people actually want to get away from some of the problems in D.C. that the mayor has not been able to solve," Harris told a Washington television station Thursday. "We don't have the crime problem that D.C. has."

Despite the kerfuffle, Harris' proposal stands almost no chance of becoming law. Congress is unlikely to take up the underlying appropriations bill — and if it did, the provision would not likely survive in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

But the effort has brought significant attention to Harris at a time when he is running to lead the Republican Study Committee, a caucus of conservative House members that wields considerable influence in the chamber.

The District law is expected to take effect in mid-July. Harris' effort comes months after Maryland made possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana a civil offense.

For the time being, Harris doesn't appear concerned about a boycott of the beaches.

"I'm on the road heading to the Shore from D.C. and traffic is really heavy," the congressman tweeted Thursday night. "Too many D.C. plates."



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