A new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives appears ready to move on federal marijuana legalization, but there’s a roadblock in the Senate
Although a feisty new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives appears ready to move on federal marijuana legalization, a roadblock in the Senate could foreshadow a showdown in the U.S. Supreme Court.
On Jan. 9, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, introduced the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, which would remove cannabis from its Schedule 1 classification, where the plant has been quarantined since passage of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Known also as House Bill 420, in a nod and a wink to the coded term for marijuana consumption, “the issue is very serious,” stated Blumenauer.
“Our federal marijuana laws are outdated, out of touch and have negatively impacted countless lives. Congress cannot continue to be out of touch with a movement that a growing majority of Americans support.”
But a top official with the pro-legalization group, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws,offers a bleak assessment.
“Never in history has a Congress been comprised of a more favorable House of Representatives in regards to cannabis reform,” stated NORML political director Justin Strekal in an email. “However, given Senator (Mitch) McConnell’s longstanding support of the cruel practice of federal marijuana criminalization and his tendency to rule by fiat, it is unlikely that he would allow for even a debate on the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, let alone a vote.”
A query to the office of McConnell was returned with an email link to a May 2018 article in The Hill, in which the Senate President announced, “I do not have any plans to endorse the legalization of marijuana.”
Sixty-two percent of Americans support legalization, according to a 2018 Pew Research Center poll. But if McConnell fails to act, national attention may pivot to federal court, where two Army veterans diagnosed for post-traumatic stress disorder continue to hound the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Agency for upholding a law they claim is unconstitutional.
“We have two types of people in the Senate — we have The Flintstones, and we have The Jetsons,” says Iraq war veteran Leo Bridgewater of Trenton, New Jersey. “Mitch McConnell represents The Flintstones genre. And if HR 420 doesn’t go through Mitch, there’s still our lawsuit. I can’t imagine this is what he really wants. The optics for that are not very good.”