Drug policy reform advocates are asking a key congressional committee to reject a Republican lawmaker’s attempt to block Washington, D.C. from enacting an initiative to decriminalize certain psychedelics.
Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD)—who has also championed provisions preventing D.C. from implementing legal marijuana sales after local voters passed a cannabis initiative in 2014—signaled last week that he’s planning to introduce an amendment to a spending bill during a committee meeting on Wednesday that would restrict the District from allowing the psychedelics measure to be implemented even if it is approved by voters in November.
The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) is in favor of the proposal and, on Tuesday, it sent a letter to leadership in the House Appropriations Committee asking members to oppose Harris’s amendment and any other effort to restrict the democratic process for D.C. residents.
The measure, which hasn’t formally qualified for the ballot yet but received significantly more signatures than required when activists submitted them last week, would make a wide range of entheogenic substances including psilocybin mushrooms and ayahuasca among the jurisdiction’s lowest law enforcement priorities. However, it wouldn’t technically change local statute.
“We urge the Committee to vote against any proposed amendment that would impede the District of Columbia’s effort to decriminalize the use of psychedelics in the District via Ballot Initiative 81,” Queen Adesuyi, policy manager of national affairs for DPA, wrote. “This ballot initiative represents an important step towards ending the racist and failed War on Drugs that disproportionately impacts low-income communities and communities of color.”
“We understand there are intentions to block this effort from happening, and urge the Committee to vote against any amendment that would undo the will of the people of the District of Columbia,” the letter states. “We urge the Appropriations Committee to vote against an effort that would prohibit the 700,000 residents of D.C. to carry out their own democratic process and include Initiative 81, a measure that chips away at the failed drug war, on the ballot in November.”
Language of the potential Harris amendment has not been released. Marijuana Moment reached out to his office, but a representative did not immediately respond.
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) said in a press release last week that she would defeat the congressman’s measure, asserting that he’s “been a chronic abuser of home rule” and this is “the latest example.”
“We will continue to fight any and all attempts to overturn D.C. laws, regardless of the policy, as D.C. has a right to self-government,” she said.
Harris has been a consistent opponent of cannabis reform, repeatedly backing a long-standing congressional rider that bars D.C. from using its tax dollars to implement a legal marketplace. Last year, however, it was not included in the spending bill as introduced by House Democratic leaders and the congressmen didn’t attempt to introduce an amendment to reinsert it. He acknowledged that his party is “not in charge anymore” in the chamber. That said, the Senate did include the measure in its version of the D.C. spending bill, and it made it into the final legislation signed by the president.
But while Harris seems to have set aside efforts to push cannabis rider in the House for now, he feels more confident that some Democrats will share his views on psychedelics.
“I think there’s probably a lot of Democrats who draw a very distinct line between potent hallucinogens and marijuana,” he told The New York Post. “And whereas the majority may support recreational use of marijuana, I doubt the majority supports the broad use of these potent hallucinogens.”
Read the letter DPA sent to the House Appropriations Committee on the psychedelics initiative below: