Rep. Young joins Democrats to pass U.S. marijuana legalization bill

A woman processes marijuana in Alaska.
Marijuana being processed and harvested in Southeast Alaska. (Berett Wilber/Alaska Public)

Alaska Rep. Don Young was one of only five Republicans to vote for a bill that would decriminalize marijuana.

The bill passed 228-164 in the House on Friday, but is unlikely to go further before Congress adjourns in early January.

Rep. Young’s tweet include a 2019 photo of him touring Alaska grow operation Raspberry Roots.

Young, who does not advocate for marijuana use, is nonetheless co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus.

“I’m a conservative Republican … but I believe in state’s rights,” he said in 2017, when the caucus was announced. (A caucus, in this sense, is a group of like-minded lawmakers who come together to advance a particular issue.) He said the federal government should not overrule the voters in his state.

Alaska and 14 other states have legalized cannabis for recreational use by adults. A majority of states allow it for medical purposes.

Passage of the House bill is a significant milestone for the movement to make cannabis legal nationwide, but the legislation is not likely to pass the Senate before early January when the 116th Congress concludes. Sen. Kamala Harris, now vice president-elect, introduced a similar bill in 2019 that did not advance in the Senate. If both bills expire when Congress adjourns as expected, supporters would have to reintroduce the legislation when Congress reconvenes in 2021.

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Liz Ruskin covers Alaska issues in Washington as the network's D.C. correspondent. She was born in Anchorage and is a West High grad. She has degrees from the University of Washington and the University of Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia. She previously worked at the Homer News, the Anchorage Daily News and the Washington bureau of McClatchy Newspapers. She also freelanced for several years from the U.K. and Japan, in print and radio. Liz has been APRN’s Washington, D.C. correspondent since October 2013. She's @lruskin on Twitter. She welcomes your news tips at lruskin (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  | About Liz

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