Regular readers of this column—hi, Mom!—will attest I am a strong proponent of cannabis legalization at the national level. Not simply rescheduling cannabis from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 (or even lower), but full-out descheduling, making weed a legal commodity. That’s the dream, but it won’t happen until the great white Jeebus shows mercy on us all and... no, wait. Legislative action—it won’t happen until there is legislative action. I always get those two mixed up.
Political support for nationwide legalization has never been higher. Numerous polls show that 60-plus percent of Americans favor legalization of cannabis, and the rapid expansion of state-based adult-use cannabis programs have raised support and tax revenue, and are responsible for an explosion in new, cannabis-related jobs.
Many seem to think we’ll see cannabis legalization soon, but... will we? Really? And if it does come, how will it look? Taxed and regulated like any other agricultural crop with the capacity for creating things that can intoxicate us, such as hops, corn, or potatoes (the devil’s tuber)? Or will new federal taxes be added, which, in a state like California that already has unreasonably high taxes imposed upon production and sale, could make for a combined tax rate of 50 percent or higher?
Let’s start with what we do know, because there’s a tremendous amount of activity going on. It’s nearly impossible to keep up with every cannabis-related piece of legislation—as news website Marijuana Moment helpfully notes, “There are now 1,138 cannabis-related bills moving through state legislatures and Congress for 2019 sessions.” Then there’s the question as to where each of the waaaaaay too many people running for the Democratic presidential nomination stands on the issue, not to mention our rapidly sundowning Baby-Cager-in-Chief.
An amendment recently introduced by a three-member bipartisan group (including Oregon’s own Rep. Earl Blumenauer) passed the House of Representatives in May, becoming a BFD in the process. The amendment, which passed by 267-165, prohibits the Department of Justice from
fucking with interfering in state cannabis programs—specifically, “from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of marijuana.” It remains to be seen what the Republican-controlled Senate thinks about the amendment; it could undergo a thorough reworking or die a quick death.
The bill was written as a companion piece to the STATES Act (Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States) and it has similar goals regarding funding and enforcement. The Hill reports that the STATES Act could “enable pro-pot ballot initiatives in virtually every swing state in 2020 that will tip the balance of the (presidential) election in favor of the Democrats.”
Senator Cory Booker, one of the co-sponsors of the STATES Act, doubled down on his cannabis cred when he announced his plan as a presidential candidate to grant clemency to 17,000 Drug War prisoners through his Restorative Justice Initiative. The initiative would include cannabis-related convictions, those disproportionately impacted by sentencing on rock cocaine charges (as opposed to powder), and others.
Booker isn’t the only Democratic presidential candidate calling for changes in federal cannabis law. Medical Marijuna, Inc. has a frequently updated and comprehensive running scorecard of the candidates’ cannabis positions and gives 19 of the 24 announced candidates a 100 percent rating on medical and recreational legalization.
The web is filled with many hot takes as to where 45 stands on med and rec—Don the Con has expressed support for medical cannabis but has also weighed in on Colorado’s recreational program by saying, “I think it’s bad, and I feel strongly about that.” More recently, he said he would “probably” support the STATES Act. He’s seemingly not interested in federally rescheduling cannabis, but there remains the possibility that he might change his position based on his political fortunes as the election grows closer (watch out for a Hail Mary “October Surprise”).
Of course, none of this matters if voter turnout is soft, so now, as always, stay registered, and do your part on Election Day.