Maryland Republican Rep. Andy Harris says Washington, DC, won’t decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms, cacti and plants on his watch.
Harris told The Post he’s appalled that drug reform activists submitted on Monday what they say is enough signatures to get an initiative on the November ballot making natural hallucinogens the lowest law enforcement priority.
Harris said he will force a House Appropriations Committee vote next week to stop it, using the power of Congress over DC’s budget.
“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.
“Public health has to be maintained. 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?”
Harris plans to force a vote on a budget rider to a financial services bill due for markup. Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC).
House Democrats last month voted overwhelmingly to make DC a state, and Harris admits that the statehood issue may cut against him.
“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.”
Harris, an anesthesiologist and top pharmaceutical industry donation recipient, represents Maryland’s Eastern Shore and has battled local drug reform activists for years. After 65 percent of DC residents voted in 2014 to legalize marijuana, he wrote a budget rider that’s still in effect preventing DC from regulating recreational pot stores.
Harris’ top donors, according to nonprofit, nonpartisan research group Open Secrets, are Emergent BioSolutions and US Anesthesia Partners.
DC activist Adam Eidinger, who led the marijuana campaign and is working on the psychedelics initiative, fired back at Harris and predicted he will fail.
“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.”
Eidinger said “there would be hell to pay” for Democrats if they back Harris.
“But it’s not going to happen. We are Democrats and they are not going to stop us from having an election here to determine an important policing policy,” Eidinger said.
The psychedelics initiative is among the first in the US. Denver residents narrowly approved a similar measure last year. In November, Oregon voters will consider a ballot measure on therapeutic use of the drugs.
“The wider drug war needs to end. And this is the next step in doing that,” Eidinger said.