A generational split in the Senate spells trouble for the movement to change marijuana laws.
When it comes to overhauling pot policy in the U.S. Senate, the young pols are running headfirst into the old guard.
A high-wattage trio of junior senators — Democrats Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand plus GOP presidential contender Rand Paul — is mounting an ambitious effort to have the federal government bless the use of marijuana in the 24 jurisdictions (23 states and the District of Columbia) that have voted to legalize the drug for medical purposes. Their legislation would also allow banks to handle transactions involving marijuana and force the federal government to recognize that marijuana has a medical use, rather than lumping it in with heroin and LSD.
The bill comes at a moment of swift change in public opinion about marijuana laws and movement in many states to legalize the drug for medicinal and, in some cases, recreational purposes.
But the Senate Judiciary Committee is emerging as a serious buzz kill for the pro-reform set.
The powerful panel is stacked with some of the most senior lawmakers in Congress, many of whom came to power during a tough-on-crime era of the drug wars that saw stiffer penalties for drug possession. Several of them openly gripe about what they call the Obama administration’s lack of enforcement of existing federal drug laws — and they certainly aren’t willing to send a signal that Congress is OK with the movement to liberalize pot.