Rep. Harris Condemns Legal Pot, Challenges Medical Merits; Backpedals on Pushing Charges Against DC Mayor on Legalization

March 11, 2015

US Rep. Andy Harris (R-1) brought his anti-marijuana campaign to Cecil County this week, challenging the medicinal merits of pot for seriously ill patients and calling the state’s new medical marijuana program a stalking-horse for full legalization for recreational use.

And while condemning the recent implementation of a voter referendum to legalize marijuana in Washington, DC, he backpedaled from earlier demands for criminal prosecution of the DC mayor for her role in the process.

Harris requested the 3/9/15 meeting in Elkton with the Cecil County Council, County Executive Tari Moore and county Health Officer Stephanie Garrity that was called to discuss anti-drug initiatives in Washington and locally. Garrity gave Harris a run-down, with charts, of local efforts to prevent drug abuse and help addicts with treatment and recovery programs.

For his part, Harris, who is a physician, expounded on his views against medical marijuana and recent moves in several states and the District of Columbia to legalize pot for recreational use. He also dismissed the merits of a newly revised Maryland law that decriminalizes, but does not legalize, possession of small quantities of pot for personal use.

And he questioned the validity of Maryland’s newly established process of establishing a regulatory framework for in-state growing farms and dispensaries for creation and distribution of medical marijuana for seriously ill patients.

Cecil County could be the site of a new medical marijuana growing facility under a proposal presented to county officials last week. [SEE the exclusive CECIL TIMES report here: ]

Harris has been at the forefront of recent moves by conservative Republicans in Congress to block implementation of a voter referendum in which 70 percent of District of Columbia voters approved a plan to legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana for use within a personal residence and home-growing a few pot plants for personal use. Sales would still be illegal and marijuana use or possession would be banned on any federal property in the District. The measure became effective in the District 2/26/15.

Harris was quoted at length in Washington media as taking a hard-line stance against DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, demanding that she face criminal prosecution under the federal “Anti-Deficiency Act” for spending money to implement the legalization referendum after Congress—which has the authority to review locally-passed DC legislation—attached a rider to a spending bill to bar expenditure of any funds to move ahead with legalization. Harris was the chief sponsor of that amendment.

The Anti-Deficiency Act is an obscure measure that seeks to punish government officials who knowingly spend money above their agency’s appropriated funding level. Prosecutions under the act have been rare to non-existent, and Mayor Bowser took a calm, non-critical approach to Harris’ challenge and said she was following extensive legal advice and precedent in moving forward to implement the voter referendum.

In his Elkton appearance, Harris downplayed the threat of criminal prosecution of the DC mayor under the Act, saying that she wouldn’t go to jail and might just get a $100 fine if the Justice Department took legal action against her. But he said it was important to send a message that members of Congress “take it seriously” when their directives are ignored or violated. (Congress has Constitutionally-established oversight power over the District of Columbia and local laws have to be sent to Congress for a 30-day review period.)

“I don’t care if it’s the mayor,” Harris said. “They shouldn’t be doing it.”

However, Harris’ comments in Elkton indicated that GOP conservatives were unwilling to push the issue in court, pitting Congress against the DC government on the legalization referendum and congressional oversight of the District’s local affairs.

Politically, such a battle would put the GOP on the opposite side of what national polls show is a growing public acceptance of marijuana decriminalization or legalization of small amounts of pot for personal use. And such a focus could detract from the economic policy issues that leaders of the newly GOP-controlled Congress want to advance.

Asked if a more politically viable option might be to simply cut some money from a future appropriation bill governing the District, Harris said in Elkton that was possible, but more important was to send a message to the District that its marijuana legalization was harmful to local citizens and especially children.

“I’m a strong advocate against decriminalization of marijuana and legalization,” Harris said. And the District has high rates of school drop-outs and unemployment that will only get worse with more readily available access to drugs. “Nobody starts out on heroin,” he said, adding that he viewed marijuana as a “gateway drug.”

“I feel strongly about drug abuse and doing everything that we can to keep this scourge away from our children,” Harris said. Instead of legalizing marijuana, states should be “working to create a culture where drugs are seen for what they are . . . life-threatening,” he added.

Harris also railed against advocates of medical marijuana, asserting “There is no good evidence” that marijuana provides medical benefits and that studies claiming otherwise are “old” and based on lower-strength pot from the ‘60s. Today’s marijuana is deliberately grown to be more potent and has harmful effects, he said.

“My fear is that medical marijuana is a nose under the camel’s tent” to bring about full legalization, he said, and sends a wrong message that “marijuana is kind of good for you.”

He said that as a physician it was “shocking to me” that 30 states have moved to permit medical uses of marijuana in varying degrees. He said he believed marijuana was a “gateway drug” to other illegal substances such as heroin.

Turning to Cecil County drug problems, Harris asked if there were enough recovery treatment slots for local addicts. Garrity responded, “Probably, yes, there are enough treatment slots” and those slots are “paid for with our tax dollars.” She said the Health Department, which provides “treatment on demand” for addicts, recently began billing insurance companies if patients have coverage, especially since the federal Affordable Care Act now requires insurers to cover drug rehab services like any other medical condition.

County Council President Robert Hodge (R-5) commented, “I don’t think there are enough treatment slots in Cecil County” and “too many of the treatment slots are too far away.”

County Executive Moore observed, “There’s not enough money in the world to resolve this problem.” But, she added, all federal and state aid for anti-drug programs is welcome and “funding is always an issue for us.”

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17 Responses to Rep. Harris Condemns Legal Pot, Challenges Medical Merits; Backpedals on Pushing Charges Against DC Mayor on Legalization

  1. Ronald Demmler on March 11, 2015 at 4:22 pm

    Re: last paragraph
    If the county had sufficient funds just exactly what would the county officials do to combat the drug use problem?
    I can not believe that more methadone clinics or two week drug treatment centers will do any thing. Once patients leave the center, it is back to their friends and back on drugs.

    • Rick O'Shea on March 12, 2015 at 9:10 am

      Do you have a suggested course of action? State, county, and private efforts are underway. Public meetings have been held. There will be an on-site meeting of the Hogan- Rutherford task force in Elkton next week. All agree that a multi-faceted approach is needed. Fighting this problem is expensive.

      • Ronald Demmler on March 13, 2015 at 1:40 pm

        Yes I do have a course of action but my course of action wouldn’t be legal.

  2. Kelly Frost on March 11, 2015 at 11:03 pm

    Treatment or Detox? “Treatment” is usually hand in hand with Medication– not a true sobriety but there is no waiting for treatment – you can be assessed today with money in hand – and dosed that afternoon. So, Mr. Hodge – What Are you going to be renting on your property a clinic, detox or pot farm? Here’s a thought, you could take $50 and open up a LLC (Let’s give it a snazzy name like “One Stop”) and you could build all 3 on the property! Heck, you must have a liquor store too! Oh and it wouldn’t be complete without a casino! And you could call the complex Heaven – I personally like “One Stop”.

    • Rick O'Shea on March 12, 2015 at 7:05 am

      Do you have a suggested course of action for anti-drug efforts? You and Broomell offer slander rather than solutions.

      • Kelly Frost on March 12, 2015 at 9:09 pm

        I don’t offer slander – that was a bona-fide idea for a couple business’s – that is if the property was zoned properly. Of course I have suggestions, but it ultimately is up to the County Executive Tari Moore per the By-Laws of the Local Drug and Alcohol Abuse Council and as of now, she has the bulk of the money going to the Treatment Clinics . In fact, the County Executive was in Annapolis with the owner of Serenity Health this past Wednesday – I believe they either gave testimony or their support or non-support of one of the Senate Bills that day, but either way Ms Moore is going to go the extra mile for some of Cecil County businesses.

        Since we have a reality of the clinics not being constructive for the majority (yes it works for some) but we don’t know any real or accurate numbers because they haven’t been recording any data or milestones – they may be now but they haven’t released any real data. So until they stop dosing those continuing to use other drugs, it appears to be a huge failure,. Just look at reality of overdoses, crime, violence, neglect, etc. thus a waste of the working class’s money as of now.

        I would go in the other direction. I’d give most of the funding to the schools – Prevention. Our teachers are some of the best on the East Coast, and they try to instill value in the kids, but we need a little extra boost because sometimes the kids have parents who use drugs and it makes for a difficult home life. I’d have an afterschool or summer job clinics for the kids, you don’t want those at risk to be idle – the old adage you know what they say about idle hands. A summer or part-time job would give them self worth.

        (This is probably going to be controversial – but I’d make the 10th grade class have a mandatory field trip to the morgue – and have an accidental overdosed young adult on the table). I’d want them to SEE/KNOW this could be them if they flirt with certain drugs. The Truth campaign about smoking was graphic, yes, but effective: smoking has decreased. I’d also throw some funding for inpatient housing/counseling. As of last year, I believe The Drug Czar and County Executive gave very little money to them but they too would have to show/document milestones.

        Then for those (who are clean) I’d have a clinic for “jobs”. There are plenty of employers who would give those that are SERIOUS about their recovery a 2nd chance to someone who is working to better themselves.

        But since none of that has come to fruition and the clinics get the bulk of the money per the County Executive — What can I do – it’s ultimately her decision. I do know Ms Broomell and I haven’t heard any slandering from her. She does have a few facts but it’s nothing that the community doesn’t know or see. She has a few ideas – but again it all depends if the County Executive will listen, consider or implement.

        But, Mr O’Shea – I don’t believe I know you, I’ll be there, I’ll be the one wearing an Elkton Little League Shirt – please come up and introduce yourself. Maybe you can help with getting a few new ideas passed around the current Cecil County administration. Thanks.

        • Rick O'Shea on March 13, 2015 at 1:24 pm

          KF: Are you serious? No slander from Broomell? Either-or; support non-support; in Annapolis WITH (as in joint mission or coincidental?) I always appreciate constructive opinions.

        • Bob Laird on March 13, 2015 at 7:27 pm

          I like the tough love concept. A little bit of Shock and Awe won’t hurt.

    • The truth on March 13, 2015 at 10:10 am

      What would u suggest to do about drug addiction? If there were’nt methodone clinics in cecil county the crime rate would double! you can’t speak for a group of individals if u never walk in their shoes!

  3. Joe C on March 13, 2015 at 6:01 am

    Pretty ironic that our council and executive are concerned about drug recovery at the same time promoting growing pot in the county! I propose renaming Red Toad Road to Red Toke Rd or Red Bud Rd. Perhaps the new tech school can offer classes in Weed 101 or Bong manufacturing. All a perfect fit and a recipe for high profits.

    I have a better idea, Tari and Robert can grow pot at the landfill using recovered methane gas to heat the greenhouses, then the profits could pay for the budget deficit at the landfill. You just cannot make up this stuff that happens in Cecil County; unfortunately it is at the expense of the taxpayer!

    • Rick O'Shea on March 13, 2015 at 1:26 pm

      Promoting growing pot? What are you smoking?

      • Joe C on March 16, 2015 at 5:25 am

        Nope, Dope!

    • Ron Lobos on March 15, 2015 at 5:41 pm

      Joe, maybe since the CCPS hasn’t done anything about their understanding to give the unused property from the new trade school back to the county for economic development, they can promote an agricultural program to grow good pot on this unused property and increase their FY2016 budget again to pay for it. Then, they can once again, convince the school children’s parents that more money will help with their childs education.

  4. Almost Heaven on March 14, 2015 at 5:32 am

    Harris and his failed drug warriors have had their way enforcing Nazi style tactics of locking people away in cages for growing seeds God made for too long. Is Mr. Harris saying God screwed up when making marijuana seeds? Is Mr. Harris saying he knows better than God?

    Harris, Hodge and their ignorant, greedy drug warrior culture need to be prosecuted, then locked up under the Anti-Deficiency Act for knowingly wasting money on a failed drug policy that puts pot in the same category as heroin. Harris is a doctor… No one has ever died from pot, however alcohol which he supports kills thousands every year.

    Harris takes money from the Restaurant and Alcohol lobbies to keep people from using a safer alternative like pot, and then votes to waste tax money. So his Republican reefer buddy, high times Hodge can have his pot palace for profit in Cecil County. And the failed drug war goes on, and on causing more harm than good…
    God help us to do better than Harris and Hodge.

    • Just say no on April 5, 2015 at 1:46 pm

      Almost Heaven,
      Your first argument is ludicrous. All natural growing substances are not beneficial- hemlock, poison ivy, arsenic, and even tobacco.

      Secondly, alcohol cannot be compared to pot. People who smoke pot for recreational purposes, do so solely to get high. Pot use always alters/impairs your mental state and limits self control so there is not such thing as responsible use. Alcohol, on the other hand, can be used in amounts that will not impair a person’s mental state or cause him to lose control of his faculties. Only when alcohol is abused does it cause intoxication. People can drink alcohol in such limited amounts that it causes no impairment. Many people consume alcohol responsibly, but the same cannot be said for those who smoke pot.

      Alcohol causes more deaths than pot because it has been culturally accepted and is legal, so people hang out at bars, get drunk, and then drive. If people were legally able to do the same thing with pot, there would be the same effect. Driving while high is no safer than driving while intoxicated with any other substance including alcohol, and to try to market pot as harmless is irresponsible.

      Other than for medical reasons (relief of pain, appetite enhancement), use of pot is for one purpose only, to get high/cause mental impairment/intoxication. With alcohol, people have a choice to ingest it responsibly or not.

      • Almost Heaven on April 9, 2015 at 10:20 am

        Just say no,

        I agree with you, people should not drink alcohol since it can kill you, and people will call you an alcoholic.

        That’s why I avoid it,and prefer distilled spirits, therefore I’m spiritual.

        Now I ask you a simple question

        God made cannabis, man made alcohol so who do you trust?

        Just Say No Brainer!

  5. SquirrelMaster on March 17, 2015 at 7:26 am

    What Harris doesn’t seem to understand is the failed effects of the war on drugs. There’s the obvious and undeniable facts that the laws are unfairly used on impoverished communities no matter the race. Add in the billions spent in the prosecution and incarceration of non violent drug offenders, and then taking a nonviolent offender and housing them with violent predators. It’s a recipe for disaster, and just look at the % of americans in prison vs other countries.

    I’m not stating legalization is the ultimate answer, but decriminalization just makes sense from a fiduciary sense. Where legalization and the subsequent taxation takes that financial gain to the next level.

    Harris is a shill, and it appears a good portion of his own party realized he’s off topic here. How a doctor could deny years and years of medical research of the benefits of a simple compound, It just smacks of he’s a blowhard. The medical establishment felt it had medical benefits so much so that the pharmaceutical industry developed Marinol in the 70’s. I fear for this county and country, because blowhards are leading us into further failures at an unprecedented rate.

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