Monday, April 15, 2024

Does McConnell’s Exit Signal The End Of Marijuana Prohibition

In a somewhat surprise, Mitch McConnell has announced his decision not to run again for Senate GOP leader in November…changes ahead.

Mitch McConnell embraced being called the Darth Vader. For 17 years he has commanded the GOP Senate, and, had an oversized influence in the larger Republican Party. In the last year, he has been plagued by a divided party, a tussle with a former president, and health issues.  So it was only a somewhat surprise he announced he was stepping aside in leadership.  Politicians are lining up to take his place and he will have a tough go until November when he relinquishes the position. But does McConnell’s exit signal the end of marijuana prohibition?

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McConnell has been proud of remaking the Senate and accomplishing his personal political goals. While Senator, he and his wife has amassed a fortune of $35 million while stopping small marijuana business owners from getting ahead. Born in a different era, McConnell is a conservative from the old school, legal marijuana, LGBT rights, expanded voter access and are enemies to him.  As the legal state by state cannabis industry has blossomed to $20+ billion in sales filling state coffers, McConnell only grew more firm in his stand to block federal legalization.

Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

Congresswoman Nancy Mace (R-SC), a strong ally of the industry, said publicly what everyone is thinking.  If McConnell is a no on federal legalization, it is a no go.  He has stonewalled the SAFE Banking Act multiple times. When the Senate flipped, Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Patty Murray (D-WA) put forward the SAFER Banking Act with a bipartisan group only to have it die due to the House’s leadership chaos.

McConnell has been fine going against public opinion when making policy he feels is correct. Marijuana federal legalization has over 87% of public approval and veterans groups have pleaded for support on cannabis for help with PTSD.  Both appeals have fallen on the deaf ears of the Grim Reaper. And he has seemed pleased when he wins a major battle against the public and voters.

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While his loss indicates a positive for the cannabis industry, there is a downside.  Like the House, the Senate could get swept up in a power play as the players reshuffle who is control. Meaningful legalization could come to a standstill without strong, focused leadership whipping votes.  With the Biden administration hesitate to move forward in the campaign procmises, the cannabis industry is holding its breath.

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