Congress is currently holding hearings to consider cannabis legalization at the national level. Several proposals are already on the table.
There is broad, bipartisan support for cannabis legalization. There is strong support among the American people for legalization.
So cannabis is about to be nationally legalized in the U.S. (in some form). Right? Maybe not.
A new article from Rolling Stone sheds light on the harsh realities of U.S. politics. It also highlights the (Republican) obstacles that still stand in the way of cannabis legalization.
“I used to think that in civics, in government, you need 50 percent plus one to pass legislation,” [Republican lobbyist Don] Murphy says. “Not exactly. You need one, plus 50 percent.” That one, says Murphy, is a committee chairman.
This is where cannabis legalization may still hit the rocks.
Three key Republican senators – all historically anti-cannabis – stand as “the gatekeepers to any federal cannabis legalization”. Mitch McConnell (KY), Mike Crapo (ID), and Lindsey Graham (SC).
The Seed Investor has already warned about Senate Leader McConnell’s ability to snuff out cannabis legalization.
“…And another thing is, everyone keeps forgetting that Mitch McConnell is the one calling the shots on Capitol Hill right now. He’s the only reason industrial hemp production went legal nationwide, but he is not a fan of weed, man. So, if that guy gets reelected next year, the only way this country is going legal anytime soon is if he, all of a sudden, decides it’s a good idea or just drops dead. But he’s the grim reaper, or so he says. So, what can I tell you, McConnell might be in control of the Senate until the second coming of Christ. All I know is he is never going to support marijuana legalization as long as it is on the Democrat’s agenda.”
Rolling Stone has offered a similarly bleak view here.
Even if a cannabis bill passes a Senate committee in this congress, though, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will make it to a vote. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell holds the keys to the Senate chamber, and he only brings bills to the floor that he personally wants passed. Though he worked hard last year to legalize hemp –– Kentucky has a long history of farming industrial hemp, and McConnell was looking for a way to help the state’s economy — he’s said he will not consider descheduling cannabis. (McConnell’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.) [emphasis mine]
But before any legalization bill gets that far, it needs the support of a Committee chairman. That almost certainly means either Senators Crapo or Graham. Not promising.
Graham voted against the recent SAFE Banking Amendment and has previously told POLITICO Magazine that “he rejects recreational marijuana”.
The chance of Mike Crapo supporting a cannabis legalization bill is even slimmer. Crapo is from one of the few dinosaur states within the U.S. (Idaho) that has completely rejected even the legalization of medicinal cannabis.
Idaho residents favor the legalization of medicinal cannabis (79%). But they oppose legalizing recreational cannabis. This means Crapo is one of a small number of U.S. politicians who can oppose full cannabis legalization without any chance of negative political repercussions.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that the current push to legalize cannabis is dead. Senators McConnell and Graham may choose to bow to the will of the American people (and a majority of Republican voters).
A key variable here is President Donald Trump. An article from The Fresh Toast notes that “President Donald Trump has remained mostly quiet on the issue of marijuana up to this point”.
It advances the political argument as to why cannabis legalization may soon win the official support of Trump.
The word on the street, at least in the neighborhood of investment firm Piper Jaffray, is that Trump could make marijuana legalization one of his key issues in the 2020 election in order to gain the support of younger voters.
Sounds reasonable. The Seed Investor has previously noted Trump’s “populist instincts”. But let’s get cynical about this.
If Trump thinks he can win votes in the 2020 election by backing cannabis legalization then, he may not want legalization now.
Trump won’t be able to score many political points in an election by noting he supported a legalization bill that has already been passed. Democrats have been ahead of Republicans in supporting legalization – and Trump hates to share credit.
If cannabis is still illegal federally when the 2020 election campaign officially begins, then Trump can position himself as “a Champion of legal cannabis”. That is more like Donald Trump.
This seems to indicate that the earliest window for the national legalization of cannabis is in early 2021. It may still require either a change in the control of the Senate or at least a change in its leadership.
Cannabis legalization is supported by a majority of the people. It’s supported by a majority of Americans’ elected representatives. Hearings are underway in Congress to legalize cannabis.
It probably won’t happen. Yet.