The longest serving member of Congress, Alaska’s Don Young, passed away on Friday. He was 88 years old.
Representative Young was well known for his work in cannabis policy reform. He was one of four co-chairs of the bipartisan Congressional Cannabis Caucus — along with Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Dave Joyce (R-OH) — and he was one of just five GOP members of the House of Representatives to vote in 2020 favor of The MORE Act on the House floor. That vote marks the only time that a chamber of Congress has ever decided in favor of legislation to repeal federal marijuana prohibition.
NORML’s Executive Director Erik Altieri said: “Congressman Young was a passionate supporter of ending America’s failed marijuana prohibition and implementing a legalization policy based on individual liberty. As the longest-serving member of the House, a near-permanent fixture in the Republican Party for decades, and as a stalwart member of the Cannabis Caucus, his leadership on this issue helped move the ball down the field and demonstrated to his conservative colleagues that marijuana law reform wasn’t an issue to be confined to the liberal side of Congress, but that it is a position firmly rooted in the stated principles of the GOP: personal freedom, limited government, and fiscal responsibility.”
In a statement issued by the Cannabis Caucus’ co-chairs, Young’s colleagues said: “As the four of us worked together across party lines to advance this important issue, we watched it gain more momentum with the American people than ever before. Don’s legacy of bipartisanship is the foundation on which we will continue to build the consensus necessary to enact impactful reform that will address our outdated federal cannabis laws.”
Representative Young’s death came unexpectedly as he was preparing a re-election campaign for a 26th term in Congress.
NORML offers its condolences to the friends and family of Don Young.