Appearing at a town hall meeting Wednesday night, Congressman Andy Harris (R-MD) argued that Washington, D.C. should not be a state because its residents make “irresponsible decisions.” District residents have been engaged in a decades-long fight for statehood in order to gain representation in Congress and full local control of their government.
In a confrontation with marijuana legalization activist Adam Eidinger, Harris told Eidinger that he did not “think [D.C.] ought to be a state because they make irresponsible decisions like legalizing marijuana when the African-American unemployment rate is 40 percent and the African-American graduation rate from high school is 12 percent.”
Harris might want to brush up on his facts. The actual unemployment rate for African Americans in Washington, D.C. is 13.6 percent. The high school graduation rate for African American students in Washington, D.C. is 59.7 percent.
— DCMJ (@DCMJ2014) January 21, 2016
Harris did not specify whether by “they” he meant African American residents of D.C. or the entire D.C. population. Overall, 70 percent of District residents voted to legalize marijuana.
There is no credible evidence linking marijuana legalization with lower graduation rates. After legalizing marijuana, Colorado saw its unemployment rate drop.
Harris played a key role in attempting to block the marijuana legalization referendum in D.C. by attaching a rider to a Congressional appropriations bill. (Congress has ultimate control over the city’s budget, even though it is funded through local taxes.)
He was partially successful. The city has not moved forward with regulating marijuana and licensing retail sales. But marijuana possession, in small amounts, is legal in the District and the city permits individuals to grow up to six marijuana plants in their homes.