Republican Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland said this week that he will seek a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives to block an initiative in Washington, D.C. that would decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms. On Monday, activists with Decriminalize Nature D.C. submitted petitions for the initiative which the group says have thousands more signatures than needed to qualify the measure for the ballot.
Harris said that he is appalled by the attempt to make psilocybin mushrooms and other entheogenic plants and fungi the lowest law enforcement priority for Washington, D.C. municipal police.
“This is a bald-faced attempt to just make these very serious, very potent, very dangerous — both short-term and long-term — hallucinogenic drugs broadly available,” Harris said in an interview with the New York Post.
“Public health has to be maintained,” he added. “We know, of course, once you make it a very low enforcement level and encourage prosecutors not to prosecute it, what would prevent people from using hallucinogens, getting behind the wheel of a car and killing people?”
Maryland Rep Seeks Vote By House Committee
Harris said that he plans to force a vote on a rider to a financial services bill that would leverage Congress’ control over the Washington, D.C. budget to block the initiative. The bill is slated to be considered by the House Appropriations Committee in a markup session next week.
Harris, who represents Maryland’s Eastern Shore, used a similar tactic after Washington, D.C. voters approved an initiative to legalize recreational marijuana in 2014. The budget rider he wrote to ban the city government from regulating adult-use cannabis dispensaries was successful and remains in effect to this day.
However, this time Harris will have to convince a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, which voted last month to grant statehood to Washington, D.C. He admits that the Democrats’ inclination to allow the residents of D.C. to govern themselves may make his bid to block the initiative more difficult.
“Some Democrats may say, ‘DC residents, if this is what they want, this is what they should get,’” Harris said. “[But] I think there’s probably a lot of Democrats who draw a very distinct line between potent hallucinogens and marijuana. And whereas the majority may support recreational use of marijuana, I doubt the majority supports the broad use of these potent hallucinogens.”
Adam Eidinger, a drug policy reform activist who led the campaign to legalize recreational marijuana in D.C. and is assisting with the drive to decriminalize psychedelics, predicted that Harris would not succeed in blocking the initiative and suggested his attempt to do so was not being made in good faith.
“Andy Harris needs to shut up — you can quote me on that. He needs to listen to what the people are saying and then make the policy. And he has a history of being a big mouth who doesn’t listen,” Eidinger said. “Andy Harris is riding our coattails. He is trying to get in the news media as a hater of drug policy reform and nothing more. He has no viable way of stopping this ballot initiative.”