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D.C. Marijuana Decriminalization Sparks Fight Between Congressman And Councilman

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DAVID CATANIA
District of Columbia Councilman David Catania drew a strong rebuke from Rep. Andy Harris after he visited his Capitol Hill office to protest Harris' amendment to block marijuana decriminalization in D.C. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) | ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) isn't backing down from his campaign to stop the District of Columbia from decriminalizing marijuana, as he slammed a member of the D.C. Council on Friday.

On Wednesday, Harris successfully passed an amendment in the House Appropriations Committee that would bar the District from spending money to implement any policies that lessen the penalties for marijuana possession. Earlier this year, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D) signed a bill that would make pot possession a civil infraction similar to a parking ticket.

On Friday morning, D.C. Councilman David Catania -- a former Republican who is running for mayor as an independent -- paid a visit to Harris' office to express his displeasure with the amendment.

Harris is back in his district, but the visit was nonetheless tense. According to Roll Call's Hannah Hess, Harris' deputy chief of staff asked Catania to send an email to ask for a meeting with the congressman. The councilman's chief of staff then sent an email requesting a meeting -- from inside Harris' office:

After the visit, Harris questioned Catania's motives.

"Passing marijuana decriminalization bills for teenagers is not the way to lower D.C.'s shamefully high rate of drug abuse among teenagers -- and certainly not the way to create a job-skill environment to deal with skyrocketing teen unemployment in the District, especially among minority youth," Harris said in a statement that was sent to national media. "Mr. Catania can come see me when he's ready to deal seriously with the problems of drug abuse and unemployment among youth in the District. This is just another mayoral campaign prop.”

Catania's chief of staff, contacted by The Huffington Post, said the councilman would gladly accept Harris' invitation to meet.

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