A Green Wave Goes to Washington

There has been a significant amount of political punditry over the last several months about an electoral “Blue Wave” coming this November. President Trump is at historical lows of job approval and favorability and much of today’s public polling points towards a Democratic sweep at the ballot box in two weeks’ time. In fact, according to FiveThirtyEight, the online data and analytical website, former Vice President Biden has an 87% chance of winning the Presidency; the Democrats have a 75% chance of winning back the U.S. Senate, and the Democrats have a 96% chance of maintaining their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. If the polling data holds true, the result would mean Democratic control of all branches of the Federal government for the first time in over a decade. Such a “Blue Wave” would generate another seismic wave known as the “Green Wave” of Federal cannabis legalization.

More than half of the United States population lives in a state that allows for medicinal and/or adult use cannabis. Congress knows that it needs to act to resolve this state-federal disconnect. In fact, there are already several pieces of legislation currently pending in Congress. The SAFE act that would allow for state-based legal cannabis businesses to enter into the banking system has passed the U.S. House but has stalled in the U.S. Senate. The MORE Act goes further by removing cannabis as a schedule I controlled substance, therefore making it a legal product. This legislation has received a committee markup in the U.S. House and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has showcased his support but it has not gained traction within the White House or the Republican controlled Senate. Furthermore, House and Senate Democrats have tried to incorporate cannabis reform policies into the next round of COVID-19 relief legislation.  Finally, the Democratic Presidential ticket has pledged to “decriminalize” cannabis and is an active policy discussion on the campaign trail and debates.

The takeaway from these examples is clear: The Democratic party from the Presidential ticket to the Democratic leaders in Congress are unified and overwhelmingly supportive of cannabis legalization. If in fact this “Blue Wave” comes, one should expect a robust effort by the Federal government to legalize cannabis as soon as next year.  As we know, the devil will be in the details. There is no overnight fix to removing a product that has been prohibited for decades. It is imperative that any Federal policy changes to cannabis are done in a thoughtful and strategic manner. A Democratic Congress and White House must ensure a regulatory environment that protects state-based cannabis regulatory programs while also having sensible federal regulations around testing & consistency, labeling & packaging, access to financial services and equal tax treatment. Moreover, there must be resolution and incorporation of criminal justice and social equity to ensure that those that have been disproportionality affected by cannabis prohibition are made whole and can take part in this thriving industry. The cannabis industry has generated tremendous economic activity in the form of jobs to state and federal tax revenues. In addition, cannabis products have served patients and consumers alike as alternative therapies to pain management, PTSD and many other debilitating conditions where traditional health and wellness products have not been able to help.

As many folks like to say: elections have consequences. One such consequence of a “Blue Wave” crashing into Washington, D.C. in January 2021 is that the Green Wave of Federal cannabis legalization will follow behind it.

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