A pro-cannabis protest outside Maryland Republican Rep. Andy Harris’ office in Washington, D.C. turned into a scuffle Tuesday, according to press and social media reports. Demonstrators reportedly tried to follow Harris into his office, apparently erupting into a shoving match from each side of the door as the congressman tried to hold it closed.
News of the altercation first broke on Twitter, when Jennifer Bendery, a senior political reporter for the Huffington Post, wrote on Twitter that an officer from the Capitol Police had told her an altercation had occurred and that Harris had been “assaulted by demonstrators.”
“Another little detail, per Cap Police officer: Harris was trying to hold his office door closed but was not successful. Also the demonstrators were smoking weed,” Bendery added later.
During the protest, Rachel Ramon Donlan, an activist with the group Maryland Marijuana Justice (MDMJ), smoked marijuana in a hallway of the Longworth House Office Building at the U.S. Capitol. Officers from the Capitol Police then shut down the hallway and later removed Ramone in handcuffs and a wheelchair.
Donlan, of Washington, D.C., and Kristin Furnish from Salisbury, Maryland were charged with possession and consumption of marijuana in a public space, according to Capitol Police.
Protesters Advocate for Cannabis As an Alternative to Opioids
Other protestors holding signs about the opioid crisis and resulting deaths in Maryland also participated in the demonstration. MDMJ is a new activist group of “Maryland Voters opposed to marijuana laws that lock people up for growing a beneficial plant. We are fighting for home cultivation and full legalization,” according to its Twitter page. MDMJ advocates for cannabis as an alternative to opioids and includes several members who have been personally affected by the nationwide epidemic of overdoses from the powerful painkillers.
Furnish, a co-founder of the group, told reporters that Harris and other Republicans are impeding cannabis legalization while people in Maryland and across the country are dying needlessly.
“Citizens of Maryland and the District of Columbia are tired of Andy Harris turning a blind eye to a safe solution to the opioid crisis,” said Furnish. “Marijuana is a proven pain management alternative to opioids, but in Maryland, we have only seen an increase in opioid-related deaths since Harris was first elected in November 2010. Members of the GOP Congress led by Congressman Harris remain willfully ignorant and outright hostile to cannabis reform. This must stop!”
The activist group also planned additional protests at Rep. Harris’ other congressional offices and stage mock overdoses. Demonstrations were scheduled at 3 p.m. at his Salisbury, Maryland, office and at 4:20 p.m. at his office in Bel Air, Maryland. The group planned the demonstrations against Harris after he affirmed his opposition to the legalization of cannabis at a town hall meeting in Salisbury in August.
In her statement to the media, Furnish said that Harris was unwilling to engage in a dialogue about cannabis policy reform.
“These protests wouldn’t be necessary if someone would just sit down with us advocates. We’ve tried to meet with Rep. Harris and they won’t get back with us,” Furnish said.