Next Senate Judiciary Chair May Be Open to Marijuana Reform | Marijuana

Next Senate Judiciary Chair May Be Open to Marijuana Reform


Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, a longtime ardent marijuana legalization opponent, announced Nov. 16, 2018, that he is stepping down as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee in order to take over a separate leadership position, potentially paving a path forward for cannabis legislation in the 116th Congress.

Next in line for the chairmanship of the panel, which plays a central role in drug policy legislation, is Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina — who certainly isn’t the most marijuana-friendly member of the Senate but is significantly more open-minded about medical cannabis and other common sense reform measures than the current chairman is.

Whereas Grassley has refused to let any marijuana bills come to a vote as Judiciary chairman, Graham has made surprise appearances as a co-sponsor of legislation to protect legal medical states from federal interference, reschedule cannabis and also remove cannabidiol (CBD) from the list of federally banned substances.

“Senator Graham chairing Judiciary is the best news reformers have heard since Pete Sessions lost reelection,” Don Murphy, director of federal policies at the Marijuana Policy Project, told Marijuana Moment, referring to the outgoing House Rules Committee chair who has consistently blocked marijuana legislation from votes.

The senator has “shown empathy for patients and is a vocal advocate of the Tenth Amendment,” Murphy said. Plus, he added, Graham’s relationship with President Donald Trump “also bodes well for passage” of key marijuana reform legislation.

“If I was in the industry, I’d be buying today.”

In 2015, Graham voted against an amendment that would have allowed the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to recommend cannabis to patients; but the next year he reversed himself and supported a similar proposal to expand access to medical marijuana for veterans.

Also in 2016, the South Carolina senator supported an amendment to prevent the Department of Justice from spending money to interfere with state medical cannabis laws.

Graham told Politico that same year that medical cannabis “could be life-changing” and that restrictions on research should be lifted.

At a CNN event in 2015 he said that while he’s “not a big fan of legalizing marijuana,” you can “count me in for medical marijuana” because he is “convinced that it helps people with epilepsy.”

Graham once referred to marijuana as “half as bad as alcohol” but added that didn’t “see a real need for me to change the law up here.”

Grassley, for his part, did co-sponsor a limited CBD research bill, but that’s about as far as his openness to marijuana reform seems to extend.

“I’m cautiously optimistic about what can be accomplished with Senator Graham chairing Judiciary. He’s certainly more open-minded and dynamic when it comes to marijuana than Senator Grassley,” Michael Liszewski, principal of the cannabis-focused lobbying outfit The Enact Group, told Marijuana Moment. “However, as a former prosecutor he could be more insistent that DOJ enforce the letter of the existing law.”

It is also worth noting that Graham has not signed onto the current 115th Congress’s version of the far-reaching medical cannabis bill he previously co-sponsored, nor has he gotten on board with growing bipartisan calls to more broadly amend federal marijuana law, something for which President Trump has voiced support.

“Moreover, he demonstrated some hyperbolic fears about state medical marijuana programs in a July 2016 subcommittee hearing,” Liszewski said, referring to a discussion on cannabis policy Graham chaired. “But even with all of that, we will have a better chance to move forward with legislation in the Senate than we had under Grassley.”

In all likelihood, medical cannabis legislation will be referred to the committee Graham is positioned to run during the next Congress. Bills referred to the Senate Judiciary in the 115th Congress include one to end federal marijuana prohibition, another that would remove CBD from the Controlled Substances Act (which Graham co-sponsored) and the CARERS Act (a version of which he previously co-sponsored). Grassley didn’t schedule hearings or votes on any of them.

Graham has made clear that marijuana isn’t a top priority for him, but his support for medical cannabis and his voting record suggest that the Judiciary Committee could become much more amenable sending reform bills to the Senate floor under his leadership at a time when advocates are more optimistic than ever about the prospects for federal change. At least, more amenable than it has been under Grassley.

And this latest development, combined with the fact that Democrats retook the House, adds to the increasingly favorable political landscape that marijuana reform advocates are entering in the next Congress.

In the meantime, Graham hasn’t yet been formally named as chairman, but he is next in the line of seniority among Republicans on the panel following Grassley’s switch to instead chair the Finance Committee and the retirement of Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch.

“As the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Lindsey Graham will have to make a choice when it comes to marijuana,” National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) political director Justin Strekal told Marijuana Moment. “Will he continue to perpetuate the failed policy of federal criminalization which resulted in over 659,000 Americans being handcuffed in 2017 alone, or will he be open to reform in a way the reflects the rapidly evolving nature of cannabis policy in the majority of states?”

“In the 116th Congress, there will be at least 66 Senators representing states with a regulated medical cannabis program,” Strekal added.

This article has been republished from Marijuana Moment under a content syndication agreement. Read the original article here.

Featured Image: Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina speaks during the 2015 Iowa Growth and Opportunity Party held at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines. With Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley set to assume the Finance Committee chairmanship, Graham would take over as chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Marijuana reform advocates believe Graham may schedule cannabis-friendly bills for votes in the Senate. (Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr; used with a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license)


About Author


  1. A respect for the lifestyle choices of citizens is the foundation of American values. Also, once a person recognizes any medical benefits of Cannabis ingestion, then the reality that Cannabis PREVENTS – or at least slows – a long list of human degenerative conditions such as some cancers, Alzheimer’s, high blood pressure, diabetes, digestive illnesses and tremors is the next short step to overall truth for that person. Recreational access to Cannabis is the healthiest option.

    United we shall stand, for divided we have lightly already fallen. Get up, stand up.
    “E Pluribus unum”

    • Beyond excellent! as a bit of post note: I am a Registered Republican, pre: Democrate, ever since my return from Viet Nam 1967 and even more so after my return from the Persian Gulf War. Oh and yes let’s also throw in the 1965 uprising in Santa Domingo. Semper Fi and yes to “E Pluribus Unum”

      • Without her champions America could offer no sovereignty for our citizens, nor would we bring any hope to a world corrupted by Rulers who ruthlessly embrace unjust coercions.

        • Ancient James,
          You are wrong. The alt-right ideology, such as practiced by violent, authoritarian thugs like Bolsonaro, Crown Prince Mohammed “Bone Saw” Bin Salmon, Drug War Butcher Duterte of the Philippines, Vlad “Dioxin” Putin, and other international bloodthirsty killers, is consistent in its values of hate, oppression, propaganda and violence, across the board. The so-called War On Drugs is an essential weapon of choice for the alt-right (which now defines the Republican party), and they are not going to relinquish that weapon voluntarily.
          Traitor Trump shares those alt-right values, and he makes no secret of it. He allies himself with the worst of the worst. And you ally yourself with all that? Not me, pal. I eagerly participate in your defeat.

          • I’ve simply chosen to ally myself with the One. There is no bullet or sword that can bring defeat. If you come to know yourself then Cannabis will become a great friend to you once your awful burden of conflict is shed. You might already know that Cannabis doesn’t wear anger very well but rather is resplendent in the light.
            I just say what is. You yourself will say what you choose for.

        • This salute above for James Ives and for all our cops and soldiers as the champions and guardians of the people.

          Politicians, on the other hand, have important decisions to make. Although mistakes, naturally so, have been made in the past. By each of us actually, politicians and voters, people and friends.

  2. This is the Republicans’ failing: they are only uniting themselves around Traitor Trump. The rest of us can’t stop puking. “E plurbis unum?” It’s not gonna happen.
    Well, you see, if I must explain it, It’s all the rotten, vile SHIT he says and does, from snatching babies to murdering journalists; and all with the full consent and support of the Republican party. Puke city.
    I have noticed something consistent about Republicans… The more of a piece of shit their political candidates are, the more they love them.
    But you may have noticed this as well: the sick bastards are not the majority in this country, and to your point about “e plurbis unum”, Ancient James, they are not gaining any converts to the cult. The rest of us just don’t get off on white supremacy and pussy white boy Nazi circle jerks.
    This proud country America will NEVER UNITE behind a treasonous sack of shit like Traitor Trump. He is going down, and he will not be missed, he will be mocked. And so will the losers who supported him.

    • Will the gathering storms of civil strife in America or a potential civil war make things right then? Should internal warfare be chosen for in this blessed land where the ultimate unenslavement of mankind has always been wanted?

  3. How about you, Ancient James? Are you ready to renounce Trump and the Republicans, for the sake of unity and peace? Even if that meant, say, for example, a black female Democrat as POTUS?

    • I like Kamala Harris, personally. Strong, smart, motivated for Justice!
      I do NOT want Joe Biden, with all due respect to his service to America. That would be a big mistake on the Democrats part. He has always been a drug warrior (although he did mostly manage to keep his mouth shut on the topic, while VP for President Obama.) He is what progressives DON’T like about the Blue Dog Democrats.

    • Joe Biden can’t get out the Democratic base. They will choose him over any Republican, but he won’t generate the BLUE TSUNAMI OF 2020!!
      Kamala Harris can do it.

    • My first choice for President would be a libertarian who cherishes our founding principles and realizes that government is best when mostly limited to legislative and security functions along with an honorable court system to adjudicate disagreements and which will function to effectively protect the environment. I’d also prefer a person who likes to enjoy Cannabis now or then… aha. But the person’s race, gender, age, religion or political party wouldn’t decide it for me.

        • I understand your fears Dain, we haven’t seen the country like this since Vietnam – all divided and angry. I vote for individuals and not for parties because I have the spare time to research their policy positions; for example back in 2008 I was for Mike Gravel who contended for the Democratic nomination. Lately even most of the prohibitionist Dems have picked up the torch of Cannabis legalization and of course I appreciate that very much. I’ll never think that we ought to entrench either of the 2 major parties in power, otherwise we end up with either an authoritarian regime over the citizens or else socialist rulers over the citizens – so the centrist position of libertarian minded people always seems best to me. If or when any President advances international peace, domestic liberty as well as financial stability and prosperity, then I’m satisfied. The “he said she said” sideshow really doesn’t matter much except that many people tend to take sides and conflict over it. I believe in the good choices that each of us – including politicians – are capable of.

      • Just one question for you. Have you renewed your American Communist Party Card yet? Enough said point made !! W/O the use of disgusting terms and name calling. Mr. Bramage.

  4. The worst of America is intolerant disagreement, and the best in us is when we work together for the common good Like Senator Graham is choosing for. When continuing good research information comes in about a medicine such as we see now days with the natural healing herb Cannabis, decent people will accept the truth.
    Yet if deception about enthusiastic ingestion of that medicine could ‘Appear’ to leave a random commenter angry, publicly obscene, and hateful…
    …wouldn’t that influence some readers to turn against that medicine, no matter how beneficial the medicine Actually is?
    How would a prohibitionist use deception to turn people against the legalization of Cannabis, for example?

  5. Come on Dain Bram, you think your brand of hatred, deception and anger will make anything at all right? You attack everyone who is not a fanatical and socialistic partisan the same as you are, even though you profess to want Cannabis legalized… which will take a consensus to accomplish. Even with the self destructive characteristics you display like hatred and anger, you seem smart… so, we have to wonder if deception is your goal. Although I would like you to come to know yourself and I do wish the best for you, I don’t have to live with you, but you do have to live with yourself.
    Cos everywhere you go, there you Isssssss ..
    Silly to argue with strangers on the internet, eh, and..
    For me cooperation would be preferable to competition, but that said.. checkmate

  6. The question here might be, do politicians of the various political viewpoints within our country have the duty to evolve away from tragic and harmful positions [like Cannabis prohibition] that they once held?
    How many people think they made mistakes in the past and compare that with how many people think they are making judgement mistakes right Now… hardly any think their ideas right now are wrong, eh? I remember Robert McNamara’s book written later in his life, “In Retrospect”.
    Socrates thought that with the right questions we might find our own right answer. Are you, indeed, accountable for your trespasses? And accountable to whom?
    I trust that the Senator comes to honor our American patriots, including the millions who are familiar with the healing aspect of Cannabis.

Leave A Reply