More than Just a Promise for Votes and Money: Congress Needs to to Deliver on Cannabis

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has been saying all of the right things on cannabis ever since he first introduced a bill to end federal prohibition on April 20th, 2018. Legalization has proven to be a very popular policy with supermajority support. Cannabis reform was touted widely by Schumer, newly-elected Georgia Senator Jon Ossoff, and other Democrats as they gained control of the Senate for the first time in a decade, and now is the time to deliver. I’m not politically naive to believe that ending the failed and racist war on cannabis will be at the top of any politician’s list, but Schumer has stated that reforms are a part of the party’s economic and criminal justice platforms. As Marijuana Moment reported, Sen. Schumer recently sent out a fundraising email touting cannabis policy changes after climate change and economic inequality:

“Next is criminal justice reform—and voters agree,” he wrote. “Voters in four more states this election voted to legalize adult recreational use of marijuana, and that proves once again it’s past time to work to undo the harm done by misplaced priorities, particularly in Black and brown communities. It’s time to decriminalize marijuana nationally.”

Last month, the majority leader pledged that he, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) would release a draft bill to end federal marijuana prohibition “in the early part of this year.” The three senators followed that up by holding a meeting with cannabis reform groups to discuss the plan.

While it’s not clear what the draft Senate marijuana reform proposal will entail, or when it will be released, Schumer said lawmakers are in the process of merging various pieces of existing legislation.

Politicians make a lot of promises and no one can expect that they will keep them all, but you can’t blame voters for being disillusioned when you make a promise, tout that promise, fundraise off of that promise, and then don’t deliver when you are given the power and opportunity to do so. With the Senate split 50-50 and a Democrat or two potentially being squishy on legalization, Schumer may need to reach across the aisle to Rand Paul, who has been libertarian-minded on cannabis policy (maybe not as good as his father Ron, but still) or a Republican like Lisa Murkowski who represents a state with legal cannabis to get things done. He better try. And if legalization is too big of a political lift, we best see cannabis banking services allowed via the SAFE Banking Act or put an end to the 280e IRS tax code that punished state-regulated cannabis businesses, especially small craft cannabis boutiques like Kind Leaf. With the House expected to pass a version of the MORE Act again, the Senate will be put on the spot and if Senator Schumer’s promises turn out to be smoke and mirrors, well, his term as Senate Majority Leader will likely be a short one.

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