Rep. Young joins Democrats to pass U.S. marijuana legalization bill

A woman processes marijuana in Alaska.
Marijuana being processed and harvested in Southeast Alaska. (Berett Wilber/Alaska Public)

Alaska Rep. Don Young was one of only five Republicans to vote for a bill that would decriminalize marijuana.

The bill passed 228-164 in the House on Friday, but is unlikely to go further before Congress adjourns in early January.

Rep. Young’s tweet include a 2019 photo of him touring Alaska grow operation Raspberry Roots.

Young, who does not advocate for marijuana use, is nonetheless co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus.

“I’m a conservative Republican … but I believe in state’s rights,” he said in 2017, when the caucus was announced. (A caucus, in this sense, is a group of like-minded lawmakers who come together to advance a particular issue.) He said the federal government should not overrule the voters in his state.

Alaska and 14 other states have legalized cannabis for recreational use by adults. A majority of states allow it for medical purposes.

Passage of the House bill is a significant milestone for the movement to make cannabis legal nationwide, but the legislation is not likely to pass the Senate before early January when the 116th Congress concludes. Sen. Kamala Harris, now vice president-elect, introduced a similar bill in 2019 that did not advance in the Senate. If both bills expire when Congress adjourns as expected, supporters would have to reintroduce the legislation when Congress reconvenes in 2021.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at

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