How courageous of Republican Reps. Andy Harris (Md.) and Joe Pitts (Pa.) to answer “head-on” charges that it is hypocritical for proponents of self-government and democracy to overrule the District’s marijuana initiative [“Congress’s duty trumps D.C.’s vote,” op-ed, Dec. 14]. The enormous flaw in their argument that federal interests should trump the will of District residents is that, unlike Mr. Harris and Mr. Pitts’s constituents in Maryland and Pennsylvania, D.C. residents have no voice in defining those federal interests because we have no voting representation in Congress.
If they were men of courage and principle, they would follow in the footsteps of such Republicans as President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Sen. Prescott Bush (father of one Republican president and grandfather of another), who helped win ratification of the 23rd Amendment giving D.C. residents the right to vote in presidential elections.
Granting the District voting representation in Congress would make the incoming Republican majority truly a party of principle. Until that happens, it is illegitimate for Mr. Harris and Mr. Pitts to claim that the will of D.C. residents should be trumped by a federal interest we are not allowed a voice in defining.
Robert V. Percival, Washington
Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), in expounding his rationale to negate the District’s vote to legalize the possession of marijuana, wrote with his co-author that “Many studies have shown that use of marijuana can have a wide range of negative effects. . . . Marijuana is the illicit drug most frequently found to be a factor in car accidents, including fatal ones.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2012 the licit drug alcohol was a factor in one-third of all traffic-related fatalities . Illicit drugs such as cocaine and marijuana were involved in 18 percent of all fatal accidents, but these drugs were often used in combination with alcohol. There is no clear-cut study available to date of marijuana alone causing traffic fatalities.
It is interesting to note that, in his last election, Mr. Harris received $5,000 from the National Beer Wholesalers Association, more than $3,000 from Diageo, a liquor manufacturer and distributor, and $1,000 from the Distilled Spirits Council.
Otts Laupus, Ellicott City
I agree with Reps. Andy Harris and Joe Pitts. A ballot initiative on marijuana is not the way to change the law. Marijuana remains a harmful drug, and its legal status should be determined by scientific research and findings. For 40 years, drug lobbies and pro-drug enthusiasts have pushed for marijuana decriminalization and legalization as a way to open the door to ending the drug war and freeing up other harmful substances. Why? Because those drugs make the users feel good — despite their harmful effects — and the users want to continue to feel good at lower prices.
Legalization of marijuana in the United States would have an adverse effect on drug abuse in other countries, which often have much stricter marijuana laws. In legalizing marijuana, the U.S. government would have to abrogate its international treaty obligations with more than 100 countries, suffering a global disgrace. As the United States is the largest consumer of illicit drugs, the U.S. government has been the biggest promoter of international drug controls. If we pulled out of our commitments, the drug laws of other countries would quickly fall apart. Drug abuse throughout the world would skyrocket.
Malcolm Lawrence, Chevy Chase
Colbert I. King’s Dec. 13 op-ed column, “The threat to D.C. home rule can’t be ignored,” asserted that the District was caught “flat-footed” by the language in the federal spending bill that blocked voter Initiative 71.
Influential members of both parties who could have protected democracy in the District knew about this rider for months. Since the summer, activists, drug-policy reform experts and our elected leaders have urged members and staff to protect the will of D.C. voters.
When a rider was unveiled in July in response to the District’s decriminalization of marijuana, DC Vote’s call for a boycott of the Maryland district that is home to the author of the rider received extensive local and even national media attention.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) reached out to House and Senate leaders at that time. She hounded them again during negotiations over the spending bill.
The rider was no secret, and Congress knew where we stood. Sadly, in the end, leaders on both sides of the aisle decided that they could live with squashing democracy in the District.
Kimberly Perry, Washington
The writer is executive director of DC Vote.