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Senate moves to legalize pot at federal level. What are the chances?

Sasha Hupka, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

—How would federal legalization affect scientific research of cannabis?

Jennifer Bailey, a principal investigator with the University of Washington's Social Development Research Group who has studied cannabis use, said an end to federal prohibition of marijuana would be "immensely beneficial to science."

Research on both the harm and potential benefits of cannabis has been slim because it's difficult for scientists to gain funding and access to marijuana.

—Does legalization lead to an increase in use among children?

Researchers believe that adolescent use of cannabis has not risen in states where marijuana has been legalized. In fact, some early studies suggested it could be decreasing.

However, Bailey does see cause for concern when it comes to young children accidentally ingesting edible marijuana products, such as cookies, brownies and candy.

She said states where marijuana is legal have seen rises in accidental ingestion of cannabis by children — even in Washington, where state law bans advertising that could appeal to children.

"I mean, who doesn't want to eat brownies," Bailey said. "And of course, children want to eat brownies and gummy bears and large lozenges and things that look like candy."


—Will it pass?

Because the bill is still just a draft, Schumer and other lawmakers could change it substantially. But in its current form, most experts believe the bill will not pass.

Hudak called the bill "a good conversation starter." Sabet said he is "not losing a ton of sleep over this."

But Strekal said similar comments were made about last year's bill having "no shot," and it surprised many by passing the House amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Schumer acknowledged at the draft bill's unveiling that he does not yet have the votes to push it through the Senate. He would need total support from Democratic senators plus at least 10 Republican votes to overcome a filibuster.

If passed, it's unclear whether Biden would sign the legislation into law. He has expressed support for decriminalizing marijuana, but not for full legalization. At a recent briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said "nothing has changed" regarding Biden's views on cannabis reform.


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