Americans have come a long way since the introduction of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Created as a drug scheduling system ranging from one to five, with Schedule 1 as the worst of the mind-altering substances. Deemed to have “no medical value” coupled with a “high potential for abuse”, the plant once prescribed to patients for a host of legitimate ailments found itself criminalized. While there are no immediate changes with Biden on cannabis, federal cannabis law changes could be coming soon.
The U.S Government, alongside the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), treated marijuana or cannabis, as dangerous as cocaine, ecstasy, heroin or other more serious drugs; ultimately making the possession, sale or any interaction with the substance a felony. And, while white and non-white Americans consumed cannabis at equal rates, Black and Brown people disproportionately received those felonies.
Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act
Now, after a historic November 2020 Congress vote passing the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019, otherwise known as the MORE Act, Americans are eager to see if federal cannabis law changes are closer than once predicted.
What a Democrat-Majority Senate Means for Cannabis Law Changes
With a striking but narrow hold on the Senate, Democrats and supporters of decriminalization have a unique opportunity to actually pass federal cannabis legalization! If the MORE Act were to pass the Senate, which is likely now that Democrats hold a majority, we’re talking an entirely new world of legal medicinal and recreational cannabis.
The New Administration’s Stance on Cannabis
President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris both have a problematic history with cannabis. Having each supported anti-cannabis platforms, policy and legislation in the past, both have changed their tone on cannabis law changes and what that means for Americans most impacted by the War on Drugs.
Where where is Biden on cannabis? President Biden says that he is “pro-marijuana for medical purposes” but has yet to speak out in favor of recreational cannabis consumption. Because of this, his platform includes a recommendation to “rescheduling” cannabis, instead of “descheduling” the plant like many advocates call for.
Despite an unfavorable history prosecuting folks for cannabis use, Vice-President Kamala Harris now has a more progressive stance on federal cannabis law changes. As a co-sponsor of the MORE act, Vice President Harris now says that “decriminalizing marijuana would be an administrative priority if she and Joe Biden are elected.”
Cannabis Law Changes Already Happening
A substance not too long ago criminalized is now available for 1 in 3 Americans. Thanks to the 2020 election, there have already been big changes for the legal cannabis industry. Every state with cannabis legalization measures on the ballot won. Cannabis law changes with bipartisan support used to be a pipe dream.
Now, with five more states joining the move towards US legalization, bringing the total to 15, including the District of Columbia, federal cannabis may be right around the corner. In states like New Jersey, which legalized adult-use or recreational cannabis, and Mississippi, which legalized medical cannabis use, regulated cannabis offers an entirely new industry, with a brand new tax revenue and job generator. Those are changes many Americans have been desperately waiting for.
Federal Legalization Changes We May See in Coming Months/Years
Even though 55% of Republicans say that they support some form of legal marijuana, there remains a significant amount of conservatives highly skeptical about federally regulating cannabis. Some hope that with traditionally Republican states like South Dakota, where activists and volunteers from New Approach, SD helped to get a historic bill to legalize medicinal and recreational cannabis simultaneously passed. While those in the cannabis industry might see this as an obvious move to legalize both simultaneously, it will be the first time on record it’s happened. And, given the climate of legalization, having red states show their support for legal cannabis at the ballot box can’t help but be beneficial in swaying the minds and hearts of anti-cannabis representatives at the ballot boxes.
What This Could Mean For The Plant
Americans who have been fighting for legalization for decades are looking toward President Biden and Vice President Harris for the final push to federal cannabis legalization, but we will still have to wait and see. Advocates have been busy at work collecting signatures and have conversations to get the remaining states to get cannabis to the front of the list during the 2022 midterm elections.
Further, because stigma has been a hurdle for both the normalization and legalization of cannabis for decades, shifts in the political climate, coupled with rising public support for cannabis law changes can only further help to change the conversation about this plant. Now, with an administration likely to support federal legalization efforts, some also hope that the impact on economies and social norms leads to support for the communities previously harmed by the war on drugs.
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