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Demonstrations Planned Against Rep. Andy Harris to Highlight His Callous Attitude Towards DC and Maryland’s Opioid Epidemic
“Overdose” at Rep. Andy Harris’ Offices Announced For Tuesday, Oct. 2
SALISBURY, MD – Cannabis reform activists from DC Marijuana Justice (“DCMJ”) and the newly formed Maryland Marijuana Justice (“MDMJ”) will come together for a series of free speech activities against Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD-01) at 12:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018 at his Washington, DC office at 1533 Longworth House Office Building; and later that day at 4:20 p.m. at his Maryland office at 100 East Main Street, Suite 702, Salisbury, MD.
Citizens were incensed by his statements at a recent town hall meeting on Aug. 10 in Salisbury, MD, where the congressman continued to reiterate his staunch opposition to cannabis reform.
“Citizens of Maryland and the District of Columbia are tired of Andy Harris turning a blind eye to a safe solution to the opioid crisis,” said Kris Furnish, co-founder of MDMJ. “Marijuana is a proven pain management alternative to opioids, but in Maryland we have only seen an increase in opioid related deaths since Harris was first elected in November 2010. Members of the GOP Congress led by Congressman Harris remain willfully ignorant and outright hostile to cannabis reform. This MUST STOP!”
Many cannabis reformers have lost friends and family members due to prescription opioid abuse and addiction. Members of DCMJ and MDMJ will be a voice for those people by demonstrating “overdoses” at Harris’s offices. The action will simulate opioid “overdoses” by laying on the ground one person at a time as others read eulogies written by members of DCMJ and MDMJ for loved ones lost to opioids.
Members of DCMJ and MDMJ have repeatedly sought meetings with Harris to discuss the need for cannabis reform. On June 1st, Harris held three consecutive public events and refused to respond to cannabis reformer questions. Members of DCMJ and MDMJ were outspoken at his town hall meeting in Salisbury, Aug. 10. In addition Rachel Donlan and Kris Furnish (members of DCMJ and MDMJ) hand delivered copies of H.R. 6152, to his Washington, DC office with no response. To follow up, Furnish contacted his office Sept. 10, where his staff was unaware of our unanswered requests. MDMJ has informed Harris’s staff that protests are in the works due to his continued unresponsiveness.
“These protests wouldn’t be necessary if someone would just sit down with us advocates. We’ve tried to meet with Rep. Harris and they won’t get back with us,” said Furnish, a constituent who lives in the district Harris represents.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Maryland is one of eight states that had significant increases in death rates involving prescription opioids, based on analytical data from 31 states and Washington D.C. in 2015. Moreover, Maryland is among the top five states with the highest rates of opioid related overdose deaths. The death rate in Maryland has consistently been above the national average since 1999, ranging from roughly 1.5 to 3 times the average rate. In 2016, there were nearly 30 deaths per 100,000 persons related to opioids compared to the national rate of 13.3 deaths per 100,000 people. An estimated 650 of the 1,821 deaths in 2016 were a result of synthetic opioid overdose. Deaths related to heroin and prescription opioids have also been increasing rapidly from 173 deaths in 2012 to 650 deaths in 2016 related to heroin and from 52 to 812 deaths in the same period related to prescription opioids.
“We believe medical cannabis can help curb the number of opioid deaths by being used as safe alternative for opioid addicts in Maryland, but Rep. Andy Harris is standing in the way,” said AJ Dawson, a founding member of MDMJ, who is currently facing multiple charges involving marijuana in Wicomico County. Dawson’s Sept. 25 court date stems from a brutal arrest during a June visit to Maryland for political activism. Learn more about Dawson’s fight for freedom by clicking here.
Harris is one the top recipients of pharmaceutical money in Congress. He currently sits on the board of a drug development company that is making synthetic products for cancer treatment nausea and pain which can also be alleviated more cheaply and safely by marijuana. Harris, an anesthesiologist by trade, is one of the few medical doctors in Congress and has received over $200,000 from health professionals.
“We are tired of letting Rep. Andy Harris take money from pharmaceutical corporations while simultaneously looking the other way as increasing deaths related to the opioid epidemic devastate the Eastern Shore,” concluded Adam Eidinger, co-founder of MDMJ, who introduced Initiative 71 that legalized home cultivation of cannabis in the nation’s capital.
Another reason Harris will be the target of protests is his interference in local DC cannabis lawmaking. Despite the passage of Voter Initiative 71 in Washington, DC by a majority of 70% in December of 2014, Harris introduced a budget rider that prevents federal and local funds to be used for legalizing recreational marijuana in the District of Columbia. At past public events Harris attended, members of DCMJ and MDMJ have pressed him on his solution to the opioid epidemic in his district, but also on the immorality of one person not elected by by 700,000 blocking an entire jurisdiction from crafting responsible marijuana reform.
“In April of this year I moved my voting residence to Salisbury, MD in Harris’s district so I could convince him he’s got to change on cannabis as his policies are hurting DC and Maryland citizens,” Eidinger said. “So far he’s not listening or even talking to me, so it’s time to take the gloves off and protest.”
Members of the media may contact Adam Eidinger at 202-744-2671 or by email at Adam@dcmj.org with inquiries. The general public is encouraged to RSVP via FACEBOOK.