May 2021 be the yr of federal hashish legalization?

It took a long time to legalize cannabis in the US. As early as the early 1970s, states like Oregon, Texas, and Colorado began decriminalizing small amounts of cannabis. Almost 50 years or so around, and the momentum towards legalization is undeniable.

While cannabis remains illegal at the federal level, one state after another is legalizing the substance for medicinal and adult use. California became the first country to do this for medical use in 1996. Since then, several others have jumped on the medical cannabis bandwagon, and a total of 19 states have legalized cannabis for adult use. So it seems to be only a matter of time before the federal government follows suit.

A bit of background

There are two major federal laws regarding cannabis that criminalize its use: the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act (CDAPCA) and the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which is part of the CDAPCA. The CSA came into effect in 1971 and grouped cannabis along with heroin, LSD, and cocaine as List I drugs, which are strictly regulated and considered illegal by the federal government. The CDAPCA, also enacted in the 1970s, was itself an element of the US “War on Drugs” and served, among other things, to considerably restrict the manufacture and sale of cannabis and to tighten the associated safety laws.

Times have certainly changed over the decades, as have public opinion about cannabis use. In fact, over 91% of US adults say cannabis should be legal for adult use or for medicinal purposes – according to the Pew Research Center. Obviously, more and more states are hearing this message loud and clear as more jurisdictions legalize the substance, be it for medical or adult use.

The booming legal cannabis market

The legal cannabis business is on fire, with recent estimates suggesting the size of the world market will grow to $ 84 billion by 2028, according to tax authorities. It gets even better when you consider the popularity of CBD products. CBD, which is extracted from the cannabis plant but does not contain THC and is legal in the USA, has become an indispensable part of the wellness industry. Experts estimate that the global CBD market will reach a value of 55 billion US dollars in the coming years.

What all of this means for the future of cannabis at the federal level

No doubt about it, legal cannabis is big business. But that deal is thwarted by the federal government’s failure to change course and legalize the substance. Since cannabis is still considered a List I drug, Bundesbanken are unable to give companies that sell cannabis products access to financial services. As mentioned earlier, banks cannot do business with cannabis companies because federal law makes cannabis illegal, which is problematic for so many reasons.

Senator Schumer reveals the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act

But there could be good news in sight. The SAFE Banking Act of 2021, which would provide a safe haven for banking institutions providing services to cannabis customers, was passed in the US House of Representatives and referred to committee. Whether the law will pass in its current form is unclear, although our federal legislature appears to be moving closer to easing existing cannabis restrictions.

This is also evident in the US Senate, where the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act was recently introduced and is currently pending. This legislation would, among other things, remove cannabis from the CSA, introduce regulations on taxation of cannabis products, overturn previous convictions, and maintain the authority of states to determine their own cannabis policies.

Of course, there is no certainty that 2021 will be the year cannabis will finally be legalized (or at least decriminalized) at the federal level. Yet we are closer to that possibility than ever before.

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