House votes to decriminalize marijuana as GOP resists national shift on pot

The measure is not expected to pass into law, and, due to 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 momentum, with voters last month opting to liberalize marijuana laws in five states — including three that President Trump won handily.

Friday’s vote, however, was largely along party lines, with Democrats voting overwhelmingly to support the federal decriminalization bill and all but five Republicans broadly opposing it.

“We are not rushing to legalize marijuana — the American people have already done that. We are here because Congress has failed to deal with a disastrous war on drugs and do its part for the over 50 million regular marijuana users in every one of your districts,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), a longtime liberalization advocate. “We need to catch up with the rest of the American people.”

Top Republicans — including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — made derisive public comments about the bill this week, painting the measure as a frivolous 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-Calif.) decides to “puff, puff, pass” on emergency coronavirus relief.

“It’s just unbelievable how tone-deaf they are to these small businesses and the jobs, the families that are tied to them,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) said in a Fox News Channel interview Thursday, slamming Democratic leaders for holding the vote.

But some are warning that Republicans risk finding themselves out of step with their own voters, who are increasingly embracing the loosening of marijuana restrictions — including outright legalization.

On Election Day in South Dakota, for instance, 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 medical marijuana use, with 62 percent of voters approving a ballot measure in a state where Trump won 58 percent of the vote. [Read More @ The Washington Post]

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