Sidebar: The Other Reefer-Mad Sessions in Washington
Getting marijuana reform done at the federal level means passing laws through Congress. Despite supermajority support for reform, bipartisan measures to change federal marijuana laws are often stymied by just one member of Congress. Most often, that reefer-mad roadblock is Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) in the US House.
Rep. Sessions is not related to our diminutive Attorney General Jeff Sessions – except in their shared reefer madness. Like Jeff, Pete believes that marijuana is the gateway drug to heroin and that the “Just Say No” tactics of the 1980s actually worked.
Sessions represents Texas’ 32nd congressional district (Northeastern Dallas suburbs) and is the chair of the House Rules Committee. This committee doesn’t cover any specific area of policy; it oversees directing bills to the House floor that are reported out of those other committees. If Sessions doesn’t like the measure, it goes nowhere.
In this Congress, Rep. Sessions’ committee has single-handedly blocked all voting on marijuana amendments, including:
Many of these measures have broad bipartisan support and might pass if given a full vote on the House floor. But Rep. Pete Sessions has bottled up every attempt at reform for the past two years.
To make matters worse, ousting Pete Sessions from his office in the general election might not be enough to break the logjam. The Rules Committee is effectively an arm of House leadership. If the next House Speaker doesn’t want marijuana to be voted on, he or she can just direct the next Rules Chair to do just as Pete Sessions has done. And even if the next chair brings up these amendments, a party-line vote can stop any progress in its tracks.
That is, if the next Congress remains in Republican control…