Nothing is stopping federal marijuana legalization now. Democrats have taken control of the U.S. Senate after beating the brakes off of the Republicans in Georgia’s runoff election. The victory ends six years of Republican domination in the upper chamber. But more than that, it puts the Democrats in control of both houses, allowing the party to push its legislative agenda full steam ahead. It’s a unique situation that finally gives marijuana reform a fighting chance at going nationwide.
Democrats have fought tooth and nail for the past few years to pass federal marijuana bills in the U.S. House of Representatives. But all of those efforts, both small and large, always ended up on the chopping block. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the self-proclaimed Grim Reaper of Capitol Hill, was always the man holding the ax.
He alone has ensured that not a single piece of marijuana-related legislation gets discussed in the Senate. But Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock defeating Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in Georgia’s runoff elections means that he no longer holds the power. Mitch McConnell is finished.
Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer of New York, a man who stands in favor of marijuana reform, is now expected to take over as majority leader. In a recent statement, Schumer said, “It feels like a brand new day. For the first time in six years, Democrats will operate a majority in the United States Senate — and that will be very good for the American people.”
One of the first lines of marijuana-related business that we can expect from the Democratic-controlled Congress in 2021 is an attempt to make the MORE Act (Marijuana Opportunity and Expungement Act) law. The bill, which was approved in the House in December, calls for marijuana to be removed from the Controlled Substances Act, allowing a federally taxed and regulated pot market to unfold. It would make marijuana a part of legitimate commerce, just like alcohol and tobacco, allotting a portion of the tax revenue to rebuild communities ravaged by the drug war.
Under new Senate leadership, the MORE Act could easily reach the Senate floor for debate in the coming months. With a favorable vote, which is likely, the bill would then be sent to president-elect Joe Biden for a signature. Whether he would sign or not isn’t immediately known. During his campaign, Biden stopped short of supporting full-blown legalization. Yet, he outlined moves designed to decriminalize marijuana possession at the federal level and further cannabis research.
Still, Some argue that vice-president-elect Kamala Harris, who sponsored the MORE Act in the Senate, might be able to persuade Biden to accept this broad reform. Considering the damage done by the coronavirus, Biden might be apt to go along with it. If for no other reason than he wants to be the president that Americans credit for rebuilding the economy.
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Marijuana at the national level would create around one million new jobs and contribute billions in economic impact. It would mean more work for real estate pros, contractors, construction crews, and a slew of other businesses unrelated to weed long before retail reefer sales were ever rolled out. Marijuana creates jobs for everyone, and that would mean prosperity for the millions still out of work due to the pandemic.
The biggest takeaway from the Georgia runoffs is that Mitch McConnell’s reign of terror on the Hill is over. With a marijuana-motivated Democratic Congress in play, we will likely see more progress on pot over the next few years than ever before. There’s simply not much standing in the way of it at this juncture. But that doesn’t mean it’s smooth sailing all across the board.
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Even with a more level-headed Congress, we are still talking about national politics. Yet, a betting man with $2 burning a hole in his pocket wouldn’t necessarily be a fool betting on marijuana legalization. The odds are now in favor of common sense and more than 60% of Americans.
What Democratic-domination on Capitol Hill doesn’t do is force states to get onboard with bud. Even if the MORE Act becomes law, it will not require states to legalize marijuana. Diehard areas of prohibition like Indiana and Kentucky might continue to consider weed a crime. But as the country learned shortly after the fall of alcohol prohibition in 1933, states clinging to an old way of thinking will eventually make the change. It just might take some longer than others. Mississippi was the last of the dry states, finally amending the law to allow alcohol sales in 1966.
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Although it might still be too early to make predictions, cannabis advocates can rest easy knowing that 2021 will be the most exciting and perhaps the most fulfilling year the legalization movement has ever experienced. Anti-pot thinking has been mostly run out of the nation’s capital.
Now, we move forward.