If cannabis was legal at the national level and had been legalized as effectively at the state level as it has been in Colorado, cannabis would already be a $108 billion per year industry in the U.S. – and still growing.
Instead, the U.S. cannabis industry is currently a ~$10 billion per year (legal) industry, growing unevenly. The patchwork regulatory structure where cannabis is legal in some states, but where Prohibition still reigns nationally is now more than an inconvenience.
It is the direct cause of serious diseases and deaths – but not from the (safe) cannabis being sold. Rather, the illnesses/deaths are the result of dangerous additives to both legal and illicit cannabis vape pens.
These are the symptoms of a partially regulated industry. It’s partially regulated because cannabis Prohibition prevents national safety standards, regulation, and product inspection.
This situation is likely going to improve in the near future in the U.S., but probably not before the 2020 presidential election. While most potential Democrat candidates are on-board with legalization (Joe Biden is a notable exception), not all of these candidates have equal credentials as advocates for legalization.
A Leafly article makes a strong case that Democrat candidate Elizabeth Warren would be “a Cannabis Champion” if elected. As with most Democrats, Warren is a born-again supporter of legalization.
Prior to 2016, Warren had not supported cannabis legalization. Leafly identifies Warren’s “key moment” in becoming a committed supporter of legalization as being March 2017. This was when Warren was one of only 11 senators who signed a letter protesting the anti-cannabis stance of (then) Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Sessions had renounced the Cole Memorandum. There were serious rumblings within the Trump administration of renewed enforcement of federal anti-cannabis statutes, even in cannabis-legal states.
Sessions (and Trump) eventually backed down. But it was the strong pushback against such a policy – at the grassroots and political level – that caused the anti-cannabis faction within the Republican Party to balk at any further actions.
Even 2 ½ years ago, being visibly “pro-cannabis” was not a popular political position in Washington, D.C. And Warren has been a consistent advocate for legalization ever since.
Today, it’s fashionable to be pro-legalization on Capitol Hill, unless your name is Mitch McConnell. However, 56% of Republicans are now in favor of cannabis legalization (and more than 70% of Democrats).
If McConnell maintains his steadfast opposition to cannabis legalization, there appear to be three possible post-2020 election scenarios for the U.S. Senate:
- McConnell flip-flops in favor of supporting legalization
- McConnell loses his position as Senate Majority leader.
- The Republican Party loses its control of the U.S. Senate.
As noted in a Marijuana Moment article from earlier this week, cannabis legalization is now seen as a positive amenity by U.S. residents. Indeed, residents of states that don’t allow recreational cannabis are now ignoring state laws and crossing into cannabis legal-states to buy cannabis – or simply buying from the cannabis black market.
This patchwork regulatory scenario may have been seen by anti-cannabis Republicans as an acceptable status quo -- previously. However, the American people will no longer tolerate unnecessary health issues (such as the current tainted-vapes problem), solely because the safe cannabis being sold is not properly regulated. And the reason why it is not properly regulated is because it’s not fully legal.
Elizabeth Warren stands out today as one of the best Democrat contenders to get cannabis promptly and effectively legalized post-election. A second-term Trump government would probably (reluctantly) also push through some form of legalization.
However, this is far from certain. And any half-hearted initiative to legalize cannabis may end up in a regulatory quagmire not much better than the current situation.
Americans want a fully legal and properly regulated cannabis industry. The cannabis industry (and cannabis investors) deserve no less. As a general champion for the American consumer, Elizabeth Warren stands head-and-shoulders above most 2020 presidential candidates.