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Harris is backing medical pot research measure

Harris, the lawmaker D.C. loved to hate, is pushing a new pot bill.

Rep. Andy Harris, the Baltimore County Republican at the center of a controversy last year over the District of Columbia's marijuana legalization, is pushing a bipartisan measure on Wednesday that would expand federally funded research of medical marijuana.

The amendment, which has support from another Republican and two Democrats, would put pot in a new subclassification of drugs that sponsors say would make it easier for the National Institutes of Health and the Drug Enforcement Administration to study it.

Harris, a Johns Hopkins-trained anesthesiologist, is offering the language as an amendment to a sweeping overhaul of NIH and Food and Drug Administration programs that is moving through the GOP-controlled House of Representatives this week. Harris has been involved with drafting significant portions of that bill.

The Republican became the face of GOP efforts to block Washington from loosening its pot laws last year when he inserted a provision in a federal funding bill to halt those changes. Harris and former Mayor Vincent C. Gray got into a public dispute over the language and some advocates called for D.C. residents to boycott Eastern Shore beaches in Harris' district.

"Our drug policy should be based on sound science, which is sorely lacking on the medical efficacy of marijuana," Harris said in a statement. "We need science to clearly determine whether marijuana has medicinal benefits and if so, what is the best way to gain those benefits."

Joining Harris on the bill are Republican Rep. H. Morgan Griffith of Virginia and Democratic Reps. Sam Farr of California and Earl Blumenauer of Oregon.

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