Democrats need to hurry in their pursuit to legalize marijuana nationwide. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is doing everything in his power to put the Republicans back in control of the Senate in 2022 — potentially putting cannabis reform in a state of uncertainty for several more years.
In a recent interview with Politico, the self-proclaimed grim reaper of Capitol Hill explained that he is presently lining up Senate candidates to help reclaim his “Majority Leader” status and launch another reign of terror in the United States.
And make no mistake, McConnell is prepared to win at all cost. Even if it means turning his back on Trump-supported candidates. “My goal is, in every way possible, to have nominees representing the Republican Party who can win in November. Some of them may be people the former president likes. Some of them may not be. The only thing I care about is electability,” The Kentucky Senator told the news source.
If the Republicans happened to take back control of the Senate in 2022, the Democrats would lose what little clout they earned in the 2020 election. The Democrats control Congress by a slim majority, putting the party in control of the legislative agenda.
One issue Senate Democrats have promised to address in the coming months is the federal legalization of recreational marijuana. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer recently announced that he and his Democratic colleagues were ready to hit the ground running on a bill designed to create a taxed and regulated pot market. The legislation, according to Senator Schumer, could be filed in the coming months.
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Whether such a controversial bill has the Congressional support to pass is a concern. The Democrats will need some help across the aisle to get it done — and that’s support that they might not have. Schumer and crew have already had a dust-up with Republicans over the way they went about passing President Biden’s COVID-relief bill.
There is also a possibility that the Democrats will try to burn some old Senate rules (filibuster, Byrd Rule) to prevent Republicans from intervening in their legislation. However, any wrong move made by the Democrats could backfire in the end. If they put a stop to the filibuster, McConnell has promised a “scorched Earth Senate.” If they try to pass a cannabis bill (or any other for that matter), it might not have the votes to go all the way.
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Furthermore, President Joe Biden isn’t necessarily on board with the Democratic Senate’s plan to fully legalize weed. He’s indicated that he would support marijuana decriminalization (elimination of criminal penalties), but he isn’t sure whether a fully legal market is the way to go. Cannabis advocates, however, believe that Biden would support a federal marijuana legalization measure if it crossed his desk. Vice president Kamala Harris is a big supporter of ending prohibition, even though she has said that persuading Biden to side with her ideologies isn’t in the cards.
If Democrats plan to legalize marijuana nationwide in 2021, they are going to have to get super creative. All Republicans need is one measly vote in the midterms to take back control of the Senate, allowing McConnell to once again wear the crown. Democrats must not only find a way to get the bill through but do it in such a way that the ghost of Senate Majority leader past doesn’t come back to haunt them.
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McConnell said recently that ending the filibuster in an attempt to pass the Democratic agenda would only cause Republicans to repeal those measures once they take back control. “We’d be able to repeal every bill that had just been rammed through,” he said. This means legal marijuana today could resurrect prohibition in the years to come.
It’s not immediately clear how Democrats will approach the marijuana legalization debate in 2020. Yet, despite all the positive media attention the party has received for their willingness to change the federal pot laws, they know making it a reality will be a challenge. And even if the Democrats find a way around the opposition and get it on the books, it might not lead to a permanent policy. To say the marijuana issue is more convoluted than ever would be an understatement.
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It would be greatly beneficial to the overall scheme of federal cannabis legalization if McConnell found that supporting pro-pot politicians was the way to take back his throne in the nation’s capital. As McConnell said, he is only interested in candidates with “electability,” and marijuana might be the ticket.
Some of the latest national polls show that 68% of the American people believe marijuana should be legalized like beer. More politicians are starting to see the cannabis issue as one way to attract voters with progressive ideas, and it is becoming increasingly bipartisan. Perhaps McConnell will begin to see that siding with legalization is the quickest way back in control. Maybe he’ll abandon his anti-marijuana ways in the future. Sadly, that may be the only hope for solid nationwide cannabis reform.