Maryland Representative Andy Harris (R-1), the only Republican member of the Maryland Congressional delegation, believes that cannabis is a harmful drug that should not be legalized. He is using the same false scare tactics that anti-cannabis crusaders have used for decades. Cannabis activists, especially those in his district, are fighting back.
Harris first won election as the House Representative for MD-1 in November, 2011 and has held that office ever since. The 1st Congressional District comprises parts of Baltimore, Carroll and Hartford counties, and the Eastern Shore.
In 2014, he led efforts in Congress to block cannabis decriminalization in Washington, DC from taking effect by inserting an amendment in federal budget legislation. It prohibited Washington DC officials from spending the necessary resources that were allocated to them to enact the cannabis legislation law approved by voters. His rider restricts the law by only allowing citizens to possess or use small amounts of cannabis at home, but prohibits its promotion or sale for recreational use. He was able to do this as one of the 23 powerful members of the House Appropriations Committee (HAC). The HAC regulates the allocation of money by the US government.
Congress continues to uphold the spending measure restrictions engineered by Harris. This enrages DC cannabis activists. Representative Andy Harris should not unilaterally be able to decide what is best for them by overturning the law.
DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and other Washington lawmakers are working to defeat Harris’ rider from reappearing in future House spending bills. It expires in October, 2019 and will not be part of this year’s House spending bill. However, it could still slip through the final bill, with the Senate and White House in Republican hands.
Harris has described the legalization of cannabis as “irresponsible.” He cites warnings from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to substantiate his claims of its potential health hazards. They include potential deleterious cognitive effects on the brains of adolescents and young adults. Harris believes that cannabis usage is responsible for the high unemployment rate and low high-school graduation rate of blacks in DC.
Recreational cannabis legalization in Maryland has been on the table for years without much progress. However, Democratic leaders are considering allowing voters to decide via a statewide ballot amendment in 2020.
In response to Representative Harris’ actions, local Maryland cannabis activists are pushing back in very creative ways. This past April Fools’ Day, the activists posted on social media that Harris had resigned in order to lobby for a cannabis retailer, hastags #WOOHOO and #Rejoice.
One such activist is Adam Eidinger, a former Washington, DC head shop proprietor who is currently the social action director for a natural soap company. He even went so far as to rent space in Harris’ district so that he could not only vote against Harris, but organize others to do the same.
Others activists staged demonstrations by smoking cannabis while lying down in the hallway outside of Harris’ Washington, DC office. Things have gotten very testy, with accusations of bodily harm from both protesters and from Harris.
In the age of social media, everything is documented. A protester was found guilty of illegal wiretapping after he streamed a meeting with one of Harris’ staff without permission. He received a sentence of community service and probation time.
Harris has gone so far as to accuse the activists of “stalking” him while the protesters claim to be merely engaging in civil disobedience. They have made repeated attempts to have meaningful conversations with Harris at his town hall meetings. Harris wants to avoid explaining why he feels he has the right to subvert the will of the people by overturning a law that he does not like.
Eidinger is not giving up trying to unseat Harris. He will not renew the lease of his house in Salisbury, MD, where he worked to try to elect the Democratic candidate in 2018. She lost in the primary to another Democrat who was defeated by Harris. Eidinger plans to lease a house in Harris’ district in 2020. He believes that it will take a long time to unseat Harris as he remains a popular lawmaker in his district. However, Eidinger is committed to doing whatever it takes to do so.
Source: baltimoresun.com, Maryland Rep Andy Harris Has Become Public Enemy No. 1 for Marijuana Activists. How Did It Get So Personal? Jeff Barker, April 11, 2019