Congress may consider ending federal marijuana prohibition within a matter of weeks, the chairman of the influential House Committee on Rules said Wednesday.
Rep. Jim McGovern, Massachusetts Democrat, said during a radio interview that the Rules Committee will pursue federal marijuana reform “in a relatively short time, within the next several weeks, and I think we will have a very strong vote.”
“If we have a strong bipartisan vote that will increase the pressure on the Senate to do something,” Mr. McGovern said during the interview.
Mr. McGovern made the comments during an interview with Boston Herald Radio, and his remarks were first reported by the Marijuana Moment news site.
Marijuana is illegal under U.S. law, though most states have legalized the plant for either medicinal or recreational purposes, creating a patchwork of legislation flying in the face of federal prohibition.
Several bills pending on Capitol Hill would abolish the government’s prohibition on marijuana if passed. Mr. McGovern’s committee could pave the way for their consideration on account of the panel’s role in deciding under what rule to bring bills to a vote.
Elected to the House in 1997, Mr. McGovern has chaired the Rules Committee since January, putting him only recently in charge of a key, previously Republican-controlled panel that halted earlier efforts to enact federal marijuana reform.
“The previous chair of the Rules Committee blocked everything cannabis-related, and we’re in a new day,” Mr. McGovern said. “We need to make sure that our federal laws don’t obstruct what states are doing, especially with regard to the banking issues, where everything now is being done in cash, and this is not the way we want this to go. We need to make sure that the federal laws respect what the states are doing.”
“I don’t know where the president is on this issue,” Mr. McGovern continued. “But I’m confident he will get a bill.”
The White House previously said that Mr. Trump would support legislation that would effectively restore Obama-era protections that allowed states to legalize marijuana without prompting interference from federal authorities.
Several Democrats vying to compete against Mr. Trump in 2020 have put their weight behind a broader bill that would legalize marijuana and retroactively expunge certain related criminal convictions.