If Even Utah Has Gone Soft on Pot, Can the Nation Be Far Behind?

Nearly a quarter of the U.S. population lives in a jurisdiction where recreational use is legal.


Talking to Roll Call in October, Sen. Cory Gardner (R–Colo.) described Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's dismay upon hearing that Utah voters seemed ready to approve medical marijuana. "McConnell looks at me, and he goes, 'Utah?'" Gardner recalled. "Just this terrified look. And as he says that, [Republican Utah Sen.] Orrin Hatch walks up, and Mitch looks at Orrin and says, 'Orrin, is Utah really going to legalize marijuana?' And Orrin Hatch folds his hands, looks down at his feet, and says, 'First tea, then coffee, and now this.'"

Utah's medical marijuana initiative won by six points on November 6, notwithstanding vocal opposition from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Voters were even more enthusiastic in Missouri, where a measure legalizing medical use won by a margin of nearly 2–1. Counting Oklahoma, where a similar initiative passed in June by a 14-point margin, three red states approved medical marijuana in 2018, while Michigan became the first Midwestern state to legalize recreational use.

By the end of 2018, medical marijuana had been legalized in 33 states, 10 of which also now let adults use cannabis without a doctor's note. Nearly a quarter of the U.S. population lives in a jurisdiction where recreational use is legal. Yet marijuana is still prohibited in any form for any purpose under federal law, something that could change now that Democrats have a majority in the House of Representatives.

The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act, a bill first introduced by now-former Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R–Calif.) in 2013, would have made the federal ban inapplicable to "any person acting in compliance with State laws." The most recent version of the bill attracted 46 co-sponsors, 70 percent of whom were Democrats. It never got a hearing.

"While members of Congress in both major parties have become increasingly supportive of good marijuana legislation," Marijuana Policy Project co-founder Rob Kampia wrote on his blog the day after the elections, "approximately 90% of Democrats—and only 25% of Republicans—support such legislation generally." When it comes to marijuana reform, Kampia said, "the Democratic takeover of the U.S. House was the most important outcome" of the 2018 elections.

Assuming that the new House leadership lets something like Rohrabacher's bill advance, a coalition of reform-friendly Democrats and federalism-friendly Republicans should be able to pass it. While that prospect may seem more remote in the Senate, which is still controlled by Republicans, a similar bill introduced in June by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.), known as the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act, attracted 10 co-sponsors, evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. "We'll probably end up supporting that," President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly said states should be free to go their own way on marijuana, told reporters after the STATES Act was unveiled.

Such legislation seems to be popular. A Quinnipiac University poll conducted last April put support for medical marijuana at 93 percent, including 86 percent of Republicans, and support for general legalization at 63 percent. While 55 percent of Republicans opposed legalizing recreational use, just 38 percent of them favored enforcing the federal ban in states that do so. Three-quarters of the respondents, including more than half of Republicans, supported legislation that would shield those states from federal interference.

Because of the federal ban, state-licensed marijuana merchants are constantly exposed to the risk of prosecution, forfeiture, and anti-racketeering litigation. The ban complicates financing, leasing, contracting, branding, insurance, banking, and income taxes. Now that two-thirds of the states have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use, surely it is time for Congress to eliminate these burdens by acknowledging that most of the country has rejected pot prohibition.

In addition to the state marijuana ballot initiatives and the Democratic takeover of the House, two election-related developments involving men named Sessions bode well for that reckoning. House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R–Texas), an unreconstructed drug warrior whom Kampia calls "the sphincter who has constipated all marijuana bills and amendments in the House in recent years," lost his bid for re-election. A day later, Trump finally (for reasons of his own) got rid of Jeff Sessions, who as a senator averred that "good people don't smoke marijuana" and as attorney general periodically threatened to crack down on state-legal cannabusinesses. The two anti-pot stalwarts are related only spiritually.

NEXT: Video: Arkansas Cop Casually Shoots a 9-pound Dog

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  1. At this point I think it’s worth reminding people that libertarians don’t support drug legalization because we think taking drugs is a good idea. It’s because we think people should be allowed to make really bad decisions in their own lives, and because prohibition has horrible effects for people who aren’t stupid enough to do drugs.

    So, it’s a good thing that pot is being legalized, but a sad thing that a fair number of people will take advantage of this to actually use it. Brace yourselves, because the results of legalization aren’t going to remotely be all good.

    1. If it results in less asshole cops harassing the public, I’ll be ecstatic. If the Federal agencies manage to layoff personnel because of it, I’ll be astounded.

    2. The results so far have been fewer teenagers using pot. I take it you would otherwise think that a good thing.

    3. I agree with that assessment. Honestly, I take a more dim view of just being a stoner on pot and risking addiction and dependency, but a government nanny state deciding for us what our health decisions are, nor acknowledging many can do it in moderation is no bargain… That being said, albeit detrimental health risks that will increase once legalized, we have the choice to smoke and risk all sorts of horrible diseases and an early death, so why not pot too then?…

      1. Have you ever toked up, Lady of Reason?

        1. No!… I had to look it up to even see what that means… You?

          1. I’ve done all three.

      2. That being said, albeit detrimental health risks that will increase once legalized . . .

      3. Marijuana is not addictive, you’ve been fed propaganda all your life and “know” things that simply are not true.

        1. Pot’s not physically addictive, but like sweet snacks and wanking, it is mentally addictive, like anything that is enjoyable.

    4. I guess you don’t believe in that pursuit of happiness thing.

      Let’s quantify happiness (bogus but fun), and do some arithmetic with fake numbers.

      The non users (50 out of 100) each get -1 happiness because they are moral prudes or worrisome nannies.

      The users (45 out of 100) each get 5 happiness because, well, weed.

      The abusers (5 out of 100) each get -25 happiness.

      The net result is that for 100 people, happiness has increased by 50, or +0.5 happiness per person. Horrible.

      Of course, like you said, Libertarians don’t do collective math. We let people decide for themselves.

      1. I’ve know any number of stoners. For the most part they were sad, wasted people. But it isn’t the government’s business to ‘save’ people, except maybe from floods, and furthermore the government is generally bad at anything requiring nuance and tact. And if the government did manage to seriously interdict the flow of weed (something it hasn’t managed in my lifetime) the stoners would probably turn to alcohol, which doesn’t strike me as an improvement.

        Pot smoking is a vice. Now, I have my own vices, so I’m not trying to sound morally superior. But it is a vice. Vice, generally speaking, isn’t good for you. But allowing people who feel morally superior because THEIR vice is being buttinskies to use the power of the State to harry people of whom they disapprove has had social effects that strike me as a good deal worse than having a bunch of work-shy bums laying about smoking herb.

        1. Pot smoking is not a vice. Chronic pot smoking may be a vice, perhaps, but the occasional joint does not have any negative moral implications.

        2. For the most part they were sad, wasted people.

          Don’t confuse cause and effect. My observation is that lost, unhappy people become stoners, not the other way around.

        3. I know quite a few successful business owners with families who are stoners. They are just really good at hiding their smoking from people that disapprove.

          1. They are just really good at hiding their smoking from people that disapprove.

            That’s one of worst negative effects of chronic pot smoking?because it is not generally tolerated, habitual smokers end up in a social ghetto of other habitual smokers, or worse, alone. Their efforts to hide their pot use make it increasingly difficult to maintain relationships with non-smokers.

    5. We also might point out that the drug war is the single most racist policy of the government.

      “A black person was 3.7 times as likely to be arrested for marijuana as a white person. And in some individual counties nationally, blacks were more than 10, 15, and even 20 times as likely to be arrested.”


      Nearly half of all black men are arrested by the age of 23.


      Perhaps the easiest way to legally exclude African-American men from housing and employment disproportionately is to simply run a criminal background check, and that is mostly because of the drug war.

      It is amazing when people focus on things like hate speech and depictions of minorities in the media when the single greatest cause of unnecessary misery and racial disparity in this country is probably our stupid laws on marijuana.

      1. Add to that, that the law against marijuana (a ‘tax’ instituted by FDR) was passed amid a blizzard fo the kind of ‘we gotta keep them goddamned Niggers in line swill one normally expects from the (sleazy) KKK table at an Alabama county fair.

        Yet another example of the famous Racial tolerance of the Democrat Party.


        1. The kinds of people (racist southerners) who were Democrats 80 years ago are now Republicans. I have a family of these motherfuckers. They were all Democrats until the northern Democrats voted for the civil rights legislation and then over time these ignorant racist types gravitated towards the Republican and all blacks who had been Republicans more or less because of Lincoln gravitated towards the Democratic party. Its hard to believe you’re just learning this but now you know.

          1. That’s a bit of an oversimplification.

            I think it’s fair to say that the Democrats in power decided the only they liked less than blacks was losing power, so if making like blacks were okay was the price of staying in power, then they were willing to do that–however reluctantly.

            I think it’s also fair to say that farming interests were and continue to be big source of Democrat support despite your oversimplification.

            Oh, and wasn’t Obama the first Democrat to win the Presidency without a southerner on the ticket? Southerners as recently as Gore were still projecting themselves as the moral majority’s man in the Democratic Party. Suffice it to say, there has always been a lot more than just race going on in the South, and it’s still that way today.

    6. Plus, the party plank says ass sex and blow.

      1. So, what’s all this talk about ass sex forfeiture?

      2. It’s called spit roasting, Harvey.

      3. There’s no blow in the LP party – its Ass Sex, Pot, and *Mexicans*!

      4. There’s no blow in the LP party – its Ass Sex, Pot, and *Mexicans*!

        1. Who stop you think it’s bringing the blow?

          1. Omg I hate auto spell
            *Who do you think is bringing the blow? *

    7. At this point I think it’s also worth reminding people that the last Libertarian Party presidential candidate opposed the legalization of any drug OTHER than marijuana while his running mate opposed even lifting the ban on MJ

    8. Brace yourselves, because the results of legalization aren’t going to remotely be all good.

      They won’t be worse than those associated with tobacco, fast food, organized religion, soda, guns, qualified immunity, faith healing, or alcohol.

      1. Ugh, that wasn’t funny. The Onion just isn’t as good when they try to go after Democrats in the name of “balance.” I bet some great Drumpf or Bush or Palin material didn’t make the site just so they could find room for that weak excuse for political humor.

    9. So, can you clarify your point?

      I can read this at least two ways. One, is just be aware of the fact that legalization has negative consequences as well. And so as we celebrate, be aware of it. If so, that’s a reasonable stance. Particularly insofar as we will see pushback after legalization of various substances that will point out the negative consequences of these things.

      The other way is that we will regret this decision, which I’m less convinced of. If everyone starts ODing off their marijaneauna then I accept that outcome as a means for those people to live and die how they choose.

      1. The first. I expect pot legalization to be net beneficial. But only very slightly, because the continued prohibition of other drugs will be enough to keep the organized crime problems begun by alcohol prohibition in place. We can’t expect a major collapse of organized crime out of relegalizing just one drug.

        And there will definitely be downsides.

        1. Living in denver, I can tell you the only down side I’ve seen is a bunch of homeless kids moving here for pot. Now that other states are legalizing it, I expect that problem to diminish.
          Seriously, y’all are acting like pot is a drug-drug, and it’s simply not.

          1. I’m reading his comment now to be more a warning towards the pushback that will happen from certain sources. To be aware of the politics that will say “Look at these poor homeless teens who are so addicted to the pot that they came to Denver and lower our SAT scores!?!?!?!?”

            Anything will have pushback, and it’s important to make it known that philosophical reason for Pot legalization is that people have individual autonomy, and not that the state should let people smoke pot because it’s good for them. The latter is a statist argument, the former libertarian.

            1. Which, since I’m in a rambling mood and am drunk today, I will expound upon further.

              A lot of Reason’s coverage of marijuana legalization is based on this idea that the drug war is harmful, and that weed has benefits for people, cancer patients, anorexics, whatever. But if this is the only argument you make, or if it is the core argument you make, then you’re basically making a progressive argument. That this has some benefit, and so legalization is a knob that should be turned to improve society. If weed ends up having empirically bad effect than it should be turned back. It’s progressive, it’s utilitarian.

              So it’s important to make this keep the core argument of human autonomy at the forefront. Empirical argument is good as well, but there is a moral case underlying it all that is not changed when one takes account of stoned 19 year olds loitering at a 7-Eleven.

              1. Of course the self-ownership argument is important. It is the most important argument against the drug war. But this argument does not win policy discussions or convince soccer moms. However, this is the argument that creates more libertarians and should ne the long term strategy, which recognizes that the only way to change the world is through one person at a time.

                1. I realize that, and don’t think that the practical argument shouldn’t be made, just that this ideal of self ownership should be always at the front of our minds and our arguments. The philosophical differences that ground libertarianism are meaningful and should be expounded upon.

                  1. “Then why not legalize heroin, cocaine and LSD?” is the response to the self ownership argument that you will hear.

                    The correct answer is “Go for it!” but that won’t sell in Peoria. Thus the utilitarian argument about lower incarceration rates, tax revenues, and medical uses helps people become more libertarian by accident.

    10. Usually, when someone claims to speak for libertarians as a whole, they’re wrong. This is one of those cases.

      1. Don’t speak for me, bro. I like it when someone speaks for libertarians as a whole.

    11. Leave it to a mystic to use prophesy about the future as the major and mind-reading as the minor premise in drawing what it deems a conclusion.

  2. would have made the federal ban inapplicable to “any person acting in compliance with State laws

    How weird. If the feds judge you in compliance with state laws, they will leave you alone, as they should under federalism. But if the feds judge you out of compliance with state laws, without benefit of judge or jury, just all by their lonesome, then they will charge you under federal laws, which have no particular similarity or difference to the state laws they arbitrarily decided you weren’t following.

    1. I mean ….. some fed lawyer with a burr up his butt could decide you violated some state law in some very minor way that the state cops and prosecutors wouldn’t even think about using as overcharging to sweat you over a plea deal and would only result in a citation similar to jay walking, and charge you under fed laws which incur ten years in prison.

      And innumerable politicians and statists think that’s just ducky.

      What a fucked up world statists create.

      1. Yes, no matter what you do, you break multiple laws. Almost as if by design.

  3. “In Screening for Suicide Risk, Facebook Takes On Tricky Public Health Role”
    “Mason Marks, a health law scholar, argues that Facebook’s suicide risk scoring software, along with its calls to the police that may lead to mandatory psychiatric evaluations, constitutes the practice of medicine”

    Hint to Mark Zuckerberg: If someone posts it, leave it be.

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  5. “…When it comes to marijuana reform, Kampia said, “the Democratic takeover of the U.S. House was the most important outcome” of the 2018 elections.”

    Kampia is obviously a Democrat as well as a POT legalization advocate. But, it was a Democrat-controlled Congress that began making pot illegal back in 1937. (And in 1914 when the Harrison Narcotics Act was passed). Yet, it is a Republican bill from for Rep Dana Rohrbacher that they are basing this legalization effort on. Democrats had control of both Houses of Congress for nearly all of 40 years, beginning in the ’60s – and cannabis was kept illegal the entire time.

    And, the presidential candidate most likely to have legalized cannabis during recent years was Ron Paul, a Republican.

    The idea that cannabis prohibition is a Republican idea opposed by Democrats is BS. Unfortunately, the rank-and-file of both parties tend to believe this.

    1. Maybe because Donkey politicians often sound like they are stoned and some ultra conservative Heffalumps are the most vocal advocates of the drug war?

  6. “Tech conference takes steps toward gender equity”
    “This year, four of the nine current keynoters are women. GenderAvenger, the activist group that raised a ruckus last year,…”

    ‘Bob, it looks like they ganged them all in the afternoon; meet you in the bar about 2:00, OK?’

  7. Man of the PEOPLE!

    “New California Gov. Newsom takes office Monday, throws high-priced events”
    “Incoming Gov. Gavin Newsom is throwing himself a two-day swearing-in bash, with ticket packages running as high as $200,000 for the inaugural festivities and up to $1 million for “champion” corporate sponsorships to Sunday’s charity concert benefiting victims of California’s wildfires.
    Sponsor ticket packages to help pay for the inaugural parties range from $25,000 to $200,000.”

    Didn’t one of his staff mention the phrase ‘shake down’?

  8. This makes me so proud of America. Thank you all! However there is a danger with progress like this, which is that it is often counteracted with oppressive legislation in other forms. For example, Utah just enacted the lowest BAC drunk driving limit. Meaning that basically if you have just a couple drinks you can get charged with a misdemeanor or felony. It will criminalize good people. Thus it’s important to remember that as we deregulate, we must also reduce funding for law enforcement. That way they won’t be able to get us into trouble in other areas. #progressnotperfection

    1. But look at the bright side. Utahs downwind-from-light-beer law will make it easy to frame and deport non-gentiles who only have work or permanent residence visas.

  9. Democrats can prove you right by quickly passing marijuana reform.

    That is, if they’re not too busy impeaching Trump for Russia or something.

    Priorities, after all.

  10. ” something that could change now that Democrats have a majority in the House of Representatives.”

    Yeah, NO. The Republicans sill control both the Senate and the White House. Anyone who thinks the 2018 midterm elections put the Democratic party in a position to make significant changes to Federal law/policy is delusional.

    1. True, but no more delusional than the people who vote Republican in order to keep weed illegal because reefer madness or Jeebers told them to.

    2. First, the Republican House — especially when sensible conservatives were permitting Freedom Caucus extremists to lead House majorities around by the nostrils — might have been the most severe obstacle to curbing the drug warriors, for several reasons. House Republicans are no longer in any position to enforce prudish authoritarianism.

      Second, as the next elections approach and conservatives’ fear of becoming political eunuchs increases, Republican senators or a Republican president might begin to see abandoning unpopular views with respect to doobies as politically expedient.

      1. Or maybe you’ll find a brain cell and stop being the raging asshole you are.

        1. Cranky, vanquished, inconsequential right-wingers are among my favorite faux libertarians.

      2. “Freedom Caucus extremists to lead House majorities around by the nostrils — might have been the most severe obstacle to curbing the drug warriors”

        Freedom Caucus members are mostly anti drug war. Try Lie again

  11. So, I guess the latest on the shutdown negotiations is over what the word “wall” means.

    A trial balloon is going up on whether Pelosi’s fellow Democrats will accept giving the president $5 billion to build a “fence” consisting of 20′ to 30′ high steel slats. By doing this, Pelosi would claim that they stopped the president from building a “wall”. You see, a “wall” is apparently made of concrete, and the funding for the “fence” would specifically prohibit that.


    By changing the meaning of words, the Democrats would govern our nation.

  12. It’s going to happen in April 2020.

  13. Wow, can you believe how crazy conservatives have gone over the AOC dancing video????!!! I should call my sister and make sure her right-wing husband didn’t have a heart attack over it!

    1. You should. I worry about him. A good friend of mine died last year from sudden cardiac event, and so I worry.

      1. Bouncing tits can do that if you have a bum ticker.

    2. Better get that guy some pills. AOC seems positioned to be dancing on the ashes of right-wingers’ political aspirations throughout the foreseeable future.

      1. Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland|1.6.19 @ 1:53PM|#
        “Better get that guy some pills. AOC seems positioned to be dancing on the ashes of right-wingers’ political aspirations throughout the foreseeable future.”

        I must have missed your answer:
        Were you born a raging asshole, or did it take long years of practice to reach this level of assholery?

        1. How do you know he didn’t just hone his innate talents and abilities through years of focused study?

          1. Watching RAK evolve on the Volokh Conspiracy, I would say that he honed his unique style down to the nub that is left.

    3. “…how crazy conservatives have gone over the AOC dancing video”

      Name a few.

    4. What conservatives?

    5. Nobody gives a shit.

      And it’s not just conservatives who don’t give a shit.

      Nobody gives a shit.

  14. As always, Republicans and conservatives are on the wrong side of American history but the liberal-libertarian alliance will improve our nation despite the stale wishes and lame efforts of authoritarian right-wingers.

    This is what makes America great!

  15. A modest proposal:
    The federal government repeals all anti-marijuana laws and regulations and lets the states decide what they want to do.

    1. Well… Utah has legalized two Satanic CNS-stimulants, one a berry and the other a plant leaf. So with the euphoric leaf we’re at the tipping point for recreational guaran? and coca leaf tea (which is good for carpal tunnel syndrome). Across the pond, Ireland just recognized that women have individual rights, so according to what Puritans call “The Whore of Babylon,” they’re halfway down the slippery slope to long pig Polynesian style as a hedge against potato famines and to prevent “Children of Poor People From being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country.”

  16. Interesting how the illegal market is competing in legal states. I suppose like any other commodity it will work out somehow.

    I am all for legalizing pot. Very few downsides to that.

    I am for decriminalizing drugs like heroin and cocaine and moving away from the war on drugs to a more medical model of addiction and dependency. There is no way to reduce harm without changing the demand.

    But heck why not just walk up to the cashier at Walmart with a bag of pure heroin. I wonder how many of us actually think that is a good idea.

    1. Only the ones who have actually thought about it.

      1. Who have only thought about it.

        This is not philosophy we are talking about.

      2. Heroin, that stuff literally rewires your brain.

        I have no wish to imprison people for it.

        One starter article.


    2. Please explain where you get the authority to forbid Walmart from selling heroin.

      1. I have no such authority.

        You still think it is a good idea?

        1. I suspect it is better than most alternatives. I further believe that no one has the moral authority to use government force to stop others from activities that harm no one else.

          1. Opiate addiction harms and costs beyond personal choice.

            It is a public health issue.

            1. The costs are voluntary. We are free to let addicts die in the streets if we choose.

              1. Now sell that idea.

                Which agency would be responsible for scooping up the dead addicts?

                1. And collecting the leftover children. Forgot to mention them.

                  1. There are already agencies with those responsibilities.

                    The point is that addicts are not responsible for the costs we choose to bear in our efforts to help them.

            2. Almost every human activity affects others in some way. Unless violence or theft are involved, that doesn’t give busy bodies the right to control almost human activity.

        2. “You still think it is a good idea?”

          Yes. Enforce QC/QA so that people can properly dose themselves.

    3. I’d think Libertopia Walmart would stock the heroin in the pharmacy and you wouldn’t be carrying a bag from the toy or candy department up to the cashier.

      1. We have eliminated the medical prescription requirement. The pharmacist just fills the order, amoxicillin, levaquin, coumadin, propofol, fentalyl..

        Who cares where you carry the bag?

    4. Utah also ratified the 21st Amendment. This was the one that repealed federal prohibition. That passed right after the one that stops lame-duck Republicans from using asset forfeiture to cause banking panics from November through March 4 or every Presidential election year. From November 1932 till March 1933 Herbert Hoover wrecked the banking system and helped rearm Germany. Utah was a large producer of prohibition-era beet sugar at the time–much of it in arrears for excises under the Revenue Act of 1932. How much asset forfeiture was there in Utah with George Waffen Bush abetting the looters?

  17. Look, The LP is the only party with a platform calling for relegalization of group marriage. It’s not too much to ask that Mormons and Mohammedans try to see it our way on a few issues that are mile-wide steamrollers headed their way anyway. Already they’ve begun manufacturing candidates (not Mitt) that are cheap imitations of real libertarian stock. For 46 years we’ve stood for undoing their Capitulation as ransom for statehood, for Smith’s sake!

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  19. It could be ages before the government catches up with the composit will of the people. While Trump is in office, I cannot believe he would allow the reduction in the size and power of the DEA, for it is a “law-enforcement agency,” and the Trumpet is a law-enforcement kinda guy,. He loves ’em all–except the few investigating his dishonesty business dealings. Rand Paul is the only politician on the horizon who might push the government out of the pot persecution business.

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