Although it was predicted early on that 2019 would be one of the most significant years in cannabis reform that the United States has seen since Colorado and Washington become the first states to legalize for recreational use, the movement, at least up to this point, has been less than impressive.
So far, all of the “sure things” that were slated to be pushed through at the state level have struggled to even get out of the gate. And don’t even get us started on the lackluster display that federal lawmakers are showing with respect to the issue on Capitol Hill. All in all, what was supposed to be the year that took the marijuana movement over the top and set it on course to go nationwide in a manner similar to alcohol is turning out to be more of the same disappointing, go nowhere hype.
On the statewide scene, cannabis advocates had New York and New Jersey pegged as the great green hope. Both states were expected to become the next to legalize marijuana for recreational use. It was a step that would have shown the country, specifically the goons in Congress, just how far the U.S. has progressed from the times when weed was considered mostly taboo. However, all hope of this happening has gone to the proverbial crap shack, according to the New York Times. Both jurisdictions have essentially thrown in the towel on the prospect of legal weed.
New Jersey has been trying to hash out its plan to establish a taxed and regulated cannabis market ever since Governor Philip Murphy took office. The state was supposed to have something on the books by April 2018. But lawmakers just never seemed to agree on how legal weed should take shape. There were problems with tax structure, social justice issues– all of it contributing to one big cluster muck that sabotaged it all together. Senate President Stephen Sweeney said this week that he was pulling the plug on the concept of legalizing the leaf through the Legislature. He wants to, instead, let the voters decide in 2020 if this is something they want.
It now appears the state will try to expand its medical marijuana program for the time being to compensate for its inadequacy.
In New York, the same kinds of shenanigans is what has ultimately kept the state from moving ahead with legalization. Everyone involved just wanted something different concerning how the industry would unfold, and there was never enough give and take for lawmakers to reach any agreement. It got to the point where Governor Cuomo, the one-time anti-pot warrior who had a change of heart in 2018, just decided his support was no longer worth it. He said in an interview a couple of weeks ago that he was jumping ship on marijuana legalization – -at least for now.
Apparently, legislative leadership has failed to do their job and secure enough votes to get it passed.
“If they are starting to suggest that I need to twist arms, that’s a bad sign, because arm twisting doesn’t work and it means they don’t have the political support,” Cuomo said.
At the federal level, not much has changed concerning the fight to legalize marijuana federally. Although some pro-pot Democrats swore that as long as they took back control of the House in 2019, marijuana reform would make significant strides, we’re all still waiting for something to get excited about. A slew of bills have been filed – everything from the SAFE Banking Act to the STATES Act– all of which are calling for varying degrees of cannabis reform. As it stands, the banking bill passed a leading committee – that’s a positive — but it has not yet gone in front of the full House for a vote. And even if this proposal fares successfully in the lower chamber, it still has to clear the Senate before moving on to President Trump for a signature. Chances of that happening in 2019 are slim to none. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the man responsible for which bills get heard in the upper chamber, has said he has no interest in legalizing marijuana in the United States.
Last year, when asked by reporters about ending cannabis prohibition, he said: “I do not have any plans to endorse the legalization of marijuana.” So, It is highly improbable that given his position on legal weed that he would dare help the Democrats further their agenda by siding with them on the banking issue.
Some reports also suggest that he is too focused on his interests in the industrial hemp sector(his pet project in 2018) to welcome in any competition from the cannabis industry. Sadly, the nation will be forced to endure his prohibitionists attitude until the 2020 election when McConnell goes up for reelection. There is a chance that Democrats could take control over the Senate. There are 22 GOP seats up for grabs. If that happens, the man known as Cocaine Mitch will be ripped from his throne as Majority Leader. And that is when the real change over cannabis can begin.
But does 2019 still have the potential to be a big year for cannabis reform? Sure, it has a chance. Illinois is still working to legalize marijuana this year. Some reports show that could be official by the beginning of 2020. There is also a chance that New York will make some kind of recovery and pass a new recreational marijuana bill. It just remains to be seen whether any of these plans have the kind of support needed to pan out.