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Why 2021 Will Be The Year For Marijuana Legalization

According to one analyst, if the Democrats capture the Senate, bills to legalize marijuana at the federal level will easily pass both the Senate and the House next year.

Marijuana legalization might not receive its expected attention in the upcoming election due to advocacy complications caused by the pandemic. Because of these issues, and how the political landscape might change following the election, analysts pinpoint 2021 as the year cannabis prohibition ends in parts of the country.

Ballot initiatives have emerged in recent years as the primary mechanism activists use to push legalization in state elections. The way it works is pretty simple: Legalization networks collect signatures from state residents until they reach a threshold determined by the state. Montana lawmakers, for example, required 25,000 and 51,000 valid signatures for two separate adult-use marijuana measures to qualify for the November ballot.

Only physical signatures meet the criteria, which is difficult to gather amid social distancing protocols. Montana activists collected more than 130,000 signatures in what Marijuana Policy Project deputy director Matthew Schweich described as the “most innovative signature drive I’ve ever seen.” Other state drives haven’t been as successful and the general consensus is the coronavirus has negatively impacted marijuana legalization.

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Those consequence could be temporary, suggest some analysts. According to Canaccord Genuity analyst Bobby Burleson, a center on Budget & Policy Priorities study of 38 states found state budgets are expected to fall short by an aggregate 10%.

In 27 states, tax revenue budgets are expected to drop by 10% or more. According to Barron’s, Burleson noted that cannabis reform has received attention in nine of those states, saying, “We expect budget concerns to prompt resurgent legalization efforts for these and other challenged states.”

Photo by Bulat Silvia/Getty Images

This has already happened to some extent. Bipartisan lawmakers in Pennsylvania, New Mexico, and New York have already suggested cannabis legalization as an injection to state budgets. Shifting political winds, The Motley Fool writes, could also change the conversation around federal marijuana legalization.

Expectations were that Republicans would maintain control of the senate after the 2020 election. But according to RealClearPolitics, five senate seats are currently toss-ups and poll projections show Democrat candidates leading in each race.

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“If the Democrats capture the Senate, my prediction is that bills to legalize marijuana at the federal level will easily pass both the Senate and the House (which appears to be safe for Democrats) in 2021,” Motley Fool’s Keith Speights wrote. “I don’t see either Joe Biden or Donald Trump vetoing this legislation, despite the lack of fervor for either candidate on marijuana legalization.”

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