Why is it unlikely that the next Congress will legalize marijuana


Senator Mike Rounds (RS.D.), for example, remains firmly anti-weed, although his home state has made history by legalizing medical and recreational marijuana on election day.

“I didn’t change my position. I think this is a very bad public policy, ”Rounds said. He said he has no plans to review federal marijuana laws, not even legislation on parts such as bank access for cannabis businesses. “I’m never saying I’m never going to do anything, but I’m definitely not going to be a believer in any type of action on that line.”

According to Gallup, about 49 percent of Republicans and 83 percent of Democrats support full legalization of marijuana.

“I think they see it as a democratic and liberal issue,” said Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster. “But real voters, Republican real voters also support this.”

Despite democratic support, their best case is 50 to 50 percent of the Senate after the January runoff in Georgia, and adding enough votes for the legalization bill would be a challenge.

The Democratic-led House, meanwhile, plans to vote on the abolition of federal marijuana penalties and the deletion of criminal records related to marijuana as it sets the benchmark for the next Congress this week. Even with a democratic majority, but vote on the bill the delay, originally scheduled for September, was delayed because moderate Democrats feared that the vote to legalize cannabis would hurt them without providing a coronavirus relief package on election day.

Lake said their calculation was wrong.

“I think he’s reasonably founded, 20 years old,” Lake said. “I think some politicians have no idea how fast the electorate has progressed on this.”

Democrats will have a thinner majority in the House in January, but lawyers continue to expect that the adoption of weed laws in the red states – and the inclusion of members of both parties among legitimate state lawmakers – will mean the chamber will promote broad cannabis. agenda.

But the Senate is key to any significant changes to federal cannabis law. Without a senate open to consider comprehensive legislation, any major bill passed by the House is likely to get stuck. At the 117th Congress, the best chance for cannabis legislation will be minor policy changes.

“[Cannabis legalization] it will happen, I trust it, ”said Cory Booker, a Democratic Democratic senator whose home state of New Jersey legalized recreational marijuana on election day. “But how and when it happens is the question.”

The next Senate will include 30 members representing states where adult marijuana is legal – eight more than the Chamber currently has – including six Republicans. Fragmented legislation that promotes medical marijuana research or improves access to banking for the cannabis industry will win the support of both parties, and these bills are most likely at the next Congress.

The SAFE Banking Act passed the house last year with strong bilateral support and was discussed by the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. Next year, the bill could get a further boost thanks to a mix of committee presidencies.

Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey, who will be chairman of the Senate Banking Committee next year if the GOP retains the Senate, has stated its willingness to consider the bill. Toomey, Pennsylvania’s headquarters allows medical marijuana use, so it has a greater incentive to act than current President Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) – who comes from only one state that does not allow any marijuana under certain health conditions. .

“I’m sympathetic to the idea that people are involved in [the] the cannabis industry must be able to provide standard banking services in a completely legal way in the state in which they operate, Toomey said.

The adoption of marijuana laws in the red states will also affect moderate Democrats and legitimate state Republicans in the House, lawmakers and lobbyists say, potentially encouraging some on both sides to switch to a more marijuana-friendly stance.

– I think the majority of Republicans will believe that this is a matter of state rights in the voting states [to legalize]Said Dave Joyce (R-Ohio), co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis-Caucasus. “And now it’s about federal policy being in line with the states and not penalizing them for making the decision they make.”

The congress cannabis Caucasus in the House has been in operation since 2017 and has always co-chaired two Democrats and two Republicans. Democrats include Earl Blumenauer and Barbara Lee, who represent the traditionally blue, “left-wing” states of Oregon and California. Republicans are Don Don Republican – who has a strong liberal ideology in his home country of Alaska and legalized recreational marijuana in 2014 – and Joyce, whose legal home marijuana was legalized in 2016 in Ohio’s home state.

But weed growth doesn’t happen to all lawmakers right after their states are legalized. Oregon’s only Republican MP, Greg Walden, said he did not vote for an initiative to legalize marijuana in Oregon in 2014, but now “wants to treat it with alcohol.”

“I have come a long way from where I must have started to respect the will of the electorate,” Walden said. “I think you’ll see this progress over time.”

On election night, 70 percent of South Dakota and 69 percent of Mississippi voted to legalize medical marijuana. In Montana, the same proportion of voters – 56.9 percent – chose Trump and chose legal recreational marijuana.

Maneuvering to exploit these votes has already begun. Joyce said they are working with Blumenauer to unite a cannabis coalition in the coming weeks with members from the newly legal states.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who pushed for a MORE Act vote before the election in September to allow democratic lawmakers to campaign against it, predicted that curbing marijuana reform at the next congress could actually damage the Democratic Party in the long run.

– We’re in competition now. This is a warning sign that Republican states are now beginning to legalize, ”Ocasio-Cortez said. “If Republicans beat Democrats for legalizing marijuana … who are moderate, are they blaming it?”