Congress just passed a massive $ 1.9 trillion COVID relief package designed to put more money in the hands of Americans ($ 1,400), extend unemployment benefits, and make other much-needed advances supposed to bring the land back from the grave.
The U.S. Senate, led by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, did its part last week – it passed the bill with 50-49 votes – and now the House has come through. The bill now goes to President Biden for signature.
What’s next? Well, we could finally see the national marijuana reform getting some attention from the Doobie Democrats. It’s probably the next hot topic for the Senate.
Earlier this year, Schumer, along with two other senators, vowed to make federal marijuana legalization a priority at the new session. “Earlier this year we will publish a unified draft discussion on major reforms to ensure restorative justice, protect public health, and implement responsible taxes and regulations,” the senators said said in a statement. For the Democrats, the goal is to end the United States’ pot ban once and for all. After all, more than half of the country has been legalized in some form or way. But they have to act soon because federal legalization won’t be an easy task.
Although the Democrats control both houses of Congress, they face a number of challenges when it comes to weed legalization. For starters, President Biden is not sure if a fully taxed and regulated market is the way to go. He’d rather see more research before making such a bold leap. Even if Congress can get a bill through legislation, it could face resistance at the top. It will be difficult enough to get there. Sure, Democrats have majority rule, but it’s such a thin line that any resistance could upset it. In short, Democrats are going to need Republican support to go all the way.
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But time is of the essence. Kentucky marijuana curmudgeon Mitch McConnell, known as the Senate minority leader, is already putting together plans to drive the Democrats out of control in the medium term. He told Politico last month that his main goal this year would be to put Republican candidates on the ticket, which could win in November 2022. “The only thing that interests me is the choice.” he said. If he succeeds, which is possible, the Democrats would give their power back to the Republicans. And as we’ve seen in the past, having them under control is never a good sign.
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Schumer and his crew are expected to introduce pro-pot legislation by April. Unlike in previous years, however, democratic controls will ensure that any marijuana-related bill that is tabled receives a fair sway on the committee. You would almost certainly be voting in front of the entire Senate. So far, however, the Democrats have been forced to use all their magic through a budget vote, which has limited their legislative reach.
RELATED: National Cannabis Proponents Predict Where Marijuana Reform Will Go
The party will not be able to use this tactic to pass marijuana reform and tweak the filibuster. The only thing standing in the way of legalizing weeds could result in a “scorched earth Senate,” according to McConnell. Because of this, Schumer and his friends may have been a little ambitiously thinking that they would add a marijuana law to the books in 2021. McConnell has still not provided any suggestion that he would help garner support for federal marijuana legalization following its introduction. Hence, getting the votes needed to pass such a controversial law could prove exhausting.
Even so, with COVID relief efforts currently out of the way, Congress will soon have a chance to tackle marijuana reform. How far will the legislature get? Well if you’re reading this, probably not as far as you’d hope. Not if the Democrats don’t have something smart up their sleeves.