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Maryland's Andy Harris Defends Move To Block D.C. Marijuana Bill

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In this June 28, 2012 file photo, Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., speaks at a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington.
(AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)
In this June 28, 2012 file photo, Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., speaks at a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

Despite an effort by Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) to block it, a law decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana in D.C. will go into effect this week.

Harris objects to the law based on public health concerns; he says that by lowering the fine for possession of less than ounce of marijuana to $25, D.C. will be encouraging teenagers to use the drug. Mayor Vincent Gray and D.C. voting rights advocates have defended the city's right to pass the law without congressional interference, and have called on residents to boycott the Eastern Shore, which Harris represents.

In an interview with WAMU 88.5's Coastal Connection, Harris defended his role in attempting to block the law, saying that the Constitution allowed him to pass bills targeting D.C.

"If somebody wants voting rights, the Constitution is clear: They go to a state, not the federal enclave, and they have voting rights. If they're in the federal enclave, then Congress is their local legislature," he said.

He also offered an olive branch to D.C. legislators, based on Maryland's own move to decriminalize marijuana. "If it looked more like the Maryland law, I wouldn't have gotten involved. I would withdraw my objection to the D.C. law," he said. Maryland's law requires anyone under the age of 21 caught with marijuana attend a substance abuse program, while D.C.'s does not distinguish by age.

At least one D.C. legislator seems to be listening. D.C. Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), who sponsored to decriminalization bill, says he will introduce a bill adding a substance abuse provision to the law.

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