One Extremist Congressman Just Ruined Legalized Marijuana For Everybody in DC

December 11th 2014

When a bunch of people vote for something and then it's taken away from them by politicians whom they didn't elect, it usually means we're talking about judges or dictators.

But not in Washington, D.C., where Congress -- specifically a guy from Maryland -- just overturned the city's democratic decision to legalize recreational marijuana.

Republican Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland led the charge to overturn the will of D.C. residents by inserting language into Congress' spending bill that prevents Washington, D.C. from implementing the referendum that legalized recreational marijuana. That referendum, by the way, passed with 71% of the vote last month.

One of the problems here, of course, is that Washington, D.C. residents are in the the strange position of being ruled by Congress yet having no real representation in the body. 

But this also goes toward the wide gap between Beltway politicians like Harris and the rest of America. For the last three years, a majority of Americans have favored legalization. Yet, the subject is still taboo in Congress, where the rhetoric coming from people like Andy Harris is identical to what drug warriors were saying in the 1980s.

"Relaxing [marijuana] laws clearly leads to more teenage drug use," Harris said. "It should be intuitively obvious to everyone that if you legalize marijuana for adults, more children will use marijuana because the message that it's dangerous will be blunted."

Yep, the argument that amounts to "but think of the children!" has been around forever. 

If you listen to the rest of that speech, you'll also see another hallmark of drug warrior arguments: absolutely no mention of the cost of enforcing marijuana prohibition. We do, however, hear Harris discuss how much we spend on education and how that spending would be undermined because legalization will result in kids being bad students because they'll be high all day. Or something. The problem is that you could make the same argument to ban, well, pretty much anything. Alcohol. Cigarettes. Video games. Film. TV. Justin Bieber. All those things get in the way of school if you let them.

The other problem is that statistics destroy Harris' scare tactics. Gallup found that young adults are using marijuana less now than they did in the 1970s. Liberalized drug laws have not resulted in an epidemic of marijuana use. People are not supportive of legalized marijuana simply because they want to be stoned.

"The same reason a heterosexual person might support marriage equality is why someone who doesn't smoke [pot] might support legalization," said Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project. "They recognize it's the right thing to do."

Harris is, as Drug Policy Action dubbed him, an extremist on drug policy. He also bitterly fought decriminalization laws in D.C. that changed marijuana possession into a civil penalty with a $25 fine. In the mind of Andy Harris, marijuana possession should sentence you to a life of constantly identifying yourself as a felon to potential employers.

Indeed, a local band in D.C. dedicated a song to Harris, entitled "Andy Harris Needs to Smoke Some Weed."

If you think Harris is an extremist, too, you can tweet at him here.

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