Historically it has been easy to categorize support (and lack of support) for cannabis reform in the United States as falling along party lines, with Democrats supporting reform, and Republicans rejecting it.
That looks to be changing as numerous legislative bodies and regulators seem open to at least reviewing current regulations. For example, the U.S. Congress is “weighing measures to tax and regulate cannabis; to open the federal banking system to pot businesses; to allow the industry to claim federal tax deductions; and, most powerfully, to repair the harms created by generations of prohibitionist policies.”
Cory Booker, a New Jersey Senator, and Democratic 2020 Presidential nominee, has introduced the Marijuana Justice Act of 2019, which would take marijuana off the Drug Enforcement Agency’s list of controlled substances and would also make cannabis legal nationwide. The law would also retroactively expunge existing federal marijuana-related criminal records resulting in thousands of prisoners released from prisons.
“If the Marijuana Justice Act is a statement bill — designed to guide the national debate — other lawmakers are developing detailed legislation to disentangle marijuana from federal criminal statutes,“ reports Tim Dickinson for Rolling Stone. That includes U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and Senator Kamala Harris of California who recently introduced the MORE act.
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren (D) and Colorado Senator Cory Gardner (R) also announced their proposed bill, Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act (STATES). According to Gardner, the bill will “ensure that each state has the right to determine for itself the best approach to marijuana within its borders.” Notably different from the Marijuana Justice Act, this act does not propose eliminating prior criminal records, nor does it make cannabis legal at the federal level.
As of October 2019 , 11 states have legalized cannabis for recreational use, Illinois being the latest to change, with their laws going into effect January 1, 2020.
Time and politics will determine which of these pieces of legislation pass – and with what modifications to their suggested proposals. In the meantime, it appears that momentum for change is underway and the 2020 election results could help determine which acts get approved.
Should the White House become occupied by a Democrat and the Marijuana Justice Act (or similar legislation like the STATES Act) be passed into law, 39 new markets would present a huge opportunity for existing legal cannabis firms, complimentary industries, investors and marketers who are patiently sitting on the fence.
As more markets open, existing licensed producers will be ready to pounce, but they will not be alone. New players will undoubtedly jump in and competition will be considerable with well-funded players in the tobacco, alcohol and pharmaceutical industries all looking at the potential in the recreational and medicinal marijuana category. These industries, especially “Big Pharma,” bring to the table capital, brand awareness, marketing muscle, market penetration and the experience and ability to operate in a highly regulated environment. Cannabis is already a multi-billion dollar industry – federal legalization in the U.S. will make it much more significant.