Marijuana is already on the Congressional radar, but someone has to give them a reason to care.
It has been said that once the issue of marijuana legalization resides consistently near 65 percent in the public opinion polls, Congress will have no choice but to give it some consideration. Well, that time has come.
Not only has federal legalization managed to garner somewhere between 60%-65% favorability over the past few years, but the support has now grown considerably. The latest Gallup poll shows that nearly 70% of the population now believes the United States should legalize the leaf nationwide. It’s a signal to the boys and girls on Capitol Hill that now is the time to get serious about legal weed. But will they listen?
The country still doesn’t know which party is going to control Congress in 2021. As of now, the Democrats and Republicans are still evenly split — 48-48 — and election officials are still counting votes. Cannabis advocates hope that the Dems, who already have the majority in the House of Representatives, can snatch the two Senate seats needed in Georgia, allowing them to enter the next legislative session with all of the power on Capitol Hill. But it’s just as likely that the Republicans will maintain control of the upper chamber, giving us yet another Congress in gridlock.
If the Democrats take the Senate, however, the chances of a marijuana reform bill getting passed are pretty good, but if the Republicans snag it, not so much. Still, Congress is there to represent the people. It is our voice in the nation’s capital. So, if the national public opinion surveys show that most Americans want legal weed, federal lawmakers have to at least discuss it, right?
They should, that’s for sure.
But if you’ve ever had the sneaking suspicion that the federal government doesn’t really care what the people want, much less enough to change the law, well, you’d be right. Sadly, Congress doesn’t have any interest in public opinion, according to a study from Princeton and Northwestern University. In fact, the American standpoint is never even considered.
Professors Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page found that roughly 90% of the population has zero effect on policy change. Absolutely none. “The preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy,” the professors wrote.
And no, this is not just the federal government’s typical response to drugs. This blatant disregard comes into play with matters like the national debt, education, and the economy. So what chance does marijuana really have?
Federal lawmakers only consider one thing when hashing out national policy, and that is money, according to professors Gilens and Page. The study shows that it’s actually the hundreds of politically active companies dropping billions of dollars on campaign contributions and lobbying efforts that are calling the shots in D.C.
Considering that our elected officials spend more than half their time in office fundraising for their next campaign, appeasing their donors is of the utmost importance. The cannabis industry understands this and plays this political game itself. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t come with the same ferocity as other business sectors.
The cannabis trade reportedly spent $11 million on lobbying efforts in 2019, which is only a drop in the bucket when compared to the legal alcohol industry’s annual $30 million. The weed business needs to grease more Republican wheels if it wants to see nationwide legalization in the next decade. That means playing better politics and helping more of the right people get or stay elected. Marijuana is already on the Congressional radar, but someone has to give them a reason to care.
And the will of the American people isn’t it.
So don’t expect Congress, a political menagerie with a measly 18% approval rating, to get to work on federal marijuana legalization simply because the American people told Gallup that they want legal weed. Rest assured, Congress couldn’t care less about those numbers. Depending on how the Senate votes shake out, it could be difficult enough to get the suits to agree on items like decriminalization and other plans that the Biden Administration has promised.
We may see some progress this year in terms of marijuana, but don’t hold your breath waiting for it to come.