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Andy Harris Wants to Block a DC Referendum on Magic Mushrooms

The Maryland congressman blocked full cannabis legalization in DC. Now he vows to thwart attempts to "decriminalize nature."

Andy Harris in 2013. Photograph by Flickr user Gage Skidmore.

US Representative Andy Harris told the New York Post that he hopes to stop a ballot measure that would ask DC officials to decriminalize psychoactive substances found in plants like psilocybin mushrooms. The organizers of the initiative said Monday that they delivered 35,000 signatures to the DC Board of Elections in favor of the initiative.

Harris told the New York Post he planned to use Congress’s authority over the District’s budget to thwart the measure, framing it as an issue of public safety:

“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?”

This is far from Harris’s first attempt to interfere with the will of DC voters. When Republicans controlled the House of Representatives, the Baltimore County representative successfully inserted language into federal spending legislation that prevented the District from fully legalizing cannabis following a 2014 ballot initiative that passed with support from 70 percent of DC voters. His opposition of legal weed earned him the undying enmity of activists, but also people who oppose his meddling with the District’s affairs.

Harris “has been a chronic abuser of home rule,” District of Columbia Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton said in a statement. “We will continue to fight any and all attempts to overturn D.C. laws, regardless of the policy, as D.C. has a right to self-government.” Melissa Lavasani, the chair of Decriminalize Nature DC, which organized the petition, said in a statement, “We remain focused on the petition certification process and educating DC voters on Initiative 81 and healing plant medicines ahead of the November election.”

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Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.