Can Andy Harris Go Back in Time and Stop D.C. From Decriminalizing Marijuana Possession? [UPDATED: White House Defends Marijuana Federalism]


Office of Andy Harris

The District of Columbia's marijuana decriminalization ordinance, which makes possession of up to an ounce a citable offense punishable by a $25 fine, takes effect this Thursday. The D.C. Council approved the law in March, and Congress had 60 legislative days to override the change through a joint resolution. Since it declined to do so, that's that. Or is it?

On June 25 the House Judiciary Committee approved an amendment introduced by Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) that would prohibit D.C. from spending public money "to enact or carry out any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution" of marijuana or any other controlled substance. Even if Harris' amendment is approved by the full House and becomes part of an appropriations bill that the Senate passes and the president signs, it's not clear that it would accomplish what Harris wants. The amendment would not take effect until after the penalty for possession is reduced, at which point it will be more expensive to start arresting pot smokers again than it would be to continue with the new policy. In what sense does not arresting and prosecuting people for marijuana possession result in an additional expenditure of public funds?

Pot busts are a touchy issue in D.C.  because 91 percent of them involve blacks, who represent half of the city's population and, according to survey data, are no more likely than whites to smoke pot. Furthermore, Harris' own state of Maryland, which adjoins D.C., decriminalized marijuana possession this year, making possession of up to 10 grams a civil offense punishable by a $100 fine rather than a misdemeanor punishable by a $500 fine and up to 90 days in jail. So what is Harris' problem? He argues that a $25 fine is so low that it will encourage teenagers to smoke pot. "Society has some responsibility for protecting minors," he recently told The New York Times. "I think the D.C. law protects them in no way, shape or form." According to Harris, then, cops in D.C. should continue arresting adults for smoking pot—to protect the children.

Mayor Vincent Gray, who has urged D.C. residents to protest Harris' position by boycotting beaches in his Eastern Maryland district, argues that attempting to override the decriminalization measure is undemocratic, even if Congress has the power to do so under the Constitution. "He is interfering with democracy in this city, and we want people to understand how we feel about it," Gray told the Times. "Shouldn't the people of the District of Columbia in a democracy be permitted to make decisions? We have more people in the District of Columbia than in the whole state of Wyoming or in Vermont. I can't imagine Representative Harris feels he ought to interfere in the business of those two states."

I can, depending on the policies those states adopt. Harris thinks the feds should prevent states from implementing medical marijuana laws, for example. 

Addendum: The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA)  points out that Harris' rider could interfere with implementation of Initiative 71, a D.C. ballot measure aimed at legalizing possession and home cultivation (but not sale) of marijuana, if voters approve that measure this fall. Last week the initiative's supporters submitted 57,000 signatures, more than twice the number needed to qualify for the ballot.

Addendum II: In a statement issued today, the White House criticizes the Harris amendment, saying:

The Administration strongly opposes the language in the bill preventing the District from using its own local funds to carry out locally passed marijuana policies, which…undermines the principles of States' rights and of District home rule. Furthermore, the language poses legal challenges to the Metropolitan Police Department's enforcement of all marijuana laws currently in force in the District.

As far as I can recall, this is the first time the Obama administration has explicitly invoked federalism (as opposed to, say, Justice Department priorities) in the context of marijuana reform. "The statement calls marijuana reform a 'states' rights' issue," DPA notes, describing that as "a groundbreaking policy position for the White House to take." The shift in rhetoric is welcome, although it's a bit strange in this context, since the District of Columbia does not enjoy the same autonomy as states do under the Constitution.

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  1. You see, this is why Republicans are the STUPID party, not only are they the STUPID party, They are THE STUPID FUCKING PARTY.

    Thanks, Republicans, for making yourself so damn reprehensible, that all of your better ideas on economics are a moot point, because you make people want to vote for communists over your candidates.

    1. ^^ Yup. They just can’t help themselves with the social engineering. Neither can the dems, but after the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the dems figured out how to do a slightly better job of shamelessly pivoting to the popular position.

    2. They don’t have better ideas on economics. The subscribe to a different set of rhetorical talking points about economics. They’re as clueless as every other scumbag who signs up to “run the country”.

    3. Do you really think they’re stupid? Could it not be that, regardless of the general voting popul’n’s opinions, among those who would change their vote based on this issue, more of them would change their vote to an anti-pot candidate than a pro-pot one? And remember, these theoretic vote changes don’t occur in vacuo, but in the context of people who are already likely to vote for the candidate of one party or the other.

      Or are you referring to the grass roots as the stupid party? Then there are yet other consider’ns. Since there appears to be some non-randomness in the sorting of positions of voters according to party, there must be some reason for it, and I don’t think it’s the intelligence of the party members.

    4. It’s not just Repuglicans. The Dems in my fair city decided, after the city electorate legalized it within the city, to just ignore it and keep enforcing prohibition by applying the state (misdemeanor) law.

    5. In DC you can also vote for (or donate to!) a full slate of Libertarian candidates…..ana-rider/

  2. Does anyone know if Andy Harris likes getting tongue-punched in the fart box?

    I mean, I keep hearing things, but know one seems to know for sure.

    1. I’m pretty sure he hasn’t denied it.

    2. That could explain the look on his face

    3. Is that anything like getting “tongue jacked in the shitbox”?

      Pretty sure it is, and I’ve never heard Harris deny he loves it.

      1. It’s very, very close. One involves an all-you-can-eat Indian buffet.

        1. Man, I hate curry.

            1. HE HATES CURRY. So do I.

              1. There’s no need to shout. I’m reasonably certain HM can read down-caps.

                1. BTW, re: your article in the PM links

                  “The woman who accused Bright Eyes frontman Conor Oberst of rape, flat out LIED … and lied to get attention.”

                  But there’s nothing to gain from lying, right?

              2. How can you hate something as broad as curry?

                I don’t like food that has been seasoned with a broad variety of herbs and spices or cooked in a non-Italian simmer sauce!

                1. Some people really don’t like certain textures. I know someone who hates soup. All soup.

                  1. Soup is NOT good food.

                    More of a drink, actually.

                    1. A good tortilla soup qualifies as food.

                    2. Its what’s for dinner!

                      Seriously. That’s what I’m having for dinner today.

                    3. I’m making sketty as I have extremely limited culinary talents, yet my wife insists I occasionally cook.

                    4. How limited are we talking?

                      Thin chicken breasts, dredge in seasoned flour (flour, salt, fresh ground pepper), dipped in egg, dredged in bread crumbs, fry with a high smoke-point oil and maybe a bit of butter. When it’s mostly cooked squeeze some lemon in it and serve with pasta tossed with butter, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.

                      It’s one of those meals I and my siblings learned how to make as a kid, can’t really be fucked up (unless you really over cook the chicken) and impresses the hell out of our various dating partners.

                    5. A good tortilla soup qualifies as food.

                      Wait, which style are you talking about? I have a preference for the masa harina as thickener/chowder texture tortilla soup, but people seem to really like the chicken broth with tortilla strips variety.

                      If I want a can of campbell’s chicken noodle soup with stale tortilla chips on top, I’ll stay home, thank you very much.

                    6. I take leftover El Pollo Loco chicken legs and thighs, whack them with a cleaver, and simmer them in a pressure cooker with water, salt, msg, Vegeta Seasoning, garlic, onion, carrot, celery, basil, and bay leaf. After an hour at high pressure, I skim, de-fat, and strain. The stock should be strong enough to turn into chicken jello if chilled.

                      I add 1-2 corn tortillas to the stock and puree with a hand blender. To that, I add fresh diced tomatoes, coarsely chopped cilantro, minced onion, avocado wedges, mexican cheese (quesodillo or pepper jack), diced poblano, and shredded chicken.

                      It’s a lot of work, but worth it.

                    7. Short answer: masa as thickener.

                      And now I’m hungry. Ass.

                    8. A good tortilla soup qualifies as food.

                      Looks more like a stew to me. Stew is good food.

                    9. What about pho? That’s a complete meal in my book. If it were cooler out, I would be having pho right now…

                  2. Some people really don’t like certain textures.

                    Since I was a kid, I couldn’t eat eggs by themselves. Cooked into something, no problem. In a breakfast sandwich, okay. But trying to eat eggs as an entree activates my gag reflex.

                2. To be honest, I don’t like most Indian food (Tandoori and Naan excepted).

                  I could learn to like Thai curry if I worked really hard at it.

                  1. Thai curry is curry in name only. The only Thai curry that approximates the Indian is Massaman.

                    I’m guessing you doing like thick sauces?

                    1. It’s more of a flavor thing than a texture thing. I have all kinds of thickeners in the cupboard, including xanthan gum, agar, potato starch, and corn starch.

                  2. What about Japanese curry? I’m not entirely sure how it isn’t just “stew”.

                    Tangentially related because I’m talking about food: Cork’er

                    They opened an Irish cafe right by the Galleria in the Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore building. I was wondering what they were putting in when I tried to get a coffee there whilst sexiled a few months ago. The reviews sound appetizing.

                    1. Benedict looks good.

  3. The Office of Andy Harris needs to consult its Department of Andy Photos to re-consult about what constitutes his ‘best look’.

    Because Office of Andy? You Done Fucked Up.

    He looks like he’s thinking “My God, I hope no one learns what I’ve done”

    1. I’m guessing that of all the photos they had, this is the one where his face is least punchable. Fail. I still want to punch him in the face very badly.

      1. Yeah, punchable, very punchable.

    2. You to realize that is not a picture of Andy Harris, but rather a picture of Andy Harris’ office, just like it says. No one knows why Andy Harris ordered his office to be built as an exact replica of his head and face with an expression one has when the dog is digging in the backyard exactly where you buried that little boy whore after you choked while high on Ketamine, but that is a picture where Andy Harris works, not Andy Harris himself. No one has seen Andy Harris in public since that fateful night in May.

    3. “He looks like he’s thinking “My God, I hope no one learns what I’ve done””

      When you’re in the elevator and it begins to smell? That’s the face you look for.

  4. Proposed: Amendment XXVIII to the United States Constitution

    “The use of the phrase “for the children” by any federal, state, or local government official, or the proposal of “_______’s Law” (or any law named after a dead child) by any federal, state, or local elected official, shall be punishable by tarring and feathering”

    Every time I think that Team Blue is so incompetent that this November’s election can’t be anything but a Team Red rout, the fine denizens of Team Red step up to show just how stupid they can be.

    1. I’d like to offer a pre-amendment to Amendment XXVIII. In my proposed pre-adendment to the amendment, I’d like to change this language:

      “The use of the phrase “for the children” by any federal, state, or local government official, or the proposal of “_______’s Law” (or any law named after a dead child) by any federal, state, or local elected official, shall be punishable by tarring and feathering”


      Any use of any terms at all not specifically included in a REPEAL of an existing law, shall be punishable by tarring and feathering.

      In addition, not attempting and SUCCEEDING in repealing at least 100 existing laws in any calendar year, shall result in tarring and feathering of ALL congress critters, after they are done with being water boarded and paraded down main street of every major city in the US, naked except for a giant dunce cap worn on their head.

      This isn’t any time for beating around the bush, let’s cut straight to the chase.

      1. Thoughts on both your comments:

        a. 100/year is, at least, an order of magnitude too low.

        b. Tar and feathering is a cruel and unusual punishment. I therefor suggest death. And the state of forfeits it’s right to a replacement for a period of 10, or should it be 20, years for being stupid enough to elect such an individual.

        1. Well, I would have to agree that 100 a year might be too slow of a rate to get us to anything reasonable in the lifetime of anyone who is alive now.

          How many federal laws are the books? How many do we need in a modern society? I bet that 100 or fewer would probably cover just about everything.

          I haz a disappoint about the tar and feathering, though. Can you even imagine anything more entertaining and downright satisfying that seeing some of our esteemed members of congress paraded down Pennsylvania Ave in tar and chicken feathers? I can’t.

  5. Why the photo of the childe molester with this article? Or is that not a childe molester?

    Looks like a child molester to me. And I have no evidence that it is NOT a child molester.

  6. Fuck Andy Harris

  7. Can’t wait till Harris gets busted for having Oxy in his car while he’s driving drunk.

    Fucking prick.

    1. I’m hoping for a dead girl or a live boy.

      1. But that’s good for the family values conservatives. A guy like Harris definitely needs a DUI arrest where pills are found in his car.

        1. The dude’s an anesthesiologist, I’m sure he has the good shit at home.

  8. Congress had 60 legislative days to override the change through a joint resolution.

    I giggled!

  9. Hmm? Fishing or TI?

    *pours drink*

    Dilemma solved.

    1. Do you always catch and release? If your wife makes you cook, why not grill a trout (preferably with a cajun rub)?

      1. I don’t like fish much. Batter fried…meh…okay, but not baked or broiled.

        In light of that, killing a trout is heresy. Much rather catch it a second time. If I hook one badly and accidentally kill it, I bring it home to the missus.

        1. Hmmm. How about one of the best foods on the planet: Fish Tacos?

          1. Fish in Mexican is wrong. Wrong like two boys in a tub. 😉

            1. Nothing in your post makes any sense to me.

  10. spending public money “to enact or carry out any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution”

    As drafted, it doesn’t seem to allow for netting out the costs of the old law.

    But let’s think about this. Its too late to prevent the enactment, so we’re just talking about implementation. Since the new, lower fine is now on the books, what they’ve done is prohibited DC from enforcing the new, lower fine.

    Essentially, they’ve taken DC from “decriminalizing” small amounts of pot, to completely legalizing small amounts of pot.

    People say the Repubs are anti-pot, but it looks to me like they’ve really moved the ball in the right direction here.

    1. There is no cost at all to leaving people the fuck alone, and allowing them to choose what they want to put into their own bodies. There is only savings.

      People say the Repubs are anti-pot

      Except for the libertarian wing of the party, they are, there is no ‘say’. But so are most Dems, for what it’s worth.

  11. I now realize where i’ve seen that facial expression before.

    The Office of Andy is peaking on Acid.

  12. Fuck Andy Harris.

    That is all.

  13. I kinda like what the dude is trying to do, I think lol.

  14. I really dont like what that dude has to say. WOw.

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