Make no mistake about it, the country is still in the same lousy shape with respect to its marijuana laws than it was last year and the year before that.
For a group that keeps getting their butts handed to them every year, marijuana advocates sure are an optimistic bunch. All one needs to do is scour the Internet and they will find a list of fluffy stories talking about how 2019 was the best year yet for cannabis reform in the United States.
But the truth is, there weren’t any real victories to speak of, certainly not at the federal level, like the national advocacy organizations want America to believe. Nope, make no mistake about it, the country is still in the same lousy shape with respect to its marijuana laws than it was last year and the year before that. But what happened exactly to prevent pot from making significant strides? And is there any way in hell that we will see a different outcome in the new year?
Before Democrats took over the U.S. House of Representatives at the beginning of the year, there was a lot of discussion about how the party was going to make furthering the cannabis movement part of its agenda. Representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, one of the founding members of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, was the most vocal about ushering in some change.
Last October, the lawmaker released what he called a “Blueprint to Legalize Marijuana in the 116th Congress,” which was perhaps an overly optimistic outline on how he and the other donkey-eared suits planned to end pot prohibition starting January 2019. And to be fair, they tried.
Two pieces of marijuana legislation (SAFE and MORE Acts) made their way through the House Judiciary Committee earlier this year, and SAFE (a banking bill disguised as pot legislation) actually earned itself a successful vote by the full House. Nothing like this had ever happened before.
Of course, the news that the lower chamber was finally taking action on pot-related measures sparked a bit of excitement on the scene. This was especially true in the case of the MORE Act, which seeks to end pot prohibition nationwide and toss money at communities ravaged by the drug war.
There was even a little chatter on social media networks from some folks who believed that since the measure had been approved by a House committee, marijuana is now legal at the national level. Presumably, these folks are the ones who flunked U.S. government in high school.
Unfortunately, neither SAFE or MORE has a shot of going the distance this year in Congress, and that’s for one reason and one reason alone. The Senate still has all the power, and it’s not letting anything cannabis-related to be heard. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and crew are hanging on tight to the ways of prohibition, and that doesn’t seem likely to change anytime soon.
In fact, it really depends on the outcome of the 2020 election as to whether pot reform will see some progress on Capitol Hill in the years to come. The Democrats have a shot next year at winning enough Senate seats to take over the upper chamber, establishing dominance on the Hill, tossing McConnell off of his throne and getting down to business. This, of course, would be good for marijuana.
But then again, we could just as easily see Republican rule in the upper chamber for six more years. And that’s not good for weed, not at all. Not unless the party and a reelected President Trump decides to take the issue under its wing, which is a possible scenario, according to Blumenauer. “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 in his 2018 Blueprint. “Democrats must seize the moment.”
But they never really did.
As of recently, the House focus has shifted to impeaching President Trump rather than doing anything to change the nation’s drug laws. There is even speculation that this act of vengeance and the lingering grudge may come back to haunt them if they do, in fact, take over Congress in 2021.
It’s anyone’s guess at this juncture how the 2020 election will shake out. But for now, it is essential to understand that House Democrats don’t have the power to legalize marijuana, no matter how many pieces of legislation they push through. And this year’s failure proves it. By all accounts, making the pot-loving public believe the House has enough clout to inspire change was the biggest failure of 2019. And sadly, America should expect nothing more than the same next year.