An advocate for marijuana law reform has filed a $10,420 federal claim against Rep. Andy Harris, alleging the Maryland Republican bruised her leg by slamming an office door during a demonstration and damaged her reputation by suggesting she initiated a physical confrontation.
“I was trying to speak to the congressman about how cannabis saved my life,” said RachelRamone Donlan in a news release Wednesday. "But instead of pausing to listen, he slammed the door on my leg and knee.”
The release, issued by fellow marijuana rights activist Adam Eidinger, said Donlan filed a Form 95 complaint with the U.S. House of Representatives. The form is used to present claims for injury or damage "allegedly caused by a federal employee's negligence or wrongful act or omission," according to the Justice Department website.
Mark Goldstone, Donlan’s attorney, said her claims would be investigated by the House general counsel’s office.
In a statement after the Oct. 2 demonstration in Washington, the Baltimore County lawmaker offered a different version of events. The congressman's office said the protesters "sought to forcibly enter the office" as Harris entered through a private door, "bruising his wrist as they tried to force the door open."
Harris addressed Donlan’s complaint Wednesday in an email reply to The Baltimore Sun.
“Since this involves a legal claim, I can have no comment at this time — except that the fact that the court imposed a ‘stay away’ order as a result of her actions that day speaks for itself. The timing of this claim certainly suggests this is a blatantly political ploy.”
Goldstone said a magistrate judge on the District of Columbia Superior Court issued the order following a negotiation with the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington.
U.S. Capitol Police had arrested Donlan and another demonstrator on charges of consumption of marijuana in a prohibited public space.
“When she went to court, we negotiated to resolve her case and she agreed to stay away for three months from his office,” Goldstone said. “The main point is that the charge was for public use.”
If she stays away for three months, “the criminal charge will be dismissed,” the attorney said.
Donlan asked in her complaint that Harris, who is seeking re-election on Nov. 6, apologize for “his mischaracterization of me as violent in the press and on the internet.”
In 2014, Harris worked to block full legalization of marijuana in the District of Columbia. Eidinger has worked to try to defeat his re-election bids.
Donlan’s press release said she weighs 90 pounds, suffers from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a genetic connective tissue disorder "that causes her intense physical pain," and uses marijuana for relief.
Goldstone, the attorney, said she is essentially seeking $10,000 in damages but added $420 because that number is popular code for marijuana. “Rather then say 10,000, we say 10,420,” he said.