November 16, 2018
The Return of Marijuana Amendments
In January, when Democrats assume the majority at the United States House of Representatives, we should witness the return of something that has been absent from the legislative body for years — House floor debates and votes on amendments to roll back the US government’s war on marijuana.
Since June of 2016, the House Rules Committee, under the leadership of Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), has blocked any proposed amendments to roll back marijuana prohibition from reaching the House floor for consideration. This blocking of amendments has coincided with the increasing of the number of states that have legalized medical and recreational marijuana, as well as of Americans’ majority support for legalization.
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), the incoming House Rules Committee chairman, has declared he will end the obstruction of such amendments. After the election this month that gave Democrats a House majority, McGovern stated, “unlike my predecessor, I’m not going to block amendments for marijuana.”
Citizens are passing ballot initiatives, legislatures are passing laws, and we need to respect that. Federal laws and statutes are way behind.
This indicates that, in additions to supporting allowing the marijuana amendments to be considered on the House floor, McGovern supports enacting significant roll backs of the US government’s marijuana prohibition.
Given the refusal of congressional leadership to allow the consideration of marijuana prohibition roll back bills on the House floor, amendments were the only means to have floor debates and votes on the matter, until even that avenue was shut down in 2016.
House approval of medical marijuana and hemp amendments in 2014 led to including in US law provisions intended to protect people complying with state laws that conflict with US marijuana prohibition. And these provisions have since been included in successive appropriations bills. Maybe if amendments had not been blocked from consideration on the House floor since 2016, a similar protection would have become law for people complying with state laws legalizing recreational marijuana. Plenty of other amendments may have been approved in the House as well.
The current top Democratic House leaders do not seem interested in prioritizing rolling back the war on marijuana when the party is in the majority in January. Absent a change in that leadership, the best hope for accomplishing any quick roll back will likely be marijuana amendments McGovern’s committee allows to reach the House floor.
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