Rep. Young joins Democrats to pass marijuana legalization bill

Rep. Don Young in his Washington, D.C. office. (Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

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

The bill passed 228-164 but is unlikely to go further before Congress adjourns.

Rep. Young tweeted an explanation of his vote that included a photo of the congressman touring an Alaska grow operation, Raspberry Roots, in 2019.

Young, who does not advocate for marijuana use, is nonetheless co-chair of the House 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. Young 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 the end of the 116th Congress. Sen. Kamala Harris, now vice president-elect, introduced a similar bill in 2019 that did not advance in the Senate.

If, as expected, both bills expire when Congress adjourns, supporters would have to introduce the legislation anew when Congress reconvenes in 2021.

Alaska Public Media

Alaska Public Media is our partner station in Anchorage. KTOO collaborates with partners across the state to cover important news and to share stories with our audiences.

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