If elected with a Democratic Congress, marijuana policy could change through bottom-up momentum.
Just three months ago, analysts from one of the biggest banks in Canada, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), rated the chance of meaningful marijuana reform at “near-zero” in 2020. And they gave reform odds an “unlikely” designation for 2021.
But they say all that could change depending on the 2020 Election. A Washington Post forecast predicts a Democratic sweep, which includes nominee Joe Biden becoming president. Their reasons: Low presidential approval ratings for Donald Trump, social unrest following protests around the killing of George Floyd, and a lingering recession caused by the recession.
“A fact that has become incredibly obvious from a chaotic 2020 is how quickly things can change,” CIBC analysts John Zamparo told Bloomberg. “We stand by our statement for 2020, but for 2021, well, when the facts change, we change our minds.”
Unlike other members of the Democratic party, Biden is on the record that he does not support full-scale marijuana legalization. Some have suggested cannabis as a super-weapon Biden refuses to use, although it’s debatable just how many voters place legalization at the top of their priorities list. But if elected with a Democratic Congress, policy could change through a bottom-up momentum push.
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Federal cannabis decriminalization would represent a small-step approach by Democrats. That would leave legalization up to the states, with many lawmakers at that level already suggesting retail cannabis as one alternative solution to fix the post-pandemic economy.
The system around retail marijuana would become just as important in that case, Cowen Research analysts suggested at a recent industry panel. It would have to include some social justice component to receive full support — cannabis expungement and social equity programs should be top of mind for lawmakers.
“This likely includes provisions ensuring that minorities get to participate in the legal cannabis business as their communities were hit hardest by the war on drugs,” said Cowen analysts, according to Bloomberg.
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Brookings Institution senior fellow John Hudak said in a recent panel that racial justice and marijuana legalization have always been linked, but haven’t always been viewed that way. Instead, legalization simply meant whether or not voters gained easy and crime-free access to cannabis. But that connection may be gaining momentum throughout the industry.
Curaleaf Holdings Inc. Chairman Boris Jordan told Bloomberg, “Biden will be under pressure from the left wing of the Democratic party to move cannabis forward because of the social justice issues.”