There are a number of pro-marijuana members of Congress, and yet it seems like nothing is ever done on the issue. Well it turns out a lot of that can be blamed on one single member.
Republican Pete Sessions (no relation to Jeff Sessions) is the chairman of the House Rules Committee, a powerful committee that can often determine if a bill ever makes it to the House floor for a vote. Sessions is notoriously anti-marijuana, often claiming the drug is addictive and dangerous. At a recent conference on the opioid crisis, Sessions went on several diatribes about marijuana and claimed that it’s a dangerous gateway towards abusing prescription painkillers. (Despite the fact that states with legal forms of marijuana have less opioid abuse.)
But as chairman of the Rules Committee, Sessions’ anti-marijuana bias basically ensures pro-cannabis bills and amendments never see the light of day. Since 2016, the Rules Committee has not let a single bill or amendment related to marijuana reach the House floor. That’s part of the reason the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, which is supported by a bipartisan coalition, is constantly at risk. Sessions won’t pass the bill and allow it for a House vote. The amendment passed by a wide margin originally in 2016, so Sessions is able to block even bills that are super popular from making it to the House floor.
Like all members of Congress, Sessions is up for re-election this November. Democratic congressman Earl Blumenauer has already pledged to purchase billboards in Sessions’ district criticizing his marijuana blockade. However, it may not be enough. Sessions is a Republican in Texas, and experts say that his district leans conservative. So Sessions may continue to prevent any progress on cannabis issues at the federal level for another extended period of time.