Depending on who you ask, marijuana has a solid chance of going legal nationwide in the United States in 2019. Some federal lawmakers have said that if the Democrats gain control of the U.S. House of Representatives in November, there will be an opportunity to push the issue forward in a way that hasn’t been possible under Republican control. Oregon Representative Earl Blumenauer is leading the charge. On Wednesday, he fired off a memo to Democratic leadership detailing the steps the party should take to eliminate the cannabis plant the throes of prohibition.
“Congress is out of step with the American people and the states on cannabis,” Blumenauer wrote, according to Roll Call. He then went on to point out that 69 percent of registered voters support this level of reform. “We have an opportunity to correct course if Democrats win big in November.”
At the core, Blumenauer, who has been pushing the legal marijuana agenda on Capitol Hill for some time, is working to ensure that Democrats are not left out in the cold concerning the matter. The concern is that President Trump, who said over the summer that he would “probably” support a bill allowing states to legalize the leaf without federal hassles, will use the marijuana debate to slingshot his reelection campaign to victory.
“If we fail to act swiftly, I fear as the 2020 election approaches, Donald Trump will claim credit for our work in an effort to shore up support — especially from young voters,” Blumenauer wrote. “Democrats must seize the moment.”
Representative Blumenauer has outlined a “Blueprint to Legalize Marijuana in the 116th Congress,” which shows modest action on the topic beginning in January and leads up to the introduction of a bill aimed at taking marijuana nationwide toward this time next year. At first, the lawmaker believes Democrats should get serious about resolving issues regarding banking, access for veterans and expanding medical marijuana research. Blumenauer would like to see all of these bills pushed through by the end of August. From there, the concept of ending prohibition should not be far.
“With the marijuana policy gap diminished, after months of hearings and markups, the House should pass a full descheduling bill and work with Senate allies to guide the bill through Senate passage,” he wrote.
But getting the Senate to accept marijuana reform will not be an easy task. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has absolutely no interest in legalizing marijuana. Still, Blumenauer is of the opinion that the success of the first two quarters in the 2019 legislative session will help get the Senate on their side.
“Our chances in the Senate depend on both the November elections and increased public pressure following House passage,” Blumenauer wrote. “While the Senate has been slower on marijuana policy reform than the House and the American people, it now has almost 20 introduced bills in an effort to catch up with the House. We must build on this momentum.”
Yet, it remains to be seen whether Democrats want to focus in on the marijuana debate next year. There has been some discussion on the matter, that much is known. But lawmakers outside the so-called Congressional Cannabis Caucus have not acknowledged that federal legalization will receive that much time if Democrats do, in fact, gain control of the House following the midterm election. But no matter which party ends up hustling the issue, it really comes down to whether President Trump will support it. It is worth mentioning that federal marijuana legalization has never even been discussed in the halls of Congress. Both Democrats and Republicans share the blame.