The first several months of the new Congress will tell us everything we need to know about its intentions and its dedication to cannabis reform.
Although Democratic control in Congress this year was supposed to lead to the legalization of marijuana at the federal level, the word on the street is that the newfound leaders of Capitol Hill might not be able to get that done for two years. Two years!
The Democrats have struggled to get marijuana-related legislation so much as heard in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has always stood in the way. But now, McConnell’s out, following a bruising victory by Democrats in the Georgia runoffs, so why all of a sudden are they pumping the brakes?
Some interesting movements took place late last year showing that Democrats were prepared to legalize marijuana if they were successful in Georgia. In December, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the MORE Act (Marijuana Opportunity and Expungement Act), designed to eliminate federal marijuana prohibition. The bill would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and establish a taxed and regulated pot market similar to alcohol and tobacco.
Even though the Democrats knew that the Republican reign of terror in the Senate would stop them from taking this measure all the way, they still made it one of their last pieces of business in 2020.
It seemed like it was necessary.
From the outside looking in, the approval of the MORE Act was a strategic move. If the Democrats won the two Senate seats in Georgia, their legislative agenda could advance, and the MORE Act would be waiting to be tossed into the mix once they were handed the keys to the upper chamber. If the Republicans ended up winning, however, they’d be no worse for wear. It was a flip of the coin, and in the end, the Democratic bet played out. They now have the power. They are calling the shots. So why is it going to take so long to put legal weed on the books?
Let’s back up a little.
Last October, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who is expected to replace Mitch McConnell as Senate Majority Leader, said if the Democrats were to win control of the U.S. Senate, he would make pushing a marijuana legalization bill one of his priorities. “If I become majority leader, I put this [MORE Act] on the floor, and it’s likely to pass,” he told Green Enterprise.
Schumer’s time has come. But two years doesn’t sound like much of a priority, though, does it? It sounds like more sandbagging tactics. It’s almost as though the Democrats used the marijuana platform to attract voters (it’s a hot political issue), but now the plan is to dodge and stall. After all, the MORE Act is just sitting there right now waiting for Senate attention. It doesn’t need two years. Does it?