Thanks so much for chatting today and for all the great questions! If you'd like some more background on the shifting political dynamics around marijuana legalization, check out my post at

My name is Aaron Houston and I've been lobbying Congress to reform marijuana laws for over a decade. I currently serve as a strategist for WeedMaps and sit on the board of the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously I have worked for organizations like Marijuana Policy Project and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

This month, thanks to the efforts of organizations like these, the U.S. House voted 219-189 to pass an amendment that would prevent the DEA from spending any money to interfere with state medical marijuana laws. We are now working to get the Senate to adopt similar language. At the same time, we are also working to pass more state laws that allow medical marijuana or end prohibition outright for all adults, and we're doing what we can to push the Obama administration to continue evolving on this issue.

There's a lot of marijuana policy news and developments happening all the time, and I look forward to your questions about whatever is on your mind. Ask me anything!

Here's my proof, by the way:

Comments: 1184 • Responses: 21  • Date: 

Eternally65363 karma


MarijuanaMajority585 karma

I'd say the most powerful opponents in the past have been (in this order): - Federal officials and intelligence agencies within the US government (including the DEA, which is considered a US intel agency); - Police unions (federal, state, and local); and - Private prison companies.

This situation has changed for the better in recent years, given that high-level officials within the White House and DOJ have begun to put the brakes on aspects of federal enforcement efforts.

congressional_staffr88 karma

The DEA/Drug Czar are actually required by federal law to oppose it.

That's somewhat abnormal - while unions and such might oppose something for parochial reasons sometimes, federal agencies are usually at least theoretically neutral on underlying policy, and just "do what they're told". Not so in this field.

MarijuanaMajority164 karma

You're right about that, although I know the current White House takes the commands in federal law regarding the ONDCP with a grain of salt (they're also seemingly commanded to make the Drug Czar a cabinet-level post, which Obama conspicuously declined to do). Regardless, you raise a great point. One of our champions in Congress, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) has worked on trying to make sure the Drug Czar is required to adopt positions based on science, not on failed drug war rhetoric.

Eternally6533 karma


MarijuanaMajority49 karma

Indeed, very strange stuff, as with so many aspects of marijuana prohibition. See my response to congressional_staffr below for more details.

coffeelikethedrink295 karma

Do you think recreational marijuana will ever been legal across all of the United States? If so, when?

MarijuanaMajority483 karma

Considering that the federal law we're pushing for allows (and really must by design for Constitutional reasons) a state-by-state approach to legalization — which is the same system used for alcohol by the way — I doubt marijuana will be legal in all fifty states any time soon. It's a great question, and so incredibly difficult to predict. By comparison, consider that Mississippi kept alcohol illegal until 1966 or so, I believe.

Smokey651122 karma

What I want to know is do you think recreational marijuana will be passed on the federal level? Each individual state is an almost impossible prediction. But whether or not the federal government COULD step in on states like Colorado is what I'm concerned with.

MarijuanaMajority229 karma

Yes, I do, and probably within the next five years or so. Also, I think the federal government has a losing case if it tries to curtail legalization laws in the states. If another administration tried to step in and sue to enjoin the states from continuing to operate their programs, we'd win in a U.S. Supreme Court case.

Marylandman101261 karma

This may be a dumb question, but how do you 'lobby' Does that mean just having meetings with politicians/staffers and trying to convince them that it's best for the country, best for their career, or do you just tell them you can help raise money for them?

MarijuanaMajority459 karma

This isn't a dumb question at all. Most people have no idea what it means to lobby. The main job of a lobbyist is making sure that everyone who has a role in advancing legislation is talking. As a simple example, it's a little like middle school dating rituals: "Can you pass a note to Senator Smith and let him know that Senator Jones told me he likes Senator Smith and would talk to him, but only if Smith calls him first?"

lucidusmentis184 karma

What are the chances of a 2016 presidential candidate endorsing the end of cannabis prohibition, either in the primaries or during the general?

MarijuanaMajority222 karma

We're working on it, that's obviously the goal. It's very hard to say at the moment, because the field of candidates is fluid. The game theory analysis of the various candidates' positions will be heavily influenced by the particular candidates in the race, which is complicated by the fact that both parties will have contested primaries. The biggest question mark is Hillary, since she was fairly stubborn about adopting a good position on medical marijuana in 2007.

Denyborg141 karma

How large of a bribe is Hillary requesting in return for her support?

MarijuanaMajority244 karma

No amount of money would be large enough to buy the support of a politician at that level. It's really a question of getting her and her advisors to see that it benefits them for her to take a positive position on legalization.

two_off159 karma

How accurate do you see House of Cards in portraying DC?

MarijuanaMajority432 karma

It's disturbingly accurate, with one fortunate exception. Most politicians aren't that clever, so the level of manipulation is less intense. Most people would be alarmed to know the degree to which terrible policy comes not from nefarious intentions, but often simply from mismanagement and ignorance.

HarrisonTesoura106 karma

Thank you for your work on the "The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act" Mr. Houston. What, in your opinion, will be the best way for New York to achieve recreational marijuana legalization? We have a viable bill, Liz Krueger wrote our Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, but Governor Cuomo won't even sign it. New York state spends 6 times as much on it's prisons than CO, New York City is the marijuana arrest capitol of the world, this is an urgent issue for us, but we have no direct democracy initiatives. Is there anything we can do to legalize marijuana in NY short of occupying Albany and NYC City Hall?

MarijuanaMajority143 karma

Thanks so much! We're fortunate to have an ally like Sen. Krueger as our champion in New York. You're correct that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has shamefully held up progress on marijuana legislation in New York, most notably the medical marijuana bill as of this morning. If you live in New York, please call the Governor's office today and ask him to stop obstructing a workable medical marijuana bill (518-474-8390).

thystrife90 karma

Do you believe any other states are close to simply legalizing marijuana, and following Colorado's example?

MarijuanaMajority206 karma

Yes! I think we'll see a number of states adopt legalization measures in the coming years. This fall, Alaska will have a legalization measure on the ballot. Oregon will as well, and both measures are in states where levels of support should be high.

Eternally65341 karma


MarijuanaMajority297 karma

I kind of set that one up.

melsiph72 karma

When trying to change perceptions, how do you take a "prohibitionist" and turn them into a supporter? When you come up against struggles, what do you do to keep your attitude up and moving for the next day?

MarijuanaMajority217 karma

This is a really great question. My philosophy is that if two people talk long enough, they can generally find something to agree on, so that's the strategy I employ for the most part, except with the very few most determined opponents who've decided that we're destroying America (who literally hate my guts, so there's no point in talking). So, if I find that a GOP congresswoman doesn't support the use of medical marijuana, I'll turn to the government waste/intrusion angle, and ask if she thinks states should be allowed to make their own policies in other areas. Just getting people talking can help open their minds. It's generally alarming how little thought most politicians put into their positions (on any given topic).

coffinoff71 karma

What are some things an "average Joe" like myself could do to help you advance this agenda?

MarijuanaMajority94 karma

You can contact your Senator by using NORML's action tool here:

Stillnotathrowaway52 karma

What role do the pharmaceutical companies play in lobbying this topic? They are one of the highest funded interests and in MN are trying to lobby to have Marijuana only legal through them.

MarijuanaMajority74 karma

That's concerning to hear, but from my observations at the federal level, the pharmaceutical companies are not particularly focused on marijuana for many reasons. The tend to already have their hands full with what they see as more onerous regulations in the past several years.

DaneRivers49 karma

What/who was the biggest unexpected roadblock?

MarijuanaMajority111 karma

Recently, it's been Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), who voted against the House medical marijuana amendment for sheerly misguided political reasons. It was unexpected because she is generally pretty clever. She made a very bad call in this case, and it has already cost the Democratic Party some large donors (she is chair of the Democratic National Committee in addition to her role as a Congresswoman).

red_zephyr39 karma

Arkansas here: We're trying to get Medical Cannabis on the November ballot. We're still in the petition stage with only a couple weeks remaining- any advice?

MarijuanaMajority39 karma

Good luck, Arkansas! I didn't mean disrespect by not mentioning you guys, but it looks like an uphill battle for you at this point. I'd say try to regroup and get organized and funded for 2016. I know it's disappointing, and I may be wrong, but without a lot of paid signature gatherers to make up the gap, it's probably not going to happen this year.

Proppin8easy38 karma

Two Questions: 1. Is there a main argument, that isn't entirely BS, against outright legalization that most of those opposed to marijuana legalization default to? What, if anything is being done about being able to detect high drivers?

MarijuanaMajority127 karma

Great question. Yes, indeed. Our opponents claim that use will go up in certain subsets of the population. They most commonly claim that use among kids will increase. They are correct, but only about the first part. Early data show that use among teens is staying stable in states that have relaxed prohibitions on marijuana. However, use likely will increase for a subset of the population you might not expect: retirees. As the Baby Boomer population ages, they are more likely to need medical treatment for a variety of illnesses for which marijuana can be beneficial. Additionally, a lot of older people I've talked to say that they would use marijuana, if not for the stigma associated with it.

tor29c31 karma

Who do you believe to be the bigger holdouts in the Senate on this issue and what reasons have they given for not supporting this measure?

MarijuanaMajority136 karma

Unfortunately, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has been one of our most ardent opponents, despite the fact that she represents a medical marijuana state. There's also Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK). He hates medical marijuana so much that he attempted to wipe out all of the positive state medical laws in 2007 and again in 2009 through riders to must-pass pieces of legislation. Luckily, we prevailed. To thank Sen. Coburn for his troubles, I made up a new word meaning for his name.

LordHoncho28 karma

As a person interested in joining the industry and similar groups. How can one work/volunteer in supporting marijuana medically and recreationally? I am in a non legal non medical spot but would like to work my way up.

MarijuanaMajority35 karma

You can volunteer with NORML locally, which has chapters and organizations all over the country.

karmanaut11 karma

How much do you work with other lobbyists/organizations? Who are your "allies" from unrelated or semi-related fields?

MarijuanaMajority16 karma

I'm really lucky to work with some amazing lobbyists and advocates from an array of drug policy reform groups. This year, part of the reason the House vote was so successful was that our side was better organized and communicating on a daily (even hourly) basis. I've worked on every on of the seven House votes on the DEA medical marijuana amendment since 2003, and I've never seen that level of cooperation. Out of the group of advocates and lobbyists in DC with whom I work most closely, I've worked with DPA's Bill Piper the longest. He's a true asset to the movement.