Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill and their influence network have recently reaffirmed a staunch stand against marijuana legalization.
The largest Congressional GOP faction affirmed its national position on cannabis, saying that it should remain federally prohibited and suggested adolescent consumption could be tied to suicide and violent crime with more studies.
The 156-member caucus named the Republican Study Committee (RSC), published a 12-page agenda piece with more than 80 policy recommendations and 10 ideological tenets meant to reiterate the latest update in archconservative doctrine.
The section that touches on the issue of cannabis, titled “Protecting Children from Dangers of Drugs,” states that cannabis’ federally illegal status “has not stopped more and more states and localities from legalizing it under their own laws,” the statement says.
“This has led to an explosion of marijuana use among children, which is having a hugely negative impact on their health. Congress should not legalize marijuana, while also taking steps to constrain this new industry’s ability to harm children.”
The write-up adds, “At the very least, Congress should direct the CDC to gather data and conduct studies on the health impacts of THC use during childhood and early adolescence with a special focus on deaths by suicide and those involved in violent crime to provide Congress and the public with further information about these dangers.”
The memo also says that Congress should pass RSC chairman Rep. Jim Banks’ (R-IN) bill — supported by more than one-fourth of the Senate, Marijuana Moment reported — called, “Protecting Kids from Candy-Flavored Drugs Act,” which would raise criminal penalties for those who manufacture or distributes drugs “that are disguised as candy,” such as edibles.
In a press release regarding the agenda, Banks said that the “Biden presidency has failed America’s families.”
“Over the past two years, families have lost savings, flexibility, and control over childrearing to increasingly hostile and far-left ideologues,” he added. “Republicans need to position themselves as the party of families. Next Congress we need to focus on reforming the tax code to create more families, passing pro-life legislation, protecting parents’ pocketbooks, and giving them back control over their kids’ education.
All these policies are popular and proven, and we’ve seen the difference parents can make on election day. If Republicans can contrast our efforts with Democrats’ record of intrusion and control then I think parents will play a pivotal role in 2022 and 2024.”
RSC released a policy agenda that empowers parents, protects children, and builds an economy that puts families first.
Read more from @PhilipWegmann via @RealClearNews here: https://t.co/cme68vARbd pic.twitter.com/cCyXQfDDXr
— RSC (@RepublicanStudy) September 30, 2022
The consensus around the issue isn’t unanimous, though.
“There’s never going to be 100 percent agreement on any issue, in any party,” a spokesperson for Brian Mast (R-FL), who co-chairs the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, told Marijuana Moment. “Rep. Mast shares the Committee’s desire to protect kids from dangerous substances, but believes that, ultimately, marijuana legalization is an issue that should be left up to the states.”
“He would like to see Congress focus its efforts on national security issues including securing the border and keeping drugs—especially those laced with fentanyl and other deadly substances—from making their way into our communities,” the Mast staffer said.
A spokesperson for Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) — who, along with Mast, voted for a comprehensive, Democratic-led marijuana legalization bill in April — told the outlet that her boss “disagrees with that provision” of the RSC memo.
Also last week, GOP pundit and former top Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway appeared on Fox News to criticize openly pro-cannabis Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s decision to hang up a flag displaying a marijuana leaf on the balcony of the Pennsylvania state Capitol. Fetterman is a Democrat.
“He put the marijuana flag up — he thought that was funny,” Conway said. “He’s trolling his opponent — he thinks that’s funny.
Conway also appeared to falsely conflate deaths from fentanyl overdoses in Pennsylvania with marijuana consumption in the state.
She added, “Here’s what’s not funny: that there’s been a doubling of overdose deaths in Pennsylvania while he’s been in office from 2015 to 2021. Fentanyl is rankling every corner of this state.”
The claim that the state has seen a doubling of marijuana overdose deaths is not true. Additionally, Fetterman has only been in the state office since 2019.
Overdose deaths in the state rose 3% from 2020 to 2021, according to the Pennsylvania Office of Drug Surveillance and Misuse Prevention. Most occurred due to opioids, as the proliferation of deadly prescription drugs and their illicit spin-offs remain an actual crisis. No death occurred due to cannabis consumption.
Additionally, national data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on drug-involved overdose deaths from 1999 to 2020 does not even list cannabis in its metrics.
In response to Conway’s Sept. 26 commentary, former Washington Post correspondent David Weigel pointed out that CDC data on 2020 fatal drug overdoses numbers in the state has eclipsed any other where cannabis was legally allowed, lending to more commonly corroborated findings that cannabis has yet to reportedly kill someone.
Weed isn't legal in PA, but fatal drug overdoses there (as of 2020) were higher than in any state where weed was legal. https://t.co/1bPgJMhdcv https://t.co/YTO8zBE8pa
— David Weigel (@daveweigel) September 27, 2022
“In Pennsylvania specifically, troubled areas are riddled with people struggling with opioid addiction, which was documented in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia last month. But Salon reports that the majority of central Philadelphia is gentrified and the drug crisis is better off than it has been in the past. Focusing only on the state’s troubled areas doesn’t provide an accurate picture,” High Times wrote.
Fetterman is currently facing off against GOP celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz for a U.S. Senate seat this election season.
This article has been updated.