Angered by a GOP attempt to nullify marijuana decriminalization in the nation’s capital, city leaders are urging residents to vacation anywhere but Maryland’s 1st congressional district, home of the congressman behind the effort.
In late June U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, a Maryland Republican, successfully pushed a budget amendment that would overturn decriminalization in the District. Congress has the power to invalidate any District policy within a 60-day review period.
“I don’t think we should support someone who doesn’t support us, who doesn’t support democracy, period,” said Mayor Vincent Gray, who called Harris’s maneuver “hypocrisy at its worst.”
Gray was joined by D.C. Vote, the largest voting-rights group in the city, in urging residents to stay away from Harris’s district. That rules out the Eastern Shore, a popular tourist destination located between the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic.
D.C. Vote issued a call for a boycott of the district and said Harris “acted in wanton disregard” of Washington residents’ political opinions.
“If you care about D.C. equality, we ask you not to patronize vacation destinations in Rep. Harris’ district,” said Executive Director Kimberly Perry. “We might not be able to vote in Congress, but we can all vote with our wallets.”
Harris, true to his combative nature, lashed out at Gray and the city. He suggested that D.C. residents don’t really want decriminalization and don’t support Gray’s position. The mayor, his administration clouded by scandal, lost the April Democratic primary race to a District Council member, Muriel Bowser.
“I think D.C. voters showed on Election Day the value they place on what the mayor has to say,” said Harris’s spokesman, Chris Meekins. “I only wish some D.C. politicians cared as much about providing a quality education to D.C. students as they do about decriminalizing marijuana.”
Despite the rhetoric from Harris, more than 80 percent of residents support decriminalization or outright legalization.
The District Council voted recently to remove criminal penalties for simple marijuana possession. Instead, residents caught with the drug will be issued a ticket and fined $25.
Harris pushed an effort in the GOP-led House to overturn that decision. The House voted in late June to adopt a budget amendment denying funding for decriminalization policies in the District.
It’s not at all clear the effort will succeed, however. The Senate and President Obama still must sign on, and that’s highly unlikely. D.C. is an overwhelmingly Democratic city and a staunch base of political support for the president. Senators and Obama probably won’t agree to something that could so anger residents there.
During a press conference July 1, Gray had a favor to ask of D.C. residents who decide to visit Harris’s district: Use the opportunity to protest the congressman.
“I think people should do whatever action moves them, and that is to let him know how undemocratic this is and that he ought to work on the business of his district,” Gray said.