WASHINGTON -- Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) is confident he didn't just accidentally legalize pot possession in the District of Columbia.
Harris is the author of an amendment passed Wednesday in the House Committee on Appropriations that would bar the District from spending money to enforce any laws that lessen the penalties for marijuana possession. He introduced the bill after Mayor Vincent Gray (D) signed off on a law earlier this year making possession of small amounts of the drug a civil infraction (similar to a parking ticket) instead of a criminal one.
Hours after the vote on Harris' amendment, the Washington Post reported that lawyers for the city were investigating whether the new legislation, if it passes and takes effect after the decriminalization law, would leave the District without a criminal statute against marijuana possession that authorities can enforce.
The new decriminalization statute takes the place of old laws. But if Congress passes another law disallowing its enforcement, some experts are saying D.C. could be left without any laws at all criminalizing the drug.
Harris said this is not the case.
"Marijuana remains classified as a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act, and therefore its possession remains illegal under federal law," Harris said in a statement to The Huffington Post. "The amendment clearly prohibits the District of Columbia from carrying out a reduction in penalties for the recreational possession of marijuana."
"I am confident that the intent of Congress is clear,” he said.