Ocean City Snared In D.C. Mayor, Harris Squabble

OCEAN CITY — Ocean City this week found itself snared in the middle of a simmering feud between the mayor of Washington, D.C. and Congressman Andy Harris (R-Md.) that included a call for a boycott of the resort.

Harris, whose district includes Ocean City, Worcester County and the entire Eastern Shore, last week was able to get an amendment attached to a House budget bill which, if approved, would reverse the nation’s capitol’s marijuana decriminalization law. Harris, a physician, pointed out a recent Department of Health and Human Services report found the District of Columbia has one of the highest rates of marijuana use among residents age 12 and up.

“As a physician, I have read study after study on the devastating effects of marijuana use, especially on developing brains of teenagers,” said Harris. “Congress has the authority to stop irresponsible actions by local officials and I am glad we did for the health and safety of children throughout the District. When I became a physician, I took an oath to do no harm, and decriminalizing marijuana will harm D.C. residents D.C. residents, especially youth. That’s why I took steps to stop its implementation.”

However, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray took umbrage to Harris’ perceived interference with his city’s policies and the attempt to reverse its decriminalization law. Gray this week essentially called for the residents of Washington to boycott vacation destinations in the congressman’s district.

“I don’t think we should support someone who doesn’t support us, who doesn’t support democracy period,” Gray told The Washington Post. “If they happen to go there and they happen to picket places that he may frequent or picket his office or whatever, I wouldn’t be averse to that at all. I think people should do whatever action moves them, and that is to let him know how undemocratic this is and that he ought to work on the business of his district.”

Harris’ spokesman Chris Meekins told The Dispatch on Wednesday Gray lost his recent primary election with just 33 percent of the vote, signaling the D.C. electorate’s dissatisfaction with the incumbent.

“I think D.C. voters showed on Election Day the value they place on what the mayor has to say,” he said. “I only wish some D.C. politicians cared as much about providing a quality education to D.C. students as they do about decriminalizing marijuana.”

Gray’s spokesman Pedro Ribeiro said Harris and his staff were treading on a slippery slope when referencing the Washington, D.C. voters.

“Those same D.C. voters prop up the Ocean City economy, so he should be very careful about insulting them,” he told The Washington Post.

Meekins told The Dispatch this week he firmly believes the proposed boycott was an empty threat.

“I would be shocked if you could find a single hotel or restaurant in Ocean City that had a cancelation due to this,” he said. “We just don’t think this will have any impact at all in Ocean City or anywhere in our district. The mayor lost his primary with a 33-percent vote and this is just some blathering on his part as he plays out his term.”

While the feud is playing out between Harris and Gray, another D.C. politician supports the boycott call. D.C. Councilmember and mayoral hopeful David Catania agreed with Gray’s call for a boycott of destinations in Harris’ district including Ocean City.

“I’m not eager to see anyone’s livelihood harmed, but at the same time, I think it’s important for us to call attention that he’s trying to mind our business while neglecting his constituents on the Eastern Shore,” he said.