Sherwood's Notebook: When Andy Met Mary Jane…

It’s a continuing irritant to most District citizens.

Any member of Congress can stick his legislative nose into any local city issue because the U.S. Constitution gives Congress “full legislative authority” over the city.

It doesn’t mean those 535 legislators “should” interfere with home rule, it’s just that they can. (Our own D.C. Del Eleanor Holmes Norton isn’t included that figure, which represents the number of senators and voting members in the House.)

The subject rolls around now because of Maryland Republican Rep. Andy Harris, of the Eastern Shore.

Harris has held up the city’s marijuana decriminalization law on Capitol Hill. He got the House Appropriations Committee to pass an amendment prohibiting the city from spending any money to enforce the decriminalization law.

It’s not clear at all that the Senate will go along with Harris’ plan. But the Eastern Shore congressman says he fears for the health and future of D.C. youth and other citizens more than the scorn drawn by interfering with local District laws.

The outrage is not confined to D.C. The Baltimore Sun editorial page — which described Harris as a “preening pest” for his Annapolis legislative days and doesn’t think much of him as a congressman — this week assailed Harris’ attack on D.C. home rule.

The editorial noted that Harris is a “tea party acolyte who so often preaches against an overbearing federal government,” even to the extent of opposing U.S. Environmental Protection Agency efforts to clean up pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. Yet Harris wants to ban a decriminalization law in the District while Maryland has passed something similar.

Mild-mannered Kojo Nnamdi of WAMU 88.5 FM weighed in on Harris, denouncing “bullying, outside interlopers” who disrespect the District’s autonomy.

Well, if Harris had a legislative heart attack over decriminalization, he’ll bust a true gut over this week’s move to make “Mary Jane” legal in the nation’s capital.

The D.C. Cannabis Coalition on Monday turned in 57,000 petition signatures of registered voters to put legalization on the Nov. 4 ballot. The group only needed 22,445 signatures so it has a comfortable margin. The Board of Elections is expected to review the petition signatures and declare it on the ballot within the next 30 days.

The voter initiative No. 71 would allow possession of up to two ounces of marijuana for adults. You also could grow as many as six plants. But the initiative does not — not — allow retail sales in stores.
The cannabis coalition was having nothing of Harris’ marijuana maneuvers.

“If Andy Harris wants to represent Washington, D.C., in Congress, he should come here and run for office here,” said Adam Eidinger, who chairs the cannabis campaign.

Eidinger said he expects the ballot initiative to pass and denounced suggestions Congress might overturn it before it can go into effect.

“You know what countries overturn elections?” Eidinger asked Monday outside of the Board of Elections. “China! Russia! Are we going to do this to the people who live in the capital of the United States?”

Unfortunately for the vote-less District citizens, we know what the answer could be.

■ Still waiting. D.C. Council member and mayoral candidate David Catania made a trip up to Harris’ office more than a week ago to speak with the congressman. He wasn’t there at the time, and Harris still had not responded as of Monday to Catania’s request for a meeting. Some saw Catania’s move as grandstanding. Others applauded it.

Both Catania and mayoral candidate Muriel Bowser voted for decriminalization. Catania said on Monday he’d support legalization. Bowser signed the petition to put legalization on the ballot.

■ Parading on the Fourth. Both Bowser and Catania had big showings during Friday’s Fourth of July parade in the Palisades, though Catania’s seemed larger. Catania’s included a lot of schoolchildren and parents who like his stand on boundary changes. Late-starting candidate Carol Schwartz also walked in the parade, but had a much more modest support group.

We are now three months into the general election campaign, but there still have been no public forums where citizens can measure the candidates side-by-side.

Bowser is maintaining her stance that she is the official Democratic nominee for mayor and the others (Catania and Schwartz) have yet to formally qualify for the ballot by submitting petitions. Those petitions are not due until August, so that gives Bowser more than another month to strategically ignore her opponents.

Normally, that’s a good political strategy to not give any attention to opponents. But in this little city, voters are paying attention to who’s doing what, even if they’re not getting their traditional forum fixes.

Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.

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