It has been said that 2018 will be one of the best years for marijuana reform since Colorado became the first state in the nation to legalize the leaf for recreational use. President Trump has called off the dogs with respect to the possibility of a federal marijuana crackdown and more Congressional figures — those who opposed legalization early on — have changed positions.
There is no disputing the progress that has been made over the past year, but there are still some major roadblocks on Capitol Hill preventing the decline of marijuana prohibition at the national level. One of them is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Earlier this year, cannabis advocates nearly wet themselves when McConnell began pushing a bill intended to legalize industrial hemp. The consensus was that maybe the old coot had finally changed his tune on the issue of marijuana. And without this Republican nightmare standing in the way, there was solid possibility that any number of legislative offerings aimed at bringing the plant out of the underground could end up getting some much-needed attention in the Senate at some point this year.
But the situation was blown out of proportion. It turns out that McConnell, the long arm of the Senate, has no intention of so much as discussing cannabis reform anytime soon.
He said last week that he does not “have any plans to endorse the legalization of marijuana,” because hemp and pot are “two entirely separate plants.”
Hemp is known for its versatility. The plant, which only has trace amounts of THC, can be used to manufacture everything from paper to composite materials strong enough to build homes. In fact, Henry Ford, the man behind the Ford Motor Company, once constructed an automobile back in 1941 that was made almost entirely of hemp and ran on hemp-based fuel.
The United States imports over $6 million in hemp-related products every year, but the product is illegal to cultivate on U.S. soil. McConnell’s Hemp Farming Bill of 2018 is designed to change that.
But supporting industrial hemp and the legalization of marijuana are two completely different beasts, according to McConnell. The difference, at least in his eyes, is that one can get Americans stoned and the other cannot.
“It is a different plant. It has an illicit cousin which I choose not to embrace,” he said.
This anti-marijuana opinion did not set well with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who intends to introduce a federal marijuana legalization bill in the near future.
“Aw come on, Mitch,” Schumer said. “I think this is something that is long overdue. I would hope to see it happen. I would hope the feds would take the heavy hand off and let each state decide to do what it wants to do.”
No matter how many pieces of pot legislation are introduced this year in the Senate, the chances of any of them being given the appropriate consideration are little to none. McConnell, who has been called the “Swamp Captain,” will likely prevent the marijuana issue from progressing beyond the headlines. Some political analysts predict the issue will pick up the necessary momentum once the Democrats gain control of Congress later this year.