Policy

Congress Weighs Weed: The March Toward Legalization

Four states and D.C. allow recreational use

With little action on the federal level, the fight for loosening marijuana restrictions has largely been carried out among the states. Until now. With the majority of states allowing some use of the drug, questions on enforcement, research and finance are now getting the full attention of Congress.

The issue, once pressed largely by Democrats, is now supported by members of both parties — many of whom take their cues from ballot measures in their home states. In 2014, 49 House Republicans joined 170 Democrats to block funding for enforcing marijuana laws in states that had legalized it. This Congress is considering 27 measures that focus on marijuana, up from just a handful in years past. While the general consensus has been that legalization will happen at some point, the trend indicates that it could be sooner rather than later.

Growing number of states legalizing

state-chart-01

... as public opinion shifts

Long in favor of medical marijuana, the public has had a recent change of heart on full legalization.

public-02

proposals-chart-2-web-3-01

... after House Democrats made early push for state autonomy

Number of representatives who signed on to bills that would defer to states and lower the drug’s legal classification

vote-chart-01

Support and opposition comes from players on both sides of the aisle

keyplayers-chart_artboard-5-copy-1

View more from the Roll Call series tracking national efforts to legalize marijuana: Congress Turning a New Leaf on Pot