Make no mistake, Congress is still locked up on the idea of legalizing marijuana.
It has been a confusing year so far. Federal lawmakers that were once considered enemies of the marijuana legalization debate have shown they are capable of dropping the cross long enough to get on the right side of common sense. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Schumer are now among those in the pro-pot corner, even if this sudden change of heart is purely for political reasons.
Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the man who controls the policy agenda in the upper chamber, shocked and amazed the cannabis advocacy community recently with his push to legalize a nationwide industrial hemp market. Most were under the impression that a move of this magnitude meant the Republican from Kentucky was beginning to go soft on marijuana. But it turns out that wasn’t the case.
When McConnell was asked last week whether he would get onboard with a measure designed to end Uncle Sam’s tired anti-marijuana laws, he confessed he would not. “I do not have any plans to endorse the legalization of marijuana,” McConnell said, according to The Hill.
Although the Senate majority leader, who is sometimes referred to as the “Swamp Captain,” is all about giving the hemp plant back to American farmers, he wants nothing to do with getting the nation high.
“There is a lot of confusion about what hemp is,” he said. “It has an illicit cousin, which I choose not to embrace.”
This is bad news for a nation of cannabis reform hounds holding on to any semblance of hope that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s “Coming Soon” attraction aimed at ending marijuana prohibition would receive consideration. Although the proposal has yet to be filed, Schumer promised earlier this year to attack the Senate with a bill pushing to remove the cannabis plant from the Controlled Substances Act. If passed, it would allow marijuana to be taxed and regulated in a manner similar to alcoholic beverages.
Schumer was less than enthused by the news that McConnell has no plans of getting behind his or any other marijuana bill.
“Aw come on, Mitch,” Schumer replied, according to C-Span. “I think this is something that is long overdue. I would hope to see it happen. I would hope the feds would take the heavy hand off and let each state decide to do what it wants to do.”
But depending on whom you ask, federal marijuana prohibition will come crashing down in a matter of a few years. The same lawmakers that have predicted marijuana legalization at the national level with the next five to 10 years are now saying its coming in less than four.
“I made a bet that within five years, every state will be able to treat cannabis like alcohol and there will be universal access to medical marijuana,” U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer told those in attendance of the Cultivation Classic over the weekend. “If we do our job, it’s game over in two years.”
It all comes down to the outcome of the November election.
“If Democrats control the House of Representatives in the first months of the next Congress in 2019,” Blumenauer explained, “we will be having hearings on de-scheduling.”
But as long as the country has a Senate majority leader who opposes marijuana legalization, the issue doesn’t stand a chance at finding passage. Any bill that makes it out of the U.S. House of Representatives will need to go before the Senate for concurrence. As of now, such a scenario seems unlikely. Considering that only around 4 percent of the bills introduced each year are greenlit into law by Congressional forces, it stands to reason that the end of marijuana prohibition in the United States is an issue that will need to be first negotiated outside the chamber floors. Still, some political analysts say the stars will soon align and give way to legal weed for all by 2021.
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