The rabid dogs of federal marijuana prohibition could finally chew through the leash that has had them tied up behind the White House within the next three years. This is what a handful of Democratic lawmakers twiddling their dicks on Capitol Hill are saying this year. Although this timeline might sound like an overly ambitious projection, the latest word from President Donald Trump suggests there may be enough guts and muscle in this administration to actually get it done. Last week, just before dropping into Canada for the G-7 summit, the Head Cheese of the “Make America Great Again” spiel told a group of reporters that he would “probably” support a measure designed to legalize marijuana nationwide if Congress could get a bill to his desk.
The bill Trump was referencing is one recently introduced by Senators Cory Gardner of Colorado and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts called the STATES bill (Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States). Similar to other marijuana measures that have been left to die in the halls of Congress over the past few years, the bill would bring federal marijuana prohibition to a screeching halt and give states the freedom to as they wish with respect to the cannabis plant without the threat of federal interference.
In laymen’s terms, STATES would give marijuana a hot spot in the game of legitimate commerce, the same as alcohol and tobacco, launching a massive national marketplace for legal weed. This level of legislative hocus-pocus is desperately needed to end the conflict between legal marijuana states and the federal war on weed once and for all.
As it stands, marijuana is considered one of the most dangerous substances in the world. It is listed as a Schedule I drug on the DEA’s Controlled Substances Act, which means it has “no currently acceptable medical use” and is considered to encompass the same savage wrath as heroin. But over half the nation has legalized the leaf for medicinal and recreational purposes. There is even some evidence that legal marijuana might be a partial solution in recovering from the opioid crisis. But the wheels of the federal government, namely the menagerie of politicians representing us on the Hill, are still scared shitless that tendering any support for this issue will be career suicide. This attitude is prevalent — in spite of the fact that more than more than 60 percent of the population believes that weed should be treated no differently than alcohol and tobacco.
Although President Obama was once considered the most progressive leader in the world of pot politics, becoming the first person in his position to sign off on non-biding policies that allowed the experiment of marijuana legalization to move forward, he never said whether he would sign a bill intended to bring down federal marijuana prohibition. But Trump, a president whose attorney general has been fighting tooth and nail for the past year to impose a crackdown on legal weed, has signaled that he might be ready to make a move. It was just two months ago that the president promised Senator Gardner not to let Sessions deploy his drug agents into the world of legal weed. His support on this issue seems to have only increased since then. When reporters asked him last week whether he would support the STATES bill, he told them “we’re looking at it,” and that he “probably will end up supporting that.”
Trump’s support on the issue of nationwide marijuana legalization is the real deal, according to Senator Gardner. The lawmaker told the Washington Post that he has spoken to the president about the bill, and Trump is down.
“In previous conversations he talked about the need to solve this conflict. He talked about his support for a states’ rights approach during the campaign,” Gardner said. “Not putting words in the mouth of the White House, but I think this will be an opportunity for us to fulfill what is that federalism approach.”
But President Trump cannot legalize marijuana on his own. Only Congress has that power. To get this done, however, it would take an agreement by both chambers, something that seems unlikely at this time. In fact, there is a distinct possibility that the STATES bill will not even get so much as a hearing. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who decides which issues will be discussed in the upper chamber, said recently that he has no intention of getting behind any proposal aimed at legalizing marijuana. Although McConnell does support the nationwide legalization of industrial hemp, “it has an illicit cousin which I choose not to embrace,” he told reporters.
Unfortunately, it remains uncertain whether the marijuana legalization debate will gain any traction in the next three years. Policy experts say the upcoming election, which is expected to put Democrats in control of Congress, could be the tipping point.