“The United States Congress has made the possession of marijuana in every state and the distribution of it an illegal act. If that’s something that’s not desired any longer, Congress should pass a law to change the rule.”
Sessions’ statement shouldn’t have come as a surprise, considering the incoming Attorney General’s well-documented history as a Nixonian-era drug warrior, but it still seemed to suck the air out of the proverbial grow room. He was sending a clear message: the days of looking the other way are over.
“If you don’t like it,” he told Congress, “do something about it.”
In walked freshman Congressman Tom Garret (R-Virginia).
“Hold my beer.”
OK, so it didn’t exactly unfold like a backwoods bar fight, but the Congressman sure as hell answered his elder party member’s challenge. On February 27 of this year, Garrett, with Democratic co-sponsor Tulsi Gabbard, introduced House Bill 1227, a bipartisan initiative written to put the authority to regulate cannabis completely in the hands of the states.
It’s a move that has many scratching their heads. After all, cannabis legalization hasn’t historically been a rallying cry, let alone a priority for the party of Reagan, whose tenure was steeped in some of the shrillest anti-marijuana rhetoric since the days of William Randolph Hearst. For decades now, the mythical left/right paradigm has been established with lines clearly drawn; conservatives loathe the “Devil’s Lettuce” while liberals secretly smoke it. That’s what the myth-makers would have us believe, anyway. But Garrett isn’t buying the myth.
“I believe in the Jeffersonian concept of liberty,” the Congressman explains, “which is, your freedom ends where mine begins. That is, you’re not free to do something that adversely impacts me. But if you choose to do something that adversely impacts you and no one else, that’s your that’s your right . . . I think it’s naturally a Republican thing. But maybe I’m just a different kind of Republican.”
With the GOP currently dominated by law and order types like Trump, Sessions and Christie, one would be inclined to agree. But through the lens of the party’s core principles, he’s actually spot on, and he’s not the only one. There are a growing number of free-thinkers within the ranks of the GOP who now share his conviction with more coming around every day. Ron Paul’s torchbearers, Thomas Massey and Justin Amash, obviously come to mind, but dozens more are now joining the cause. In all, Garrett estimates that at least 50 congressmen from red districts are ready to vote yes.
As if the entire scenario didn’t seem flipped on its ear already, Garrett’s bill is virtually the same one that was submitted last year by former presidential candidate and self-proclaimed socialist, Bernie Sanders. Yes, a conservative from Virginia is pushing a bill that was once championed by the guy from Vermont that the Right would swear was the favorite pupil of Marx himself. Hannity would have a field day with the whole thing, but Garrett barely bats an eye at the suggestion.
“If you get me on Hannity and he wants to take the con side of it, I’ll kick his ass on his own TV program.”
Fearless though he may seem in these moments, there’s a duality in Garrett’s talking points on the issue. For though he clearly elucidates a belief in individual liberty and fearlessly touts the medical value of cannabis, he insists that he’s not taking a stand for or against legalization, but merely codifying the current federal approach to states that have already legalized. He even goes so far to suggest that the reader base of this publication may not seem him as “their guy.”.
“I’m a law and order guy,” he insists, “but justice that isn’t blind isn’t justice.”
“Heck, I like Sessions,” he later admits, almost as if actively trying to shirk the poster boy status.
“What this bill does is it deregulates federally,” he qualifies, “and that is a passion of mine, candidly because I spent almost a decade as a prosecutor. Federal law should be enforced uniformly . . . but right now, that’s not the case as it relates to marijuana policy.”
So why not just push for a federal crackdown?
“I just don’t think those laws make any sense. And I think states will come to those conclusions on their own.”
As formerly acknowledged, this isn’t the first time this bill has graced the House, and should the current version fail, it won’t be the last. With over half the country now favoring recreational marijuana and support for medical hovering around 90%, federal prohibition repeal is only a matter of time. Be that as it may, Garret is convinced that it can happen now. From his calculations, the votes are there.
“If I look at the heads in the chamber and I try to count,” He pauses and chuckles. “There might be a double entendre there. I did not do that on purpose. But . . . I really think the bill passes if we get it out of committee.”
If you’ve taken one too many dab rips to remember the song from School House Rock, here’s what this means:
The bill is currently sitting in the Judiciary Committee. There, it’s awaiting the vote that will allow it to move to the floor where the entire House can weigh in. As Garrett noted, if it makes it to the floor, it will most likely pass. However, one look at the positions of many in that committee reveals that they’ll need some persuasion to let it go through. That’s where We the People come in. With just a little bit of applied pressure in just the right place (in this case, the House Judiciary Committee) we could potentially force the slow hand of progress to work its magic and make the dream of legalization a reality. It can happen. And oddly enough, all thanks to a conservative Republican from the buckle of the Bible Belt.