If President Donald Trump succeeds in using a government shutdown to secure funding for his proposed wall along the Mexican border, Democrats could use the same strategy to decriminalize marijuana next time they control the White House, a congressman said on the House floor on Wednesday.
Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) raised the hypothetical scenario to illustrate why the shutdown is setting a problematic precedent.
“I would remind my Republican colleagues that there will be a Democratic president some day, and they are setting this precedent,” Himes said, describing the tactic as an “awesome tool.”
“Maybe we’ll decide not to pay the military until we can get truly universal health coverage,” he said. “Maybe we’ll decide not to man the borders, or to decriminalize marijuana, because that’s what we want, and we won’t pay people until we get what we want. It’s a terrible precedent, and my Republican friends know that.”
The partial government shutdown—the longest in history—entered its 34th day on Thursday. There’s no telling when lawmakers will be able to pass a bill to reopen the government that the president is willing to sign, or what that legislation would entail.
Over the weekend, Trump floated a proposal that included $5.7 billion for his border wall and temporary protections for individuals who were brought to the U.S. as children. Democratic leaders have made clear they have no intention of approving a bill that includes multi-billion dollar border wall funding.
Himes, for his part, hasn’t ever sponsored legislation to change marijuana’s status under federal law—only signing onto one limited bill to allow industrial hemp companies to access banks—but he has voted for House floor amendments to prevent the Department of Justice from interfering with state cannabis laws.
Meanwhile, at least one cannabis-related policy is being impeded by the ongoing shutdown. While industrial hemp was legalized as part of the 2018 Farm Bill, the implementation of the provision has stalled and farmers are not able to access federally controlled water for hemp cultivation.
Two Democratic senators sent a letter to the head of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation last week, asking for the department’s policy to be updated so that hemp farmers can access the water.
Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.