I’ve been having a lot of conversations recently about whether all of the national political activity around cannabis means the prohibitionist dam is finally about to burst, with the deschedulization of “marijuana” just around the corner.
There are certainly a number of factors that could lead someone to that conclusion. While you’ve been getting high (on regulated and taxed cannabis products from an independently owned recreational store, of course), here’s what’s been going down:
John Boehner has climbed onto the cannabis bandwagon as an adviser to Acreage Holdings, which grows and sells weed in 11 states. Boehner also joined the company’s board of directors, and he claims his change of heart came about due to his concern for veterans and the opioid crisis. Bless his heart if that’s the truth, but I think he was more concerned about his net worth. Still, Boehner is the highest-level prohibitionist to switch sides, so welcome, John—you (in all probability) two-faced lying crapweasel.
Southern Mayonnaise Turtle (and Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell introduced the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, legislation to make hemp a regulated agricultural product. In this case, jobs—and the money that comes with them—were McConnell’s stated reason for support. He quickly gained support across the aisle, and his bill presently has seven cosponsors.
Senator Chuck Schumer of New York announced plans to introduce a bill to decriminalize cannabis at the federal level. It wouldn’t legalize weed outright, but instead allow states to decide whether to make the drug available commercially. The legislation would also maintain federal authority to regulate cannabis advertising in the same way it does advertising for alcohol and tobacco. The aim, Schumer said, is to ensure that cannabis businesses aren’t allowed to target children in their advertisements.
The racist, homophobic, and misogynist orange tumor who lost the popular vote by 2,864,974 votes recently made a deal with Colorado Republican senator Cory Gardner, who says he “received a commitment from the president that the Department of Justice’s rescission of the Cole memo will not impact Colorado’s legal marijuana industry. Furthermore, President Trump has assured me that he will support a federalism-based legislative solution to fix this states’ rights issue once and for all.”
Oregon representative Earl Blumenauer delivered his “Cannabis State of the Union” in advance of April 20, in which he optimistically said, “There’s no reason we cannot see spectacular results if we all do our job in the next 18 months.” Blumenauer founded the bipartisan Congressional Cannabis Caucus in 2017, so if anyone has a finger on the pulse of congressional action on cannabis, it’s him.
All of these are positive developments—but I’m not breaking out the cannabis-infused champagne. One, because that’s not an actual thing (yet?), and two, because we should consider the sources, beginning with Trump.
This deal he supposedly agreed to with Gardner—to basically restore some variation of the Cole Memorandum that Attorney General Jeff Sessions gutted back in January—is being made because Gardner promised the president that he would, in turn, lift his holds on Trump’s Department of Justice nominees. So this isn’t a case of progressive thinking or any kind of presidential benevolence—and don’t be surprised if many of these DOJ nominees end up taking contrary positions on states’ rights to legalize cannabis. Even Blumenauer weighed in on the deal, saying, “We should hope for the best, but not take anything for granted... Trump changes his mind constantly, and Republican leadership is still in our way.”
I also have my doubts that a Republican-controlled House and Senate would even approve a halfway-sensible cannabis legalization program. Ideally, it would address issues like the support of craft cannabis, expanding medical access, and addressing the war on drugs–era crimes perpetrated against communities of color. This is not a checklist I see the GOP rushing to tick off. Rather, any forward movement would probably be all about the money, honey, and as with everything Republican-driven, they’re bound to make sure that all-important rich white men maintain or increase their financial status quo.
We all want change, and these signs are encouraging. But in these early stages, it’s important to stay vigilant about the forms that change could come in—or decriminalization could end up looking different than what we’d like.