Ayyyeee… What’s Goodie Everyone. So I got some tea and it involves Congress and Weed.
The House of Representatives on Friday voting to remove marijuana from the federal schedule of controlled substances and provide for the regulation and taxation of legal cannabis sales. The vote was 228 to 164 and was the first time either chamber of Congress has voted on the issue of federally decriminalizing cannabis in over 70 years.
The measure is not expected to pass into law, because of political skittishness, it was only voted on after the November election and more than a year after it emerged from committee. But the House took a stand at a moment of increasing the momentum, with voters last month opting to liberalize marijuana laws in five states including three that Trump won. Friday’s vote, however, was largely along party lines, with Democrats voting overwhelmingly to support the federal decriminalization bill and all but five Republicans opposed it.
Top Republicans, those including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY.) made derisive public comments about the bill this week, painting the measure as a diversion from the task of funding the federal government and delivering a new round of emergency coronavirus aid to Americans.
One headline from McConnell: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.CA) decides to “puff, puff, pass” on emergency coronavirus relief.
Some are warning that Republicans risk finding themselves out of step with their own voters who increasingly embrace the loosening of marijuana restrictions including outright legalization. On Election Day in South Dakota, for example; 54 percent of voters opted to legalize marijuana, while only 36 percent of voters chose the Democratic presidential ticket. In Montana, the 57 percent who voted to legalize marijuana nearly matched the number who voted to reelect Trump. And Mississippi became the first state in the Deep South to legalize marijuana for medical use, with 62 percent of voters approving a ballot measure in a state where Trump won 58 percent of the vote.
Fifteen states have legalized recreational cannabis to some degree, and 36 states have approved medical marijuana programs, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level would not end the vast majority of non violent cannabis use prosecutions, which occurs in state courts. But it would end troublesome conflicts between state and federal law for those states that have loosened cannabis restrictions and would greatly ease commerce for the multibillion dollar cannabis industry.
Public opinion appears to be in line with the state level electoral trend. In October, Gallup found that 68 percent of Americans said the use of marijuana should be legal, the highest support for marijuana legalization since the polling organization first asked in 1969.
While overwhelming proportions of Democrats and independents supported legalization, Republicans were split; 52 percent for legalization and 48 percent against figures that have changed only slightly in recent years. But that near 50 50 split among Republican voters is not even close to being mirrored in the GOP lawmaker ranks. Only two of 17 House Republicans, Reps. Matt Gaetz (FL) and Tom McClintock (CA), supported the bill in the Judiciary Committee.
The bill also provides for the expungement of federal marijuana convictions dating to 1971 and bars the denial of federal public benefits or security clearances on the basis of marijuana offenses.