The recent signing of a medical marijuana bill by GOP Sens. Rand Paul and Dean Heller hasn’t gone unnoticed. Republican Majority Whip Steve Scalise has introduced a poll on his website, asking people to vote on whether marijuana should be legalized on the federal level.
Scalise in the past has voted down marijuana reform legislation, Marijuana.com reports. On May 30, 2014, Scalise voted against an amendment in the House to prevent the Department of Justice from using funds from its budget to crack down on states that have enacted medical marijuana programs. Later, in July, Scalise voted against legislation to prohibit states from penalizing banks that offer financial services to marijuana companies.
Marijuana advocates see the poll as a possible sign that Scalise may be considering switching his position. Poll results as of late have shown that the country is increasingly moving toward pro-marijuana attitudes. The General Social Survey in particular found that 52 percent of Americans support marijuana legalization. Only 42 percent remain opposed. (RELATED: Survey: Majority Of Americans Support Legal Marijuana)
“This is a great sign because we know that whenever voters are asked their position on marijuana laws, the result always comes out to be strongly pro-legalization,” Tom Angell, chairman of the Marijuana Majority, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “As more politicians begin to engage with their constituents on this topic, they will see how much public support there is for reform and it’ll be much more likely they’ll feel emboldened to take action to upgrade outdated marijuana prohibition policies.”
However, Scalise’s office made it clear that the poll isn’t any indication that the Majority Whip is changing his position.
“Congressman Scalise is a staunch Conservative who likes to know what his constituents are thinking on issues,” T.J. Tatum, spokesperson for Congressman Steve Scalise, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Scalise is opposed to the legalization of marijuana because, as noted by law enforcement officials, it is a gateway to more dangerous drugs, but he always appreciates learning the views of the people throughout his district.”
Marijuana reform legislation continues to make strides across the country, as 23 states have enacted medical marijuana programs in one form or another, and four other states have legalized marijuana. The recent focus on marijuana reform on both state and federal levels has prompted a flurry of activity. And on Friday, that activity culminated in the introduction of a bill to push through medical marijuana in Texas, introduced by Democratic state Rep. Marisa Márquez.
“Every year, thousands of Texans are diagnosed with cancer, seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, PTSD, and other debilitating illnesses,” said Caitlin Dunklee, campaign director of Texans for Medical Freedom, in a statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “The suffering that these patients experience is devastating for them and their families. The bill being filed today would allow patients the freedom to access the medicine that can best alleviate their suffering.”
Lawmakers in Massachusetts, too, have forwarded a bill to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol. Users over 21 years of age would be allowed to possess and grow limited amounts of marijuana. The bill is backed by over 12 legislators.