Federal Marijuana Reform: Can’t Always Get What You Want? – Cannabis & Hemp
United States: Federal Marijuana Reform: Can’t Always Get What You Want?
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Aristotle, Confucius, Voltaire and Shakespeare – each of them warned, in one way or another and in their own language, that perfection is the enemy of good. Although we should strive for the best result, if the best result is not attainable, we should not give up a good result to end up with a bad result or no result at all.
And it is not necessary to look back thousands or even hundreds of years to see this principle at work in contemporary American politics. Just look at the current debate over the human infrastructure programs contained in President Biden’s “Build Back Better” proposal. This proposal contains a number of programs that have broad bipartisan support in public polls. Democrats in the Senate and House of Representatives — frustrated in part by the lack of Republican support — were unable to reach agreement on the appropriate scope of the legislation. As a result, it seems likely that a number of programs that, on their own, could easily have become law in the end will not.
So what do infrastructure spending and cannabis have in common? It is not a question here (as we try never to do) of choosing a political camp or of criticizing the substance of a political position; rather, it is to highlight an increasingly common political circumstance that may soon take precedence over the ongoing cannabis reform debate.
Proposed reform efforts
A group of congressional Democrats announcement a plan to push an ambitious set of cannabis reform proposals this spring. “The federal proposals seek to establish 21st century banking for the nearly $18 billion industry and purge the criminal records of thousands of marijuana offenders.”
In a memo to the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) wrote:
The growing bipartisan momentum for cannabis reform shows that Congress is ready to move forward in 2022, and we are closer than ever to aligning our cannabis policies and laws with the American people.
Reform proposals include:
- The MORE Act (Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act) would seek to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and purge the records of those convicted of using marijuana.
- The SAFE Banking Act would allow the cannabis industry access to a range of financial services such as business loans, checking accounts and credit card processing.
- The Medical Marijuana Research Act would remove restrictions on federal researchers studying marijuana to ensure researchers have access to quality products.
Other bills would allow for the development of a legal cannabis market in Washington, DC; enshrine the legality of state cannabis programs and the possibility that they even cover federal workers; and providing for research trials on cannabis for PTSD, while prohibiting retaliation by Veterans Affairs against doctors who recommend the substance.
“Taken together, the bills outline what a liberalized marijuana policy could look like: a modern, diverse, regulated industry of small growers – not dominated by giants like alcohol and tobacco,” according to reports.
Likelihood of adoption of reform measures
As of this writing, I believe there are enough votes in both houses of Congress – including Republican votes – to pass cannabis reform efforts. In particular, the SAFE Act and legislation allowing increased research could become law if they receive a direct vote. The more difficult question is whether those leading the charge will allow the proposal to proceed to a piecemeal vote or whether they will insist that lawmakers vote on the entire reform package as a whole. If the latter, I think Republicans may balk at some of the more progressive provisions, including much of the MORE Act. If that happens, we’ll see if the more outspoken proponents of cannabis reform are ready to score a narrower victory or if they will insist on an all-or-nothing approach.
This election year could further complicate matters. On the Republican side, I suspect there are members of Congress up for re-election who might support cannabis reform efforts in a vacuum, but would be unwilling to vote for cannabis reform in the midst of a primary challenge. The loss of those votes may threaten the ability to push through any of these reform efforts. On the other hand, waiting until later in the year may not work either, as I suspect the White House and Democratic congressional leaders may not want to bring cannabis reform to the fore before midterm elections.
So what to do? When in doubt, I usually turn to Mike and Keith:
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try a little while you might find
You get what you need.
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