Washington, DC: House members have now concluded voting on the Blumenauer-McClintock-Norton-Lee amendment, which restricts the Department of Justice from spending taxpayer dollars to enforce federal anti-marijuana laws in the majority of US states that regulate either the adult-use and/or medical use of cannabis.
The final vote total was 254 to 163, with 97% of the Democratic caucus (222 of 228 voting) and 16% of the Republican caucus (31 of 188 voting) in favor.
This important vote comes just 96 days before the November elections, and at a time when a greater percentage of the American public supports legalization than ever before.
According to two prominent polls released late last year, a super-majority of the public supports legalization, including majorities of Democratic, Republican, and Independent voters.
Pew Research Center, Nov. 2019
Question: The use of marijuana should be made legal?
- Overall: 67% Yes - 32% No
- Democrats / Lean Democrats: 78% Yes - 20% No
- Republicans / Lean Republicans: 55% Yes - 44% No
Gallup Polling, Oct. 2019
Question: Do you think the use of marijuana should be made legal, or not?
- Overall: 66% Yes - 33% No
- Democrat: 76% Yes - 23% No
- Republicans: 51% Yes - 47% No
- Independents: 68% Yes - 30% No
Nonetheless, the nominees for the major parties have both avoided explicitly voicing support for marijuana legalization.
Earlier this month, the Biden campaign released recommendations that called to “decriminalize marijuana use and reschedule it through executive action on the federal level.”
However, NORML believes that rescheduling cannabis under federal law is impractical and counterproductive. Most Americans want cannabis treated in a manner similar to alcohol, which is unscheduled under federal law; they do not desire to have cannabis regulated like either cocaine or oxycodone, both of which are currently classified as Schedule II controlled substances and carry with it criminal penalties for the mere possession of the substance without a physicians prescription. You can read more of what NORML released at the time here.
Earlier this year, Marc Lotter, director of strategic communications for the Trump 2020 effort, said in an interview with Las Vegas CBS affiliate KLAS-TV, “I think what the president is looking at is looking at this from a standpoint of a parent of a young person to make sure that we keep our kids away from drugs.” He later said “They need to be kept illegal. That is the federal policy.”
The President's most far-reaching statement about cannabis legislation during his presidency was June of 2018. In response to a question about the STATES Act, carried by Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Gardner, Trump said: “I support Sen. Gardner. I know exactly what he’s doing. We’re looking at it. But I probably will end up supporting that, yes.”
Nonetheless, there has been no further discussion or advancement of that bill in the Republican controlled Senate.
2020 Ballot Initiatives
This November, voters in various states -- including several traditionally red states such as Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, and South Dakota -- are anticipated to be deciding on ballot initiatives to legalize the distribution of marijuana for either medical or adult use. If passed, the total number of adult-use legal states will rise from 11 to 15 and the number of medical marijuana legalization states will increase from 33 to 36.
House Votes to Protect Legal Marijuana States From Federal Interventions
Washington, DC: Today, the House of Representatives by voice vote passed a wide-ranging amendment restricting the Department of Justice from spending taxpayer dollars to enforce federal anti-marijuana laws in the majority of US states that regulate either the adult-use and/or medical use of cannabis.
A roll call will be made later today and published at NORML.org.
“This is the most significant vote on marijuana policy reform that the House of Representatives has taken this year,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. “The importance of this bipartisan vote cannot be overstated as today; nearly one in four Americans reside in a jurisdiction where the adult use of cannabis is legal under state statute. It is time for Congress to acknowledge this reality and retain these protections in the final spending bill.”
“The next logical step for House Leadership is to bring legislation to the floor to end prohibition and demonstrate to the American people that the era of marijuana criminalization is drawing to a close,” Strekal concluded.
Since 2014, members of Congress have passed annual spending bills that have included language protecting those who engage in the state-sanctioned use, production, and dispensing of medical cannabis from undue prosecution by the Department of Justice. The Blumenauer-McClintock-Norton-Lee amendment expands these protections to also include activities specific to the production and sale of cannabis to adults in the eleven states that have legalized the plant for anyone age 21 or older.
Similar language was passed by the House last year, yet the provision was stripped out of the final appropriations package in the conference committee.
NORML advocates for changes in public policy so that the responsible possession and use of marijuana by adults is no longer subject to criminal penalties. NORML further advocates for a regulated commercial cannabis market so that activities involving the for-profit production and retail sale of cannabis and cannabis products are safe, transparent, consumer-friendly, and are subject to state and/or local licensure. Finally, NORML advocates for additional changes in legal and regulatory policies so that those who use marijuana responsibly are no longer face either social stigma or workplace discrimination, and so that those with past criminal records for marijuana-related violations have the opportunity to have their records automatically expunged.