What Does the Historic Congressional Marijuana Vote Mean?

[Canniseur: This is historic…at least in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill passed the house by a huge majority because of bipartisan support. The Senate is a different matter, but now this ball is in their court. I don’t believe that cannabis legalization is going to be a major election issue in 2020, but I do believe that it will be there somehow in the election.]

In case you may have missed it, June 20, 2019 saw a historic cannabis vote in the U.S. House of Representatives, one in which the federal government was barred from using taxpayer funds to go after legal cannabis businesses in states that have legalized marijuana, whether it is for medical or adult-use purposes.

As many of you know, these protections have covered states that have medical marijuana laws since 2014 – the amendment being renewed each year – but now those protections have been extended to the 11 states that have legalized adult use possession.

Even more exciting than the vote itself was the margin of victory. The amendment passed by a vote of 267 to 165. This is an impressive spread that many feel bodes well going forward.

“The historic House vote signifies that the end of prohibition at the federal level is a question of when, not if,” Matthew Schweich, Deputy Director of the Marijuana Policy Project, told The Marijuana Times. “The passage of the Blumenauer-McClintock-Norton amendment demonstrates that sustained pressure on Congress to address the conflict between state and federal cannabis laws has yielded results. We now face a significant hurdle in the Senate, and we must maintain our advocacy efforts in order to see federal cannabis reform through to its conclusion.”

This vote shows that enough members of the House can come together to pass cannabis law reform measures whenever they want. So instead of it being a matter of politics, it’s more a matter of will. If Democrats in the House have the will to get legislation to the floor for a vote, nothing is stopping them.

As Matthew pointed out, the GOP-controlled Senate is a whole new can of worms when it comes to marijuana bills, but there seems to be no reason the House can’t clear a lot of pending legislation and make the Senate either vote on or ignore multiple marijuana measures.

To be sure, there is a lot going on in Congress these days, with the daily struggle between Democrats and President Trump for supremacy over the power of the federal government. And in light of that struggle, it seems it would be politically advantageous for Democrats to make GOP Senators take a stand against something that probably polls with majority support in their home state – namely, marijuana legalization.

“It’s past time we protect all cannabis programs,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), lead sponsor of the amendment, said in a statement. “We have much more work to do. The federal government is out of touch and our cannabis laws are out of date. I’m pleased that the House agrees and we are able to move forward.”

And forward is where we must move, relatively quickly. As many military leaders and sports coaches alike will tell you, the best time to press the enemy is when you have the advantage. Instead of letting your foot off the gas and letting the other side have time to regain their bearings, right after a victory is the best time to push forward on all fronts.

State-by-state legalization has done much for the cannabis movement and has gotten us where we are today, but it was never going to be the end. There’s no way it could be. As long as federal prohibition remains intact, no state laws are safe.

No matter what happens in the Senate, every effort must be made to get marijuana law reform legislation to the House floor, passed, and sent on its way. Not only will that put pressure on the GOP and maybe even Trump himself, but it will keep the issue at the forefront of the news cycle, where voters can more easily see which lawmakers are failing them.

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